Divinity is so profound that it can be grasped only by the extremes of simplicity and wisdom. There is something in common between the wise and the simple, and that is humility
Fulton J. Sheen, The Eternal Galilean, 21–22
In this morning’s ﬁrst reading we hear the account of the covenant between God and Abraham: an agreement between the human and the divine in which a promise is made and a relationship is strengthened. The promise is fulﬁlled in the land of Israel and the offspring of Abraham. It shows us something of what God is and God does – God is faithful, generous, and loving towards us his children, he keeps his promises.
As men and women it is all too easy to get caught up in questions of national identity, I for one am more than guilty of this, especially during the Six Nations Rugby Championship. We all then need to be reminded of S. Paul’s words in our second reading: ‘Our citizenship is in heaven’. It’s where we really belong, and where we gain our true identity. It is where we can have hope that he will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body – we can dare to hope to share in the fullness of the divine life of love for all eternity. It’s something which should affect our lives here and now. Just like the Christians of Philippi addressed by S. Paul, we too need to ‘stand firm thus in the Lord’: we need to stand firm against the ways of the world, against those who would re-fashion the church after the ways of the world, for we are to be in the world, but not of it – for our citizenship is in heaven, this is where we belong, and what really matters.
If we turn to this morning’s Gospel we hear an account of the Transﬁguration of Our Lord. In it we catch a glimpse of the glory of God, we see things as they really are, and for a moment Jesus’ divinity shines forth. He appears talking with Moses and Elijah, he ‘spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem’. In appearing with Moses and Elijah we see Jesus as the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Just before going up the mountain Jesus has spoken to the disciples, telling them that he will suffer, be rejected, be killed, and raised from the dead. He tells his disciples that if they wish to follow him they have to deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him. This then is what Lent is all about: denying ourselves and taking up our cross and following Christ. We are to prepare ourselves to follow our Lord and Saviour by imitating him and losing our life for his sake. We pray and we fast to follow his footsteps, to turn away from the things of this world and to remind ourselves that our citizenship is in heaven.
The glory of God, prefigured by the shining white appearance of Jesus in the Transﬁguration points to the moment when the world will see the glory of God displayed most fully upon the Cross, where naked and bloody, scourged, despised, and rejected, Christ is cruciﬁed as a blasphemer, an enemy of the people. God will enter into a new covenant with his people, cut in his own flesh, with a sacriﬁce of himself, for our sins and those of the whole world. This is the fullness of glory and the love of God for humanity. It turns our understanding of glory, and power, and kingship, on their head.
We too can say like Peter that ‘it is good that we are here’. We come to be fed by God and with God, with word and sacrament, where the sacriﬁce of Calvary is made present so that we, the people of God, may be fed with his body and blood. We, here, this morning, can behold something of the glory of God in the Mass where Christ gives himself for the life of the world. This is the manna in the wilderness, the bread for the journey of the people of God in the desert of repentance.
At the moment of Transﬁguration a voice comes from a cloud saying ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’ God tells us to listen to Jesus, so that we may be like him. We are to take up our Cross, and in that to learn humility, our need for and reliance upon God and God alone, to glimpse his love and glory on the Cross and to fashion our lives after him, and live out our faith in the world, so that it may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion and power, now and forever