Saturday, March 7, 2009

His Suffering is our Glorification

(2nd Sunday of Lent, B)

In accord with ancient tradition, on this second Sunday of Lent we proclaim the mysterious event of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Jesus takes his inner circle of disciples to the top of a high mountain, and there he appears to them in his divine glory, conversing with the Moses the great leader of the people of God, and Elijah, their greatest prophet. Here the disciples get a glimpse of the glorified Jesus, of the Lord as he comes to us in his Resurrection. The Transfiguration is a kind of preview of the Resurrection, and so its proclamation today shall be for us, to encourage us to redouble our commitment to observing this Lent and keep us focused on its goal: the renewal of our risen, baptized life during the celebration of Easter.

But, if the gospel we proclaim today is all about the glorified Jesus and the Resurrection, why do the other readings seem to about sacrifice, specifically the sacrifice of the son? In the first reading we hear of the blessing that comes upon Abraham because of his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. In the second reading, St. Paul assures us that the God who also “did not spare his own Son” but “handed him over” for our salvation will also bless us in every way.

What’s the connection here? Well, I think we are invited today to reflect on the link between God’s sacrifice of his only Son—indeed of the self-sacrificing deity—and the glorification of Jesus in the Resurrection. And here’s what it is, I think: The suffering, Passion, and sacrifice of the Son of God become for us our glorification. For what do we see glorified in the Transfiguration of the Lord—what was available to the eyes of Peter, James, and John? It was the Christ they knew as the man Jesus of Nazareth transformed and glorified in the divine light. What they saw with their eyes was a divinely glorified human being. This humanity is the humanness of you and me; it is the human nature that the Word of God borrows from us through the wondrous consent of our most Blessed Mother and that comes into the world as Jesus Christ.

In this event of the Word of God becoming flesh, becoming one with us in our humanity, God in Christ enters into and passes through our human life and experience. Most importantly, Jesus Christ is God joining himself to our suffering. There he is on the Cross, identifying himself with the suffering we bring upon ourselves and each other with our sins, even to the point of the deep pain of feeling forsaken by God: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me.” Jesus joins us even in the bodily death our first parents earned for us with their original disobedience.

But here’s the good news: the goodness of the divine personality of Jesus Christ is more powerful than the evils of sin, suffering, and death. And so Jesus, again in the humanity he borrows from us, bursts forth from his Passion and death to reveal the Resurrection. This is precisely the glorification we witness in the Transfiguration. It’s not so much that we marvel at the miracle of seeing an apparition of the divine person of Jesus Christ, but that we rejoice to know that this is a glorification that is now available to us in our humanity because of Christ’s sacrifice, because of his having passed through and over the suffering and death we have brought upon ourselves with our sins.

So let us renew ourselves in our devotion to the Lord’s Passion this Lent, for it is the end of the power of sin and the fear of death for all humanity.

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