Pastoral Message – August 6, 2023
Today, the Church celebrates the Transfiguration of our Lord. This is the moment when Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain to see Him with Moses and Elijah as Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Then they see Him in dazzling white.
There are two key elements of this encounter with the transfigured Lord. First, the apostles hear God’s voice speaking to them. In the Opening Prayer this morning, we ask God that, “listening to the voice of your beloved Son, we may merit to become co-heirs with Him.” In our closing prayer, we ask God to “transform us into the likeness of [His] Son.” The prayers echo God’s words in the Gospel directing both the apostles and us to listen to His beloved Son. By truly listening to Jesus, we can be transformed into His likeness.
Even though we know this is true, we constantly need to be reminded of this truth. Like the apostles, we often hear what Jesus is saying, but we are not truly listening to his message. Real listening is not simply hearing in a passive or distracted way but rather is the combination of actively focusing, trusting, obeying and acting. A definitive principle of Catholic theology is listening in faith to the revealed Word of God in both the scriptures and in the other prayers that are part of the celebration of each mass. Listening to the Word leads to the strengthening of the faith of the Christian community and puts us in right relationship with the Lord. When we deepen our faith in God through listening to Him, we can more easily discover and trust His design for us instead of being distracted by our own plans or the world around us.
In today’s Preface we hear that Jesus used the Transfiguration to prepare his apostles for the scandal of the cross. There they would see him suffering, but they would recall the glory of the transfiguration. Because they were stronger and better men, they could face the grim reality of the cross with some hope. We are blessed to know that the life of Jesus did not end at the cross. He laid it down only so that he could take it up once again and fulfill the saving mission for which he had been sent by the Father. The Church exists to continue his presence here on earth and to prepare us for being reunited with Him for all eternity.
So what does this mean for us here today? First, we are reminded that our relationship with God is based on two essential points of contact: His Word and The Eucharist. Each mass is an opportunity for us to witness and participate in the glory of our Lord in much the same way as the apostles did on the mountain. We hear the word of God from the Old Testament which forms the basis of his loving relationship with us. We hear the good news of the New Testament which opens our minds and hearts to the promise of eternal life. At each mass, our first duty is to “listen.” Then, listening must lead to action.
Much as Jesus shone in his glory on the mountain, he shines for us here on the altar as the bread and wine are transformed into his body and blood. This is the first transformation. The second transformation occurs when we receive the Eucharist and we become what we receive. When we take what we receive outside of this church. When we “come down the mountain” and face the harsh reality of the world around us. That’s when the grace that we receive in Holy Communion gives us the courage and energy to speak for what is right and true; to minister to those in pain or in need.
We hear God’s words in scripture. We know that Jesus is in our midst in the Eucharist. Yet, we are often distracted, confused and fail to listen. Like the apostles, maybe we need to hear God’s booming voice to remind us of who Jesus is and what he has done for us so that we wake up and listen to Jesus. He reveals himself to us and seeks our faith and obedience as part of a relationship – a new covenant – based on three key elements:
First, the Lord came down from heaven, was crucified, died, was buried and rose on the third day. This is the core of our creed. This is the core of our Christian lives and this is the reason that we listen to the Word of God with focus, trust and obedience.
Next, the Lord did not simply speak 2,000 years ago to the people of Judea and Galilee. He is speaking to us and we must listen to Him – right here, right now.
Finally, His presence in the Eucharist nourishes us and gives us the energy to not only listen well, but to be transformed – to put His message into action. This is the difference between simply hearing (which is totally passive) and listening (which requires action).
Jesus gives us his life, death and resurrection. He feeds us with his body and blood. In return, we need to trust Him, obey Him and, as God commands, “Listen to Him.”