The Transfiguration of the Lord. August 6, 2017
Dan 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Pet 1:16-19; Mt 17:1-9
The Transfiguration and our Christian identity
I was initially confused about what to do with my life shortly after I arrived in the United States from my native country of Nigeria. I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in Geophysics. My dad suggested that I go into Information Technology instead. My uncle was of the opinion that I should get an MBA and pursue a business career. My childhood friends suggested that I ignored my dad and uncle and play soccer instead because it was both profitable and more fun! They were all good options but what was I to do?
Clarity came only when I came to realize that God loved me as His Son in Jesus Christ just as I was no matter what my past has been and He had a mission for me despite my weakness. I came to embrace my priestly and religious vocation only after I realized that Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, has won for me the right to be a son of God with great privileges and responsibilities. In Christ Jesus and through Christ Jesus, I have access to divine grace, mercy, forgiveness, faith, hope, love, etc., a gratuitous share in the mission of Christ as well as all that I needed to fulfill this mission.
We are usually confused about what we are to do in life because we easily focus on the issue of what to do without first answering the fundamental question, “Who am I?” Unless we first grasp our true identity in Christ, i.e. knowing who we truly are in the eyes of God, we can never know what we are called to do. When our true identity is blurred, faulty or built on shaky ground, we find ourselves both confused and weakened to act as we should act in this world.
Jesus fulfilled the mission for which the Father sent Him because He never forgot that His fundamental identity was as His Father’s only begotten Son. Being fully aware and conscious of both His rights and responsibilities as the beloved Son of the Father, Jesus knew exactly what to do at each moment of His life no matter what it cost Him or His loved ones.
When He was found in the temple at the age of twelve by His parents He said, “I must be about my Father’s business.” He had no doubts about His Father’s love for Him and His union with the Father, “I and the Father are one.” He resolutely embraced the responsibilities that come with being the Father’s beloved Son, “I must complete the work of Him who sent me.” In addition, Jesus “did not seek to please Himself but the Father,” submitting to His Father’s will in His agony in the Garden, “Father, take this chalice away from me but not my will but yours be done.” On the cross, He never doubted that He was the Father’s beloved Son as He gave His last breath as an offering to the Father, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
The Father repeatedly affirmed this fundamental identity of Jesus throughout His earthly life. When Jesus began His public ministry at His baptism in the Jordan, the Father exclaimed, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In today’s Gospel passage the Father again exclaimed about the transfigured Christ, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” In both instances, the voice of the Father is not to remind Jesus that He is first and foremost the Father’s beloved Son. But this voice is primarily for us, to point us to Jesus as the source of our true identity as children of God. It is Jesus Christ alone who reveals to us our true identity as God’s beloved children, makes us truly God’s children and gives us the grace to truly live as such. Unless we learn to look at and listen to Jesus alone, we will never know our true identity as God’s beloved children, we will live our lives without faith in the rights that Christ has won for us and we will be helpless to fulfill our duties as God’s beloved children, “To those who believe in His (Jesus’) name, He has given power to become sons of God.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, where do we get our sense of identity from today? Is our identity rooted in our wealth, job, achievement, fame, success, popularity, or our acceptability by others? How would each of us answer the question, “Who am I?” Are we looking to the world or to others to tell us who we really are? How sad to see many people today who would reduce their fundamental identity to their sexual orientation or to current ideologies or movements within our outside the Church. Whether we call ourselves liberals or conservatives, homosexual or straight, pro-life or pro-abortion, we must never forget our fundamental identity as God’s beloved Children in Christ. In Christ Jesus, we have access to God as His beloved children and the grace that triumphs over the devil, all sin and the grave. It is in Christ Jesus alone that we can also fulfill our responsibilities to live lives of ongoing conversion, loving God and others selflessly, seeking to please God in all things and fulfill the mission for which we were created.
One clear sign that we are truly rooted in our identity as God’s children is that we become like Jesus, constantly in touch with the continuously affirming words of the Father, “You are my beloved son/daughter with whom I am well pleased.” When we are firmly grounded on this truth as our fundamental identity, our predominant desire will be to do all things to please the Father and not ourselves. This way, nothing can stop us from fulfilling our mission in life.
If we are going to live our Christian life with conviction and overcome all confusion and weakness, we must look to Jesus Christ and Him alone and listen to His words as He speaks to us in prayer, in the Sacraments, in His written words to us, in our well-formed consciences and in the Catholic Church. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, “It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of Man takes on light.” St. Paul echoes this same message when he says to us in today’s Second Reading, “You will do well to be attentive to it (prophetic message) as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Our world is indeed a dark place because it offers us so many tempting suggestions about who we are. Our fallen human nature and the devil are constantly proposing for us false images of who are. The light continues to shine in the dark world because, Jesus Christ, the light of the world, never ceases to come to us as in today’s Eucharist to reveal Himself to us and to reveal to us who we truly are. Mary, the Mother of God, is also reminding us of our rights and duties as God’s children as she whispers in our hearts, “Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you.”
Let us fix our hearts and minds on Jesus Christ so that we grasp deeply who we truly are as God’s beloved children even in our sins and struggles. Doing so we will find both light and strength to be and to do what God wants for us in this world and please Him by fulfilling our mission in life so that for all eternity, we will echo the words of St. Peter before the face of the transfigured Christ in today’s Gospel, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!