The Transfiguration

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 6, 2017

By Father Thomas McCabe

God calls each of us to share in his mission in some particular way, so that we might share in his glory, which gives him greater glory since he works his power through mere creatures. The Transfiguration points to this truth.

It was a proud moment for Peter, James and John to be chosen by Jesus to hike up Mount Tabor with him. At the summit they were awestruck when Jesus showed forth his divine nature by the miracle of his Transfiguration and spoke with Moses and Elijah.

Then God the Father spoke, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Since God is the ultimate creator of sound, the human voice and the ear, to speak to the three Apostles was easy for him. God had spoken to the Apostles in a similar way at Jesus’ Baptism (which recalls our own baptism into Jesus’ mission) by once again cooperating with a mere man, John the Baptist, to bring Christ and that John might share in both God’s mission and glory.

It is fascinating that Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah, both of whom had died hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. And yet, because he is the Eternal Son of God made man, he receives reassurance from these Old Testament men about his mission of suffering, dying and being raised to new life. This reaffirms what he said to persuade the Sadducees about the Resurrection, “…have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Mt. 22:31-32.

Moses is central to the Old Testament because with God’s power he freed God’s Chosen People from slavery at the ripe age of 80. He represents the Torah, or Law, since he received God’s Ten Commandments and is the principal author of the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Old Testament.

Elijah represents the Prophets, who helped interpret the greatest of the commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets perfectly by establishing his Church of the New Testament by his life, death and resurrection, founded on the Apostles.

Why would Jesus talk with Moses and Elijah when he could talk to God the Father and the Holy Spirit in prayer? The answer is that God wants all his followers to recognize the Saints who have gone before us and striven to complete their mission in God.

One of the great signs of Jesus’ Transfiguration is that we, who are in Christ, can speak to or pray to all the Saints who are in God. Just as Moses and Elijah spoke with and helped Jesus with his mission, so too they can help us bear our sufferings until we complete our mission and experience the Resurrection at the end of the world.

Someone might ask you, “Why do you pray to the Saints or Mary, when you can pray directly to God?” We can charitably answer, “Well, since Jesus spoke to Moses and
Elijah instead of God the Father on Mount Tabor for help, I choose to follow in his footsteps and seek the help of the Saints who are in God, especially Mary, the
Mother of Jesus.”

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2679 states: “Mary is the perfect Oran (prayer), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we
welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.” (My emphasis)

The Church celebrates the Queenship of Mary, August 22.  Mary, Queen of All Saints, pray for us.

Fr. Thomas McCabe

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