Branching Out Blog

"Hear the Word! by Deacon Charles Paolino: Feast of the Transfiguration

Posted by Charles Paolino on Aug 5, 2023 6:00:00 AM

A reading from the Book of Daniel

(Chapter 7:9–10, 13–14)

In this passage from Jewish Scriptures, we encounter an image—“Son of Man”—that is familiar to Christians because it is repeated many times in the Gospels. Specifically, it is a term that Jesus applied to himself. Some scholars believe that Jesus used the title, rather than calling himself “Son of God,” because it did not have a connotation that would immediately trigger opposition from his critics among the Jewish religious establishment. Perhaps people who were not instantly drawn into a theological argument with Jesus would listen to him long enough to discover, on their own, that his identity was more than the human being they perceived with their senses. All these centuries later, we understand that Jesus had the nature of God but also shared our human nature, making him our most intimate link to the divine.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 97:1–2, 5–6, 9

The psalm reminds us of God’s preeminence but notice that it mentions in particular that God is “exalted above all other gods.” That reference reflects the fact that belief in multiple gods was commonplace when this psalm was written. The reference still has meaning for us, though, because anything that captures our attention to the extent that it becomes more important to us than our worship of God is, in our lives, a lesser god that should be put in its proper place or exorcized altogether.

A reading from the Second Letter of Peter

(Chapter 1:16–19)

This letter, while it may not have been composed directly by the hand of Peter, certainly has its origins in the apostolic age and, therefore, in the faith that has been handed down to us from Peter and the other apostles. This letter reminds us that our faith is rooted not in ancient mythology but in the lived experience of those who traveled with Jesus, learned from him, and witnessed first-hand the evidence of his divinity, including the mysterious event we celebrate today.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew

(Chapter 17:1–9)

How reassuring it would be if we could “see” God every day as the apostles saw him in the blazing light in the event described in today’s gospel reading. But Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that in this life our relationship with God is a matter of listening, not of seeing. Our path in this life, the pope wrote, is illuminated by “the interior light that is kindled in us by the Word of God.’’

For an example, the Benedict turned to Mary, who was closest to God among all human beings and yet “still had to walk day after day in a pilgrimage of faith,” constantly meditating on God’s word in Scripture and on the events in the life of her son, Jesus.

It is Mary who first told us regarding her son, “Listen to him,’’ the words that would be spoken by the Father during the epiphany on the mountaintop.

This, Pope Benedict said, “is the gift and duty for each one of us. … to listen to Christ, like Mary. To listen to him in his Word, contained in Sacred Scripture. To listen to him in the events of our lives, seeking to decipher in them the messages of Providence. Finally, to listen to him in our brothers and sisters, especially in the lowly and the poor, to whom Jesus himself demands our concrete love. To listen to Christ and obey his voice: this is the principal way, the only way, that leads to the fullness of joy and of love.’’



Image: Transfiguration by Alexander Ivanov, 1824. Public domain.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.

Pope Benedict XVI made the remarks quoted here during the Angelus in St. Peter's Square on March 12, 2006.
Charles Dominick Paolino is managing editor at RENEW International and a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Metuchen.

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Topics: transfiguration, humanity and divinity of Christ, divinity of Jesus

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