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Bible Reflections View Comments

God Is More Glorious Than We Can Imagine
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013
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The Second Sunday of Lent features the account of the transfiguration. The event gave the disciples a foreshadowing of Jesus’s glorious destiny, even though they were unable to comprehend it fully at the time.

For us, this narrative reminds us that the goal of Lent is resurrection and the renewal of our baptismal vows. A penitential season such as Lent can cause us to focus overmuch on the suffering and death of our crucified savior. The transfiguration reminds us that at the end of the suffering is unimaginable life with the resurrected Christ.

This is the paradox and the tension that Christians hold as an essential part of our belief: Only through the cross do we find life. But the life that we do find is real and eternal. We don’t keep coming back to Lent because God has not really forgiven us. We keep coming back to Lent because we haven’t yet accepted that forgiveness and grace.

Today’s First Reading from Genesis recounts the covenant God made with Abraham. In a ceremony that seems bizarre to us, God and Abraham pass between a series of sacrificial carcasses that have been cut in half. In the symbolism of ancient treaties, they were declaring that the same destruction would happen to them if they broke the covenant. And yet we know that the Israelites through the centuries did break the covenant and were not destroyed, because God always remained faithful.

In the Gospel, Peter, James, and John awake from sleep to witness the vision of the transfiguration. Like the covenant with Abraham, this one is sealed with an expression of God’s willingness to die to ensure that the covenant does not fail.

The presence of Moses and Elijah tells us that Jesus’s new covenant is truly a fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham and the covenant with Moses at Sinai. The great prophets—Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others— reminded the people to keep faith with this covenant.

The apostles are speechless after this event, perhaps because they still cannot grasp the full implications of what this covenant will mean in Jesus’s life and what it will mean in their own lives. Yet they know that it is good that they have witnessed such glorious proof of God’s favor. They have been graced with a vision of the resurrection we profess.

When we are baptized we become sons and daughters of God and anytime we are reminded of this we should shine with renewed and transfigured light. This is what we are called to, and this vision should strengthen our willingness to undergo conversion and reconciliation in our Lenten journey. This Sunday’s Scriptures can give a deeper meaning to our Lenten disciplines. It’s not about what we’re doing for God, it’s about what God has done and is doing for us.

Our covenant with God is so magnificent that it can only be described with images that dazzle our imaginations. When the realization of what God will do for his people dawns on us, we cannot remain asleep, caught in our dim, stumbling routines. Especially for lifelong Christians, it’s easy to become complacent about our spiritual lives. The Scriptures continually remind us that the glorious vision of life with Christ raises even our ordinary lives to a new level. Our calling is to take some of that glorious light to all those we meet.


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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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