Jesus, God-with-us, is the first of the brothers and sisters who rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
There is a report that fewer folks in the U.S. believe in God and, one can guess, in God-with-us. For the number of believers in the U.S. is down to 58% from 68%, in 2001. Would it be out of place to ask if a theophany, much like Jesus’ transfiguration, might lift up those slow to believe?
One can say that the three witnesses of the Transfiguration are the pillars of the Church. But such distinction does not mean that their faith is strong. In fact, Peter finds hard to believe in a Messiah that suffers. As for James and John, after being there at the Transfiguration, they still cannot grasp this teaching: to be great means to serve others; to be first is to be the slave of all.
So, the Transfiguration, it seems, is not a prize for those of proven faith. It is a cure, rather, for those of weak faith. Seeing, though in a fleeting way, the splendor of God on the face of Jesus, the three find strength. So, their faith does not fail, and they will strengthen later their brothers and sisters. As Jesus does to them.
In his Transfiguration, yes, Jesus shows that he is God-with-us. He is with the faint of heart to make them strong. To get them to rejoice as those who go to the Feast of Booths. They rejoice, for they are God’s chosen. Jesus is with those, too, who have fallen to the ground and are afraid. He touches them to calm them down and make them rise.
God-with-us for those who rejoice and for those who are sad
But as the three look up, they see no one there but Jesus. They think no more of making three booths, of staying on the holy mountain, of which Peter says: “It is good for us to be here!” So, no one flees from one’s own surroundings.
Yet the bidding of the voice from the cloud still counts: “This is my Son whom I love and who pleases me well. Listen to him.” That is to say, it is Jesus who fulfills the law and the prophets, and the theophany on Sinai.
Hence, we are to listen to him more than to Moses and Elijah. For our distinctive trait as Christians is to listen to Jesus. To sit at his feet and listen to his words. So that we may know, as St. Vincent, to put the whole of the Good News into the whole of our lives (J. Delarue). And to address from the point of view of the Good News the recurring questions that we ask about life (GS 4).
We should not stop at theophanies. Rather, we are to love with the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brow (SV.EN XI:32). We must not flee from where we are in the world.
Lord Jesus, you are God-with-us in a focused way in the Mass. For in it, you speak to us the words of life, you feed us who are hungry and thirsty, you make us, who are weak, strong, and you give us a pledge of the future glory that your passion hides. Grant us to live what we celebrate and to make our own the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties, of others.
6 August 2023
Transfiguration of the Lord (A)
Dn 7, 9-10. 13-14; 2 Pt 1, 16-19; Mt 17, 1-9