Father Donald Senior, CP

The real Jesus

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Perspectives on Scripture

Gn 15:5-12, 17-18; Phil 3:17- 4:1; Lk 9:28b-36

There is a famous scene in the “Wizard of Oz” when the curtain that shields the feared potentate falls away and Dorothy and her companions discover that behind the curtain is only an elderly ventriloquist from Omaha whose balloon had been blown off course. The mighty Wizard is not at all what he appeared to be!

How different is the hauntingly beautiful scene in the Gospel for this second Sunday of Lent. In Luke’s version of the Transfiguration, Jesus takes with him three of his trusted disciples — Peter, John and James — to a mountaintop to pray. While Jesus is praying his disciples are able to see who Jesus truly is.

Jesus himself seems to be transformed, his garments dazzling white. And appearing with Jesus are two of the Bible’s most important figures: Moses, the great liberator of the people from slavery in Egypt, and Elijah, the greatest of Israel’s spirit-filled prophets. Together they discuss Jesus’ “exodus” about to take place in Jerusalem. Here Luke uses this term that describes the march of Israel from slavery to freedom to refer to Jesus’ own triumph over death through resurrection — the very heart of Christian faith.

Jesus’ disciples are overwhelmed by this glimpse of Jesus’ “glory,” and the awestruck Peter offers to erect three “tents” or “tabernacles” as the Israelites had done during their desert trek in setting up a mobile shrine for the ten commandments.

But the true point of this vision of Jesus in his glory is yet to come. From a cloud that overshadows the mountaintop (just as Moses would encounter Yahweh in a cloud on Mount Sinai), God speaks: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

Each of the Gospels place this great vision of the transfiguration of Jesus on the brink of his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus’ beloved city, where, like the prophets before him, he would meet the power of death and overcome it.

Distilled in this vivid scene is the heart of Christian faith in the person of Jesus.

Human as he is and therefore subject to suffering and death like all of us, he is also Son of God, God’s beloved, whose acts of healing and words of compassion bring us into contact with the very presence of the unseen and transcendent God.

Pope Francis begins his beautiful exhortation announcing the Jubilee of Mercy that started on Dec. 8 with these words: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. … Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.” That is the ultimate meaning of the Transfiguration.

By placing this unique Gospel scene in the Sunday readings at the beginning of Lent, we are invited to reflect on the person and message of Jesus. “Listen to him,” the voice of God proclaims.

Sometimes I think it is good to step back and reflect on the graceful beauty of our Christian faith. The God revealed in and through Jesus is a God of limitless mercy, a God who created our world in all of its diverse and dazzling beauty, a God who created us out of love and gave us dignity as daughters and sons of God — made in God’s own image!

The teacher we are called to “listen to” is one who reaches out to the poor and vulnerable, who heals wounds, who reconciles enmity, who stands for justice and reverences all life, who himself is suffused with the divine presence.

To glimpse even a small portion of this beauty and take it to heart would make our Lenten observance worthwhile.


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