Lent is a time of spiritual regeneration and renewal. “The Transfiguration ‘is the sacrament of the second regeneration’: our own resurrection,” notes the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 556). And the Gospel account of the Lord’s transfiguration invites us to ponder this event in Jesus’ earthly life and our participation in this mystery of faith.
“Who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:15): Jesus posed this pivotal question to his disciples. It is the fundamental question of the New Testament, addressed across the centuries to every follower of Christ. Peter’s response was a clear profession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (v. 16).
God’s word invites an act of faith in Jesus, the Son of God. Yet this profession of faith marks only one step in a lifelong journey.
Peter and the disciples must journey to a deeper understanding of what they profess with their lips, just as God tested Abraham, whose faith deepened through the trial of having to obey the command to sacrifice his only son Isaac. This is the same path of daily conversion of heart and mind that marks the life of every Christian.
When Jesus tells his disciples he will suffer greatly, be killed and then raised on the third day, a shadow of doubt is cast over the disciples’ act of faith. They must see with the eyes of faith what their minds and hearts cannot imagine or understand. Jesus’ transfiguration becomes a mysterious glimpse, a foretaste of the Lord’s future and glorious resurrection.
Jesus took the apostles Peter, James and John to a mountain, where he was transfigured before their astonished eyes. Jesus is bathed in brilliant heavenly light while two Old Testament figures, Moses and the prophet Elijah, appear on either side of his radiant form. A heavenly voice from the clouds declares Jesus as the Son of God.
Why does Jesus show himself in this transfigured form? At his transfiguration, Jesus is removing the horror of the crucifixion from the disciples’ hearts. Jesus is preventing their faith from being disturbed by the humiliation of his passion with a preview of the hope each disciple would come to know at his glorious resurrection.
Jesus shines the radiant light of faith, hope and love into the hearts and minds of his disciples. Today, God’s word invites us to the same life transfigured by the Holy Spirit. We do so by renewing our faith in Jesus, the Son of God. Faith in him gives a new way of seeing the world.
After the experience of Jesus’ transfiguration, the disciples begin to see and to understand, with the eyes of faith, the saving meaning of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. They are given the grace to see, in faith, their own participation in his paschal mystery.