Catherine de Hueck Doherty, the foundress of Madonna House Apostolate in Ontario, Canada, grew up in the Russian Orthodox faith. Her parents taught her from her childhood to recognize the presence of God in everyone and everything.
Once, when Catherine said she wanted to touch God, her mother stretched out her hand and said, “Touch me.” Catherine’s mother understood St. Augustine’s teaching when he wrote: “God became man so that man might become God.”
The Transfiguration is more than just a sign of Christ’s divinity. It also reveals our own potential to grow and to become divine. Earlier, the author of Daniel wanted to encourage the faithful who were being persecuted by King Antiochus Epiphanes. The Transfiguration was meant to strengthen the disciples’ faith, which would be sorely tested by Jesus’ passion and death.
Later, Paul would try to strengthen the Christian community against times of trouble or persecution: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” [Rm 8:18]
Our Opening Prayer asks that, in Jesus’ Transfiguration, his heavenly Father “strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets, and show us the splendor of your beloved sons and daughters.” Similarly Peter sees, through the Transfiguration, a renewed awareness of our own exaltation to come.
Despite daily trials and tribulations, Paul assures the Corinthians that, through faith, we “are being transformed … from glory to glory.” [2 Co 3:18] Perhaps we already participate in the vision of Teilhard de Chardin, who recognized that “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
The voice the disciples’ hear that declares, “This is my chosen Son,” provides a glimpse of our own future. John declares: “We are already the children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is that, when it is revealed, we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is." [1 Jn 3:2]
It is refreshing to contemplate the innocence of a child. The Indian Jesuit Sebastian Painadath writes: “Children belong to the kingdom of God, not because they are more innocent than we are, but because they do not live in the brokenness of the past or in anticipation of the future. Children live in the present moment. They give themselves wholeheartedly to the now – to the moment that is right here right now.”
The Transfiguration holds out hope that we can recapture this experience even as adults. As the photographer Minor White put it: “Innocence of eye has a quality of its own. It means to see as a child sees, with freshness and acknowledgment of the wonder; it also means to see as an adult sees who has gone full circle and once more sees as a child – with freshness and an even deeper sense of wonder.” As Jesus said, we must become like little children if we wish to enter the kingdom of heaven.
The voice the disciples hear urges: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” It has been said that “Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.” [T. Keating] The disciples remained silent about the event until they had reflected on the Transfiguration in light of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.
James cautions, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” [Js 1:22] Yet at times we confuse activity with doing God’s will.
St. Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869 in The Sudan, Africa, to a loving, prosperous family. At nine she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Following 10 years of unspeakable suffering, Bakhita won her freedom, became a Catholic, and eventually joined the Canossian Sisters. After years of service including helping in a hospital during World War I and giving mission talks, her arthritis, asthmatic bronchitis and double pleurisy forced her to stop working and to use a wheelchair. A visiting bishop asked Sister Josephine what she did all day, sitting in her wheelchair hour after hour. She replied: "What do I do? Exactly what you are doing – the will of God."
Photo: Madonna House Chapel in Ontario, Canada. Photo credit: Facebook/MadonnaHouse