A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 13)
2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A – February 20, 2005
“Jesus’ Face Shone Like the Sun”
Gn 12:1-4a // 2 Tim 1:8b-10 // Mt 17:1-9
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
Elizabeth Sherill, a veteran writer who suffers from an arthritic neck, writes about an eventful meeting that she and her husband, John, had with Berendina Maazel, an 81-year old widow who needs a motorized wheelchair to move more than few steps (cf. “Berendina’s Dream” in GUIDEPOSTS magazine, February 2005, p.10-12). At the age of 17, during the German occupation of Holland where she was born, Berendina became ill with a strange malady that left her in complete agony. Totally paralyzed for six months, she almost died in a looted ward where his father, a doctor, worked. Later diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, her vicious illness would never allow her to have a single hour free of pain, for all her life. A gifted artist, Berendina is a tiny, bone-thin woman with a ravaged face, a crooked spine and terribly twisted hands. But there is a beauty about her, some quality that Elizabeth couldn’t define. When she asked Berendina, “How did you ever keep going?” The latter answered, “By hanging onto my dreams!” Her father told her that when God plants a dream, he also provides the strength to reach for it. Indeed, Berendina did not allow her malady to stifle her dreams. She did fulfill her dreams to go to art school, to work in her chosen field of stage design, to travel, and to get married. While recuperating at Los Angeles Orthopedic Surgery from yet another surgery, Berendina requested an aide to wheel her to meet the other patients. When she was brought to the children’s wing and saw the youngsters in wheelchairs, God gave her the biggest dream of all. The dream: to help provide the resources for handicapped children that had not been available for her. She fulfills this dream by painting and 100 % of the proceeds from her paintings benefit the work with children.
Elizabeth’s final narrative seems to be a modern day Transfiguration account. “Berendina’s studio is at the rear of the house, about as far as she can walk. Night had fallen while we talked, but when we entered the studio it was like stepping into the sunlight. Radiant landscapes, vibrant flowers, soaring birds! What was the special feeling in that room? Joy, certainly. Beauty. Wellness – not a hint that the painter of these canvases had ever suffered a moment’s ill health. Yes, the room was alive! Alive like the woman who for 64 years has looked through pain to her dreams.”
The Transfiguration account (Mt 17:1-9) proclaimed in the liturgical assembly a the Second Sunday of Lent is meant to illumine the Lenten spiritual journey of the Church toward the Easter glory. According to the liturgical scholar, Adrian Nocent: “The choice of this particular pericope is important, and we must dwell on it for a moment. Here the Church has her catechumens gathered before her. She has already introduced them to an austere life like that of Moses and Elijah. Now she takes them, along with the apostles, to the transfiguration. Christ will indeed be glorified, but he will reach that state by passing through suffering and death. The Church thus presents a program embracing the whole life of anyone who wants to enter the baptismal font and model his life upon that of Christ. Evidently, on the very first Sunday of Lent we find ourselves already at the heart of the paschal mystery, for this mystery can be summed up by saying that through his Cross Christ entered into his glory.”
The Gospel passage situates the wondrous event of Christ’s transfiguration on a high mountain (Mt 17:1). According to traditional opinion, this refers to Mount Tabor, but some biblical scholars favor Carmel or the visually appropriate Hermon. Still others, like John McKenzie and Benedict Viviano think that no localization is necessary. John McKenzie remarks: “It is far more probable that this mountain, like the mountain of the Sermon (Mt 5:11) has no geographical location. It is the symbolic mountain on which the events of Sinai are re-enacted in the life of the new Moses.”
