The Road to Glory
“Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid” (Matt17:7).
The Transfiguration, described in all the gospels, was the linchpin revelation of who Jesus is and why his paradoxical death on the cross was his glory.
Matthew shares Mark’s theme of the “Messianic Secret,” the way the early church explained how Jesus, who was rejected and crucified, was in fact God’s message to the world that, despite sin and indifference, divine Mercy will redeem the universe, transform humanity and share its own inner life with us.
It is an astounding assertion, and the first preachers must have faced incredulity. How can a crucified Jew be said to have saved the world?
At his Transfiguration, Jesus is shown in glory and history is made transparent to what the Law and Prophets both knew, that it was God’s redemptive plan that the “Son of Man had to suffer in order to enter his glory” (cf Luke 24, the road to Emmaus).
If the world only saw a man hanging on a cross between two thieves against a darkened horizon of abject failure, the hidden reality was God’s beloved Son standing between Moses and Elijah in a bright cloud of glory.
Peter, James and John, representing the disciples and the early church, barely grasped the mystery of Jesus’ victory through defeat, but after the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday they would begin to understand what Jesus had told them at Caesarea Philippi. They would proceed to Jerusalem to fulfill the vision they had just seen.
We benefit from knowing what they would soon experience during that first Holy Week. But we are also like them, only human, slow to understand. We would rather stay on the mountain, but after the vision fades, the cold wind rises again, and Jesus is nudging us to get up and finish the journey.
“He touched them, saying, Rise up and do not be afraid.” His death on the cross is part of the “lifting up” that reveals God’s unconditional, undeserved love for sinners. Love is stronger than death. There is no greater love than this -- to lay down your life for another, a friend and even an enemy. Jesus’ love will be for all.
We continue our journey to Jerusalem on this Second Sunday of Lent, now enlightened by the brilliant cloud of the Transfiguration. There is more road ahead of us, so let us continue the journey with Jesus and with one another, joyful in the realization that we are on the road to glory.
A note from the author: Pencil Preaching will not be posted from Monday, March 13 - 23. I will be on the road and unable to post, but the blog will resume with a reflection for Sunday, March 26. Thanks to all of you who follow Pencil Preaching. Thanks for accommodating me as I travel. Pat Marrin