“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1
In today’s 1st Reading (Hebrews 11:1-7) Saint Paul begins by giving us a working definition of faith, going on to provide us with examples of the fruits of this faith. He uses the lives of Abel, Enoch and Noah, specifically emphasizing their profound reverence and willingness to engage in sacrificial acts in doing so.
Through faith rooted in reverence and sacrifice, these men would go on to attain righteousness in the eyes of God. This righteousness, as Saint Paul concludes in the closing words of this passage, is obtained by shunning the ways of the world, instead placing one’s hope in the righteousness of God. This is a state of being that can only be achieved via the cultivation of a vibrant faith life. Typically this takes years if not decades to accomplish, much like anything of supreme worth and value.
In today’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-13) we revisit the Transfiguration of Christ. What is the Transfiguration itself? Mark speaks quite literally of a metamorphosis, a going beyond the form that Jesus had. In and through his humble humanity, his divinity shines forth. The proximity of his divinity in no way compromises the integrity of his humanity but rather makes it shine in greater beauty. Of this seminal event, Saint Thomas Aquinas said “At his Transfiguration, Christ showed his disciples the splendor of his beauty, to which he will shape and color those who are his: 'He will reform our lowness configured to the body of his glory.'"
As Bishop Barron explains this morning in his daily reflection regarding this dazzling and shining moment wherein Jesus reveals a fleeting glimpse of his indescribable glory, “In and through his humble humanity, his divinity shines forth.” “This,” Barron concludes, “is the New Testament version of the burning bush.”
The Jesus who is both divine and human is the Jesus who is evangelically compelling. If he is only divine, then he doesn’t touch us; if he is only human, then he can’t save us. His splendor consists in the coming together of the two natures, without mixing, mingling, or confusion.
In the latter stages of Mark’s account of this story, Jesus tells Peter, James and John not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man has risen from the dead. Peter indeed held true to this promise, waiting until after Jesus’ Resurrection before revealing the splendid details of this seminal encounter, which we revisit in today’s 2nd Reading (2 Peter 1:16-19). “You will do well to be attentive to it,” Peter says of God’s voice, “as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
The Transfiguration foreshadows Christ’s Resurrection, and instills within us a call to holiness, a new and risen life in Christ. It is a call to be transformed; to be transfigured. To become dazzling to use the word that Mark chooses to describe Jesus’ clothes on the mountain top, dazzzling by way of God’s unrelenting love, Jesus’ mercy and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus yearns to show us that this isn't the final act. Our real selves are our souls inside these vehicles we call bodies. Here today yes, but meant to be elevated to a higher spiritual state tomorrow. “When Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2).
This is God’s beloved Son....listen to him.