The Transfiguration - "This is my beloved Son" (Mk 9:2-10)
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a high mountain. Jesus is transfigured before them with Jesus' clothes becoming dazzlingly white. Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus in conversation. A cloud then overshadows them all and a voice is heard from the cloud, "This is my Son, my beloved, listen to him." Then Peter, James and John witnessed only Jesus with them now.
While coming down the high mountain Jesus tells these three disciples not to tell anyone what they witnessed until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. Peter, James, and John kept silent about what they witnessed. They did discuss among themselves what 'to rise from the dead' meant.
In reading the Transfiguration account from the Gospel of Mark, I recall reading these words, 'my beloved Son' in other gospel and biblical passages.
The Transfiguration accounts:
Mk 9:7 - "This is my Son, my beloved. Listen to him."
Mt 17:5 - "This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests."
Lk 9:35 - "This is my Son, my chosen one, listen to him."
Baptismal accounts of Jesus:
Mk 1:11 - "You are my beloved Son, on you my favor rests."
Mt 3:17 - “This is my beloved Son, my favor rests on him."
Lk 3:22 - "You are my beloved Son, on you my favor rests."
Dt 18:5 - Moses says, "A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen."
Is 42:1 - "Here is my servant whom I uphold my chosen one with whom I am pleased."
2Pt 1:17 - Peter recalls what he heard and witnessed, "This is my beloved Son, whom my favor rests."
We get the picture of the loving relationship and connection between the Father and the Son. At the Transfiguration we see Jesus in another relationship and connection when he is conversing with Elijah who represents prophecy and Moses who represents the Law to the Jewish people. And Jesus tells these three disciples not to tell anyone what they witnessed or heard until after his resurrection. Peter, James, and John did not have a clue by what Jesus meant 'to rise from the dead.' It was not yet the time for Jesus to reveal to the Jewish people his relationship as the Son of God and the Messiah.
A thought after reading the words, 'my beloved ...' when was the last time you called someone your 'beloved.'
The three pillars of Lent
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (1927- ) reminds us that, "Lent stimulates us to let the Word of God penetrate our life and in this way to know the fundamental truth: who we are, where we come from, where we must go, what path we must take in life." During this Lent take the path of prayer, fasting and almsgiving which are the three pillars of Lent.
"Christian perfection consists in three things: praying heroically, working heroically and suffering heroically." St. Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870)
"Prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look towards heaven. It is a recognition of love, embracing both trial and joy." St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897)
"Prayer is a search for God, but it is also a revelation of God. Through prayer God reveals Himself as a creator and father, as redeemer and savior, as the spirit who 'scrutinizes everything, even the depths God" (1 Cor 2:10) and above all 'the secrets of human hearts.' (Ps 44:22) Through prayer God reveals Himself above all as Mercy - " St. John Paul II (1920-2005)
"Fasting and almsgiving are the two wings of prayer. They are signs of humility and charity." St. Augustine (354-430)
Read Mt 6:5-15
"Prayer, mercy and fasting: these are one, and they give life to each other. Fasting is the soul of prayer; mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them: they cannot be separated. If you have one of them or not all together, you have nothing." St. Peter Chrysologus (c.380-450)
"Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God." (Benedict XVI)
"Fasting makes sense if it chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him." Pope Francis (1936- )
Read Mt 6:16-18
"Our prayers and fasting are of less avail, unless they are aided by almsgiving." St. Cyprian (c.200-258)
"Almsgiving above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when alms are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all." St. John Chrysostom (c.347-407)
"Almsgiving, according to the gospel, is not mere philanthropy, rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtue that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave his entire self for us." (Benedict XVI)
"Let the man with two coats give to him who has none. The man who has food should do the same." (Lk 3:11)
"He who gives alms should do so generously ..., he who performs works of mercy should do so cheerfully." (Rm 12:8)
Read Mt 6:1-4
Thoughts on Ash Wednesday and Lent
Ash Wednesday and Lent begins on February 17. The United States Catechism for Adults define Lent as, "This is an annual period of forty days beginning on Ash Wednesday for Latin Catholics which is set aside for penance, fasting and almsgiving in preparation for the coming celebration of Easter. It is modeled in part on the forty days Jesus spent in the desert prior to beginning his public ministry. The penance, fasting and almsgiving are meant to help lead the believer to ongoing conversion and a deeper faith in the Lord who redeemed us." (p.518)
As Lent begins we hear the words, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel" or "Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return" as we receive the ashes on our foreheads. For those adults who have been preparing for baptism, these are the last days of preparation for the initiation into the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church. We should also recall our baptismal promises and our life and faith in Jesus Christ and the Church community. Lent is also a perfect time for the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Pope Francis reminds us, "The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better." and "Lent comes providentially to awaken us to shake us from our lethargy."
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI presents, "Lent is like a long 'retreat' during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the evil one." and "Lent stimulates us to let the Word of God penetrate our life and in this way to know the fundamental truth: who we are, where we come from, where we must go, what path we must take in life,"
Ashes on the foreheads,
ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The time to pray.
The story retold,
of redemption and salvation,
of life over death.
The time to remember.
Sorrowful mysteries on beads,
stations with crosses,
a purple hue for the holy season.
The time for reflection.
Fasting, alms and prayers,
give up and do more,
sacrifice and embrace.
The time for humility.
His journey of life,
to save all from sin.
a bloody victory over evil.
The time for change.
Palms and Last Supper,
denials and a trial,
the cross and a tomb.
The time for soul-searching.
The time is now!
The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
Fr. Thomas Duffey (1924-2007), pastor of St. Patrick's - Detroit 1977-2001) would say, "We are sinners striving for sainthood." And. the Irish writer Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) is said to have written, "Saints have a past, sinners have a future."
Lent is a perfect time to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. From the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964), "Those who approach the sacrament of penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offence committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for conversion." (#11)
After Jesus' resurrection he appears to his disciples and, "Then he breathed on them and said: receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven, if you hold them bound, they are bound."(Jn 20:22-23) "Sin is a break in a relationship thanks to our words, thoughts, actions and inactions." (U.S. Catholic, July 2017, p.49) Sin damages and severs our relationship with God as well as with one another. Psalm 51:3-6 gives us an insight into sin and compassion, "Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always: 'against you only have I sinned, and done evil in your site' -"
This sacrament calls us to confession and conversion which can then bring us forgiveness and reconciliation. St. Ambrose (339-397) explains there are two conversions in the Church, "There are water and tears; the water of baptism and the tears of repentance." St. Augustine (354-430) sees, "The confession of evil works is the beginning of good works." And, St. John Paul II (1920-2005) presents, "Confession is an act of honesty and courage - an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God."
The words of absolution, said by a priest or bishop representing Christ, states the essential elements of this sacrament and the reality of pardon, peace, and forgiveness of our sins.
"God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and the resurrection of on his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace,
and I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
As Pope Francis (1936 - ) reminds us, "The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord's mercy motivates us to do better."