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Gospel Lectio Divina for the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord - August 6, 2023

Gospel Lectio Divina for the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord - August 6, 2023

By David Kilby

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

READ

Mt 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and do not be afraid." And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, "Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

MEDITATE

A high mountain. 

Nothing on this earth awakens my imagination and sense of awe like mountains. They are so much larger than life, so transcendent. That is why, I think, God sent Moses up Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, and why Jesus brought James, Peter, and John up Mt. Tabor to see his Transfiguration. Nature is a symbol of the way God designed the spiritual world. The spiritual world is revealed symbolically in the physical world.

Once I went on a road trip to Montana, Wyoming, and Yellowstone with my family. My father, brother, and I rented quads and rode them into the mountains. There we found a mountainside of snow in the middle of July. I imagined that same mountainside was full of snow just a few months earlier, but it melted, trickled down the mountain, and nourished the lush valley below where we were staying. 

In modern society, our souls have been so calloused by human technology that it’s often tough to sense our perpetual connection to the natural world around us. Despite all of our manmade devices, we still receive our sustenance from God. People used to understand that fundamental truth. When our society was more Christian at its core, towns were built around churches and monasteries, because people understood how important it was to stay connected to those who devoted their lives to God. The graces of God flowed from that church or monastery and into the lives of the townspeople like the snow of the mountain gives life to the valley below. 

When Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the mountain to see his Transfiguration, he was similarly filling them up with the graces they would need to evangelize a world in desperate need of the resources heaven provides. 

Mountains are cold, inaccessible, distant, and condescending. And yet, they are what nurture the valley below. We who live in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the Valley of the Fallen, need the mountain's resources to descend to us in order to survive. Yes, mountains are cold, distant, inaccessible, and condescending, and yet people still climb them. People will still strive for holiness, not despite its harsh features but because of them. These harsh features are what awaken in us the passion to deny our carnal desires and reach for something higher. They raise us to a nature beyond this world, which is what God created us for. It is fitting that God uses the natural world to remind us of this, our true human nature.

The Transfiguration is therefore a beautiful analogy of how the Church works. The priests, who have been given the blessings of revealed truth, come down from the mountain and share it with other believers when the time is right. The Church is not designed to have the laity provide guidance for the clergy. That would be like the valley providing nourishment to the mountains. In the tradition of the apostles, Catholics from ages past humbly relied on the people of God to guide them because of the wisdom they received from God on high. Let’s look to the priests and religious in our lives for that heavenly light provided to them through the natural graces of their vocation. 

And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

In Brothers Karamazov we read, “For those who renounce Christianity and rebel against it . . . neither their wisdom nor the ardor of their hearts has been able to create another, higher image of man and his dignity than the image shown of old by Christ.” That image of man is on display in the Transfiguration. While God is revealing Christ to be his only son, he is also revealing to us what he created us to be: holy, radiant, and pleasing to the Father. Indeed, there is no image of man and his dignity higher than the one Christ gives us. For Christ did not reveal his glory to show off, but to show us the glory that awaits us if we follow him. 

“This is my beloved Son.”

Jesus’ Transfiguration came shortly after Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. Because Peter already believed it, God revealed it to be true. This is often how God works with us in our search for truth. Oftentimes, we have to first show some sign of faith. We have to step out and say what we believe to be true, even if we’re afraid. God is looking for us to follow him in this way. God is a teacher. Sometimes teachers ask us questions. In fact, sometimes they don’t give us the answer until a student at least tries to answer the question correctly. God often works in the same way. He wants us to use our intellect to figure things out on our own. Then, when we do, he will often affirm that it’s true with some mind-blowing piece of inspiration. God wants us to remain intrigued, and he will constantly provide us with exactly what we need to keep us moving in our search for deeper truth, but we have to show some incentive on our part like Peter did when he proclaimed Jesus to be the son of the living God. 

PRAY

Dear Lord,

No philosophy, lifestyle, or belief system offers the hope that you offer. Saints are depicted with halos of light over them because they reflect your light. With your face shining like the sun, you showed Peter, James, and John the greatness you have in store for us. But this is a hard path to walk. Give me strength every step of the way, and forgiveness for the times I’ve failed to be more like you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen

LISTEN

When Peter spoke during the Transfiguration about setting up tents, he was practically told to be silent and just take in the experience. How often do we miss God’s message simply because we want to add our two cents. It’s often tempting to participate when God is providing an answer. We want to augment it, make it more meaningful in our eyes. But there is no greater beauty than God’s simple but profound answers to prayers. We can’t improve the answers in any way. They require no commentary. They are what is, and they are all we need. So, listen to what God is saying to you through this story of the Transfiguration this week. 

Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.  He received his undergrad degree in humanities and Catholic culture from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. In addition to working with the Knights of the Holy Eucharist (knights.org), he has served as a journalist for Princeton Packet Publications, and the Trenton Monitor, the magazine for the Diocese of Trenton. Some of his published work can also be found in St. Anthony Messenger, Catholic Herald (UK), and Catholic World Report. For the latter he is managing editor. Find more of his writing at ramblingspirit.com

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