Fr. Nathaniel's Notions

August 6, 2017

The Transfiguration, pictured on the front of the bulletin, was Raphael’s last and greatest painting. Today’s Gospel is depicted at the top of the painting. Jesus shines as he speaks with Moses and Elijah about his death and resurrection. The bright cloud casts a shadow on Peter, James, and John who fall to the ground as the Father declares, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: listen to him.”

In the next Gospel story we learn that while Jesus is being transfigured at the top of the mountain, at the base of the mountain stands another son with his father and the other disciples. This child is afflicted by an evil spirit that seeks to kill him by throwing him to the ground in convulsions and makes him unable to speak. The disciples cannot cast out the demon, and the crowd becomes chaotic.

The two scenes form a dramatic contrast. The Son, Jesus, is lifted up in glory while the other son is thrown to the ground. The Son speaks with the Lawgiver and the prophet while the other son is mute. The Father expresses his pleasure while the other father expresses his anxiety.

Seeing these two events together helps us understand that evil is only overcome through Christ—the Son who passed through death into glory. He veiled his glory when he came down the mountain to heal the boy, to strengthen faith of the child’s father, to calm the crowd, and to instruct the apostles. In a similar way, he veils his glory when he comes into our lives. This glimpse of glory strengthened his apostles so to face the crucifixion. Meditating on the glory of Christ strengthens us as we pass through our own sufferings. The Transfiguration reveals his glory, but it is also a promise that we can share in his glory and in the Father’s pleasure. He has given us many great promises so that you can share in the divine nature, after escaping the corruption that is in the world because of sin.

The faith inspired by God’s promises grows into a life of virtuous actions. Please, make every effort to help your faith grow into virtue by listening carefully to the Word of God. Good listening is not a passive activity; we must listen in a way that helps us make connections between ideas and remember what we have learned. Vividly imagining the events of the Gospel, like Raphael’s painting helps us to do, is a wonderful way to fulfill today’s command: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: listen to him.”

~Fr. Nathaniel