Lord, You radiated heavenly glory yet spoke of Your
coming Passion. The cross is Your love revealed,
not an obstacle in Your path. Help me
sacrificially live my love for You.
In the Garden of Eden, at the beginning, Adam and Eve were innocent. They were made for communion with God. God walked among them and had a relationship with them. He was their Father and they were His children. They were naked and unashamed. There was no sin and no death. Human nature was united with spiritual reality in an undivided whole. They were full of the grace of God.
Then, through doubt and disobedience, they put division between themselves and God. God did not change, they did. They lowered themselves from the spiritual to wallow in the material world. They killed the life of grace within them and their kinship with their Father. Life became a struggle for both survival and rectitude. What was lost for them was lost for all humanity as their descendants.
How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man” [St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo 4,1]. By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state [Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1511-1512]. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” – a state and not an act (CCC 404).
However, the God who loved them into being would not abandon them. He promised there would be an end to their suffering. There would be salvation from the schemes of the devil.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
They will strike at your head,
while you strike at their heel (Gen 3:15).
God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, came into the world as the new Adam—born of the new Eve—to restore what our first parents had lost. He came in the spirit of love to restore to man what he could not restore in himself—kinship with God. He was a man in appearance and reality yet also God in undivided unity. In Him was the great glory of God concealed in flesh. In Him is the offering of love itself by the God who is Love-personified which gives man a place in paradise. Through the sacrifice of the New Covenant—His death on the cross and His resurrection—He gave man blessings and grace greater than those lost by our first parents (CCC 412).
In the Transfiguration, our Lord allowed His glory to shine through His earthly, mortal form.
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light (Matt 17:1-2).
Our Lord came to fulfill the Law and the prophets and here He was seen with Moses and Elijah—the giver of the Law and the greatest among the prophets. We are told they had a conversation but we aren’t told of the words they used. I speculate that they were pulled out of their own time to be with Jesus in this moment. These weren’t ghosts of the men, they were the men themselves brought into communion with Him who transcends time itself. Jesus was giving them the counsel of God on His mission and the plan of salvation. They take back with them what they would later share about our Lord.
Moses met with God many times on Mt Sinai, not just in his most famous encounter from the burning bush. He had at least eight visits recorded in Exodus. Many of them were for 40 days at a time. We usually remember the times when he received the tablets of the Ten Commandments and other laws and regulations.
The last time he ascended Mt Sinai is recorded in Exodus 34. Here, God rewrites the tablets that Moses broke in his anger at the idolatry of the Israelites. He also tells Moses that He is about to drive out the other peoples occupying the promised land before them. God admonishes Israel to not take up the worship of foreign gods, and gives other commands. Moses returns from the mountain with a face so radiant his friends were afraid to approach him (Ex 34:29-30). This sounds a bit like Jesus in the Transfiguration.
In Deuteronomy 18, we find an echo of this encounter where Moses is giving instruction to the people. He tells them that God is driving out their enemies and admonishes them to stay away from foreign gods. Moses promises a prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the one to whom you shall listen (Deut 18:15). This echoes what God said from the cloud at the Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt 17:5). Moses may have been simply repeating what he had heard from the cloud when he met with Jesus.
In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is similarly called to meet God on a mountain. This meeting may have also been across time with Jesus. In this encounter, Elijah is sent to confront his people and commission his successor Elisha.
This is an echo of history recorded in both Old Testament and New Testament. We see Moses and Elijah with Jesus—both were summoned for an encounter with God on a mountain and both returned with instructions for their people.
And what does Jesus say immediately following His radiant glory and this wondrous encounter?
As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Then the disciples asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist (Matt 17:9-13).
Top of mind after His glorious Transfiguration is His mission. What is His mission? The cross. The Son of Man is a man of suffering and sorrow who has come to be abused and to die. In sacrificing for others is the greatest offering of love we can give. Even if that suffering is missing out on our favorite donut so our child may enjoy it… we have communicated love. There is no greater expression of love our Lord could give than to give His life as ransom for our sins. When we look at the cross, we are looking at the image of perfect love. It is the love of God outpoured in the shedding of His blood.
We tend to see suffering as something to avoid. St Peter expressed this to Jesus and was rebuked.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matt 16:21-23).
The cross isn’t an obstacle for Jesus to overcome in His life. It is the reason for His incarnation. It is His mission. It is the love He came to give… Himself as offering. As in the desert, the devil tried to lure Jesus from the cross with the promise of all of the kingdoms in the world in exchange for His fealty, here Peter also tries to lure Him from the cross. Peter receives the same rebuke as Satan.
We were made for communion with God. God is love. Love requires sacrifice and self-denial. We move away from God in our refusal to deny ourselves in service to Him and His Kingdom. We fail to live as God made us to live when we fail to love those He loves. We find distortion and disorder in a life lived for pleasure and comfort rather than service and sacrifice.
The Apostles saw the glory of God shining through the flesh of Christ. We see His glory today in the horrific beauty of the crucifix. Jesus is the way we follow. Our united destiny is the way of the cross.
Lord, make me a channel of your love. May I not the deny the cross of my life but embrace it as an offering to You. As the cross was Your focus in your glorious Transfiguration, may I also, in my most exalted moments, remember my call to obedience, sacrifice, and love.