Joy of the Gospel

What is required is listening


Today is the patronal feast of the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Oudtshoorn. The magnificent cathedral, is a modern building with some traditional elements. One of these is the large stained glass window above the main altar, depicting the scene of the Transfiguration. It is a beautiful window, but one needs the light to experience its full splendor.
Moses and Elijah appears with Jesus on the mountain. Both of these Old Testament figures had encounters with God on a mountain. Moses received the 10 commandments from God on Mount Sinai and when he descended, his face was radiantly shining ( Ex 34:35).
The prophet Elijah is associated with mount Carmel, where he encountered God and defeated the prophets of Baal, manifesting the power of the one true God. (1 Kings 18). Moses represents the law and Elijah the prophets of Israel. The Israelites referred to the whole of scripture as the Law and the Prophets.
Continuing in this prophetic tradition, Jesus is revealed as the true God on another mountain; a God who will suffer and die. The description of the event by the gospel writers draw heavily on Old Testament descriptions of the Sinai encounter and the prophetic visions of the Son of Man as we found in the first reading. The second reading contains the testimony of St. Peter in his second epistle, attesting to the glorious event. What is different and new is the element of suffering and death. Change involves suffering and change is a constant but only change leads to new possibilities, the breaking of new frontiers and to new life.
At the Transfiguration, Jesus’ glory shines through his human nature. His divinity is revealed. Yet He warns the three apostles that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected. This also serves as a message to the believer that following Jesus entails much suffering that eventually leads to glory. This message does not imply the glorification of suffering, but rather the victory of God over suffering, sin and death. What is required is listening.
Jesus was transfigured while at prayer, while listening to his Father, accepting the will of his Father. This is also the path of the transfiguration of the Christian. Sin disfigures but prayer transfigures.
As the stained glass window in our cathedral needs the light to come into its own, so the believer needs the light of prayer to become like Christ in humble listening and surrender. We proclaim the victory of God when we pray and we experience the revelation of God within us and amongst us.
What does a transfigured Christian look like? Well, what we shall be is yet to be revealed. We do know, with St. Pau, l that we are constantly being transfigured into his very own image, from one degree of glory to the next, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. ( 2 Cor. 3:18)
It seems that here and now, we can have a spiritual makeover through prayer and listening to God’s word so that we may receive the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth.
St. Thomas Aquinas said: “ At his Transfiguration Christ showed his disciples the splendor of his beauty, to which He will shape and colour those who are his: He will reform our lowness configured to the body of his glory” ( Summa Theologica ) . May we become the stained glass window in the light.