According to Matthew’s account, Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, the intimate circle of disciples who would be together with him in his agony at Gethsemani (cf. Mt 26:37). “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light” (Mt 17:2). That his face shone like the sun evokes the incident when Moses came down from the mountain of Sinai, carrying the two Tablets of the Testimony in his hands (cf. Ex 34:29-35). The skin on his face was extremely radiant after speaking with Yahweh. It shone so much that Aaron and all the sons of Israel would not venture near him. Moses would thus put a veil over his face when he finished talking to them. Like Moses’ radiance resulting from his encounter with God on Mount Sinai, the brilliance of Jesus at the new mount of revelation emanated from the glorious God. Indeed, he is more than Moses, for Jesus is the brightness of the Father’s glory - the radiance of God himself. Transfigured on a high mountain, Jesus reflected and brought to fulfillment that brilliance promised in Is 60:1-3, 19-20: “Arise, shine out, for your light has come, the glory of Yahweh is rising on you … No more will the sun give you daylight, nor moonlight shine on you, but Yahweh will be your everlasting light, your God will be your splendor …”
At the transfiguration event, the clothes of Jesus became white as light. Martin Connell remarks: “In the Gospel of Matthew, one will not find a mention of white garments again until chapter 28, where the two angels at the tomb proclaim the Resurrection. In the rite of baptism for infants and for adults, the newly baptized are clothed with a white garment … as a participation in the life of Christ, who, in his Transfiguration and Resurrection, is living in the Church and the world … The garments of the newly baptized at Easter are white as light, as was your own baptismal garment when your were brought into the Church.”
Indeed, the brilliant garments of the transfigured Christ give us a glimpse of the radiance of the Easter morn. Moreover, the baptized whose sins are forgiven through the blood of Christ and rise to new life with him, are called to live their astounding vocation of radiating the saving light of Christ to the world and are challenged to live faithfully their baptismal consecration.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 556, underlines the implication of the Lord’ baptism and his transfiguration for our life: “On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus’ baptism proclaimed the mystery of the first regeneration, namely, our Baptism. The Transfiguration is the sacrament of the second regeneration: our own Resurrection. From now on we share in the Lord’s Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming, when he will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body. But it also recalls that it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Finally, St. Augustine reiterates the necessity of total participation in Christ’s paschal mystery, which the mystery of Transfiguration entails: “Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?”
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. What is the meaning of the Lord’s transfiguration for me? Does it enable me to see the Lord’s passion and the world’s sufferings in the context of the Easter glory?
B. Do I regard with a contemplative gaze and with a Eucharistic spirit the mystery of the Lord’s transfiguration?
C. How do I radiate the joy and hope of the transfigured Christ in today’s gloomy and dismal world, so needful of light and joy?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
Leader: Loving Father,
we praise and thank you
for giving us the grace to contemplate the beauty
of your Son Jesus, the awesome splendor of your glory.
In his transfigured glory on the new mountain of revelation,
we receive a foretaste of our own marvelous destiny.
Participating in his redemptive passion,
we believe that we will share in his glorious Resurrection
and enter the joy of his eternal kingdom of justice, peace and love.
O gracious God,
your beloved Servant-Son and our Lord Jesus Christ
is the Life that goes down the mountain of transfiguration
to sacrifice his life on Mount Calvary;
we go down with him that we may die and live with him.
He is the Bread that goes down to suffer hunger;
may we feel the excruciating hunger of the poor
and endeavor to alleviate it
with the Bread of the living Word.
He is the Way that goes down to be exhausted on his journey;
may we be his companions on the journey
in quest of freedom, justice and everlasting peace.
He is the Spring that goes down to suffer thirst;
may we slake the thirst for truth
in today’s aching, troubled world.
Father, grant that our face may always radiate
the saving light of Christ
and that our baptismal consecration keep its integrity.
We make our prayers in the name of Jesus,
your eternal splendor and our guiding light,
now and forever.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“Jesus was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Mt 17:2)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Pray that we may be receptive to the mystery of the Lord’s transfiguration actualized in our daily life. Participate in Operation Rice Bowl, the Catholic Relief Services’ Lenten program. Give some of your time to visit the website: www.catholicrelief.org to learn more about the work that the Catholic Relief Services is doing on our behalf around the world. The works of mercy in the second week of Lent are aimed to help the poor of Ecuador. Offer your contribution for the mission in Ecuador.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may truly be united with Christ who was tempted and is victorious and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 13): a weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323