Seeing and Hearing Jesus

40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week-2, Year C, 17 March 2019
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18//Philippians 3:17-4:1//Luke 9:28-36

From the mountain of temptation, we now join Jesus in His mountain of Transfiguration this Second Sunday of Lent. It does not matter on which mountain Jesus transfigured because Lent as a journey is not about destination but direction that begins right in our hearts when we examine and purify, renew and vivify our faith in the resurrection of Christ. At the very core of this Lenten journey is the glory of Jesus seen in the light of His Cross.

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem… Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

Luke 9:28-31,35-36

Of the three evangelists who reported the Transfiguration, only Luke tells us its context, prayer: “Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray” (Lk. 9:28). It is very clear with Luke that the Transfiguration is a “prayer event” to show us what happens when Jesus talks with His Father. It is reminiscent of the experience of Moses when his face became radiant after talking with God at Sinai but far more deeper in meaning and reality. According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Transfiguration is the “interpenetration” of Christ with His Father, becoming “light from light” for He Himself is the light. The face of Moses shone by receiving light from God after meeting Him on Mt. Sinai while the Transfiguration affirmed the divinity of Jesus as the Son of God whose light came from within Him.

What a wondrous sight to behold seeing Jesus in all His glory that prompted Peter to ask Jesus that they remain there as he offered to build them with a tent each! Luke tells us a similar story on the evening of Easter when two disciples going home to Emmaus met Jesus along the way, asking Him to stay with them for the night. In both stories, the sight of Jesus in His glory vanished immediately after He was recognized by the disciples. The same thing happens with us when we go through the same experiences of seeing the glory of Jesus in our lives, of how we wanted to preserve it, wishing Christ would remain to stay with us so we can keep those feelings of joy and peace within. Like Peter, the experience is too deep for words that we find ourselves not knowing what to say; and, like the two disciples at Emmaus we feel our hearts burning within because we have seen and heard the Lord!

Seeing and hearing are God’s greatest gifts. We find in the gospels how people were amazed whenever Jesus would restore sight of the blind and enable the mute to speak by opening their ears. Jesus Himself tells the disciples that include us today of how “Blessed are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it”(Mt. 13:16-17).

Seeing and hearing Jesus happen whenever we pray, the starting point of every Transfiguration. This is the reason why we have to pray always, not only during Lent. Prayer is communion with God, being one with God. The beloved disciple tells us that “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us” (1Jn.4:12). God’s love is perfected in us whenever we join Jesus in His exodus or pasch, His passing over Passion, Death, and Resurrection. This is why the voice heard during His Transfiguration said “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After His Transfiguration, Jesus would always speak about His coming Passion, Death and Resurrection, calling us all to follow Him always.

And that is Transfiguration: the light of Christ’s Passion and Death burn us within to be transformed into His glorious Resurrection.  Any experience of God is always a transfiguration and transformation into His image and likeness which sin had destroyed and disfigured in us. The surest sign that we have seen and heard God is when we die in our sins, being transformed into new persons in Christ when we forget one’s self, carry our cross daily and follow Jesus. See again the centrality of the Cross in the Lord’s teachings and events. We can never have a complete and correct picture of Jesus Christ without the Cross. And there can be no real change in us without sufferings and pains with Christ leading the way.

In the first reading, Abraham saw and heard God at night in the desert like in the Transfiguration. God sealed His promise to him to be the father of all nations by taking the initiative to burn by “passing over” the animals he had sacrificed. Abraham held on to that promise through many tests and trials from God, thus becoming the father of all nations recognized by Jews, Christians and Moslems alike.

Yes, our life and times could even get worse with all the killings and problems going on in many parts of the world, even in our own lives, family and friends. Things may even get worst than better but the story of the Transfiguration this Sunday assures us of our future glory in Christ amidst all the crosses in our lives. Let us “stand firm in the Lord” as Paul tells us in the second reading by reviewing the many decisions and choices we have made in the past to go back to Christ’s direction to His Cross. Like Abraham and the apostles, let us be faithful to Jesus our Savior “who will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself” (Phil. 3:21-4:1). A blessed week to you in Christ Jesus!

Painting of the glorious crucified Christ called “Luwalhati” by Bulakenyo artist Aris Bagtas, acrylic on old wood 18×24, 2019. Used with permission.

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