Sunday, March 3, 2013

Meditation on the Fourth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary: The Transfiguration of Christ

Yesterday, March 2, was the First Saturday of the Month. The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was requested by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of hell she said, "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace... I shall come to ask for... the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays..." The First Saturday devotion is as follows:
It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
We live in very unsettling and sometimes downright scary times when cultural foundations such as marriage and the family that once seemed unshakable are shifting and changing under our feet. There is a great old song from the 60's called "How Can I Be Sure", which asked the question, "How can I be sure in a world that's constantly changing?" Our wonderful Blessed Lord anticipated this question in the First Century shortly before His Crucifixion. Jesus gave three of the apostles - James, John and Peter - a sign that showed them He was bigger than anything on this earth, and therefore they should not fear anything that man can do.

That sign given to the three apostles is the fourth Luminous Mystery, the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ. As an aside, many traditional Catholics refuse to acknowledge the Luminous mysteries because they were added to the Rosary by Blessed John Paul II in 2002, hundreds of years after the Rosary was initially given by our Lady to St. Dominic, founder of the Dominican Order, in 1214. I believe that to reject these beautiful Mysteries given to us by Blessed John Paul II is a great mistake and anyone who chooses to ignore these mysteries is doing so to his or her own spiritual harm. Read Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter on the rosary, "ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE", and you will have little doubt that he was directly inspired to add the Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary.

During his ministry, Our Lord did what he could to prepare his apostles for the crucifixion. Matthew 16 tells us in verse 21: "From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."  This is not what the apostles, and most particularly impetuous Peter, wanted to hear, : "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” (Verse 22).  This seems like a very normal reaction to hearing that someone you love is going to be killed.  You would naturally want to protect someone who says he is going to be in such danger.

Get Thee Behind Me, Satan, illustration for 'The Life of Christ', c.1886-94
However, this is not what Our Lord thought: "Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  

This no doubt left much confusion and consternation in the minds of the apostles. Wasn't Jesus here to free them from the Romans and set up a kingdom? What is all this talk about suffering and dying? Who can accomplish anything when they're dead?

Then Jesus goes on to confuse them even more with the following statement:  "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. . . What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"  All of this talk about suffering, dying, taking up your cross, losing your soul - this is not the stuff that would inspire confidence in the average person. Christ finished his admonition to the apostles with this most strange statement: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” I'm sure that at this point at least some of the apostles were just shaking their heads and thinking, there goes Jesus, talking that weird stuff again. First he says he is going to die, he gets mad at Peter for saying he won't let that happen, then Jesus says we will see him coming in his kingdom. Who can figure out any of this?

The very next verses, Matthew 17:1-3, says:
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Jesus literally pulled back the veil of his humanity and allowed these three apostles - Peter, James and John - to see him in his glory along with the two men representing the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). As Matthew 17:1 says: "His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light." As the Church dogmatically teaches, Jesus Christ was equally God and man. That means that although he was clothed with humanity while on earth, He was also still God in all his glory and majesty. And this Divine nature is what our Lord showed to the three apostles.  Peter, James and John, as Jesus said in the previous chapter of Matthew, were seeing "the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." There is also the great significance of Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus, as the entire purpose of the law and the prophets was to point to Jesus and His Kingdom.

But in this meditation, I wish to concentrate on the meaning of the Transfiguration in the life of the three apostles and the great meaning it has for us in the 21st Century. As I have shown, just a few days before Jesus revealed his Divine Glory to Peter, James and John, he had been talking of the scandal of the cross and the great suffering he was to endure culminating in his ignominious death. The immediate future for Christ's disciples was one of persecution and ridicule by the world and the death of their leader. This very closely mirrors the future of the Catholic Church in the 21st Century.

The present day Church is entering, and in many way has already entered on, the road to Calvary. Just as it was necessary for our Lord to take on the suffering of the world in His crucifixion, so it is necessary for His Mystical Body, the Church, to suffer to bring salvation to the world. Our Lord died for the very ones who killed him, and so it may be necessary for us to spiritually and in some cases, literally give our lives to help save those who persecute us. As Venerable Fulton Sheen said:
The law He gave us was clear: life is a struggle. Unless there is a cross in our lives, there will never be the empty tomb — unless there is a crown of thorns, there will never be the halo of light — unless there is a Good Friday, there will never be an Easter Sunday.
Mt. Tabor
In the Transfiguration, which tradition says occurred on Mount Tabor, our Lord wanted his apostles to be able to look beyond the ominous dark clouds they could see with their eyes to the glorious future that could be theirs if they would just trust in him. So he gave them a glimpse into the future, to what awaited them at the end of the hardship and pain for which they were destined as His followers.

To get to the reality shown in the Transfiguration, it means we must walk by faith and not by sight, as the Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:7.  We must not fear or draw back because of physical circumstances. But where can we get the courage we need to face the trials of this life? When we begin to be weighed down by the physical world around us and it seems we are surrounded by ominous dark clouds, that is when we, like Peter, James and John, must go up to Mount Tabor and see the Glorious Risen Christ, to refresh in our minds what awaits us.

Like these three apostles, this means following Jesus where He goes. The three apostles would have never seen Christ in His Divine Glory if they had not been willing to separate themselves from the others and follow Jesus up the mountain. For us, this means separating ourselves from the world and spending quiet, prayerful time with the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. Unlike Peter, James and John, we will not see the glorified Christ. We will see only the appearance of bread that covers Our Lord. But He is as much there in His glorified state as He was on Mount Tabor. Our physical eyes will not see Him, but our souls will be fed and strengthened.

Jesus wanted the three apostles to see him in His Divine Glory so they could understand why Peter was wrong when he said of Christ's crucifixion, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you! The apostles needed to understand that Mount Tabor was possible only if Jesus walked the road of Calvary.    That is why Jesus addressed Peter as Satan who was trying to stop the Crucifixion.    This message did not resonate with the Apostles right away. In fact, they did not understand the meaning of the Transfiguration until after Christ's resurrection. But when the time came for them to walk their own personal road of Calvary, we can be sure the image of the Glorified Jesus was front and center in their minds, giving them the courage and strength they needed to endure their suffering.

Moses descending from Mt. Sinai with his face glowing
Spending time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament may at times actually seem like a meaningless exercise. The world sees us as just worshiping a piece of bread. But we, the followers of Jesus Christ, don't let our physical sight or our emotions determine our actions. "We walk by faith, not by sight." When Moses spent 40 days and nights on Mt. Sinai receiving the commandments of God, he came back with his face glowing from being in the Lord's Presence. When we spend time with our Lord and open our minds and hearts to Him, we will also be transformed by His Glorified Presence.

When we go before the Blessed Sacrament, we are entering into the Transfiguration. We will receive the encouragement and strength we need to carry on in this world so opposed to Jesus and the saving truth of the Gospel. Our Lord showed the three apostles His Divine Glory to strengthen them to endure the scandal of the Cross. Allow Him to share that same Glory with you, especially as the Church collectively enters on the Road to Calvary.

How can you be sure in a world that is constantly changing? By spending time in the Glorified Presence of the One who will never change.

1 comment:

  1. A very inspiring and beautiful meditation.Thank You


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