Second Sunday of Advent 2012
By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013
The great painter Raphael eloquently envisioned the Transfiguration in what is considered his last painting. Jesus floats in midair before softly illuminated clouds, with Moses and Elijah at his left and right. Below Jesus, the disciples cower in terror as the Transfiguration reveals the light flooded promise of eternal life. It is a revelation of Christ's Divine Glory.
In the lower part of the painting. Raphael depicts the apostles attempting to free a possessed boy of demonic possession.
The painting seems to show the Redemptive Power of Christ contrasted with the flaws of mankind. Raphael died in 1520; the work was finished by his pupil Giulio Romano. And today it is housed at the Vatican.
The Transfiguration was an amazing event. It is reported to appear like a person bursting forth into flames from the inside out.
How often do we meditate on the Transfiguration, especially that now we have one of the mysteries of the Rosary dedicated to the Transfiguration.
Then, wouldn't you know, as I was reading in preparation for this homily: I find that there are some modern Scripture scholars who think this never happened! How come it is that our so-called "modern scholars" know more than the people who actually lived through it. Maybe the question should be asked of them, why are you trying to disprove this great happening of the Transfiguration? One account stated that it is just a preview of the resurrection, written after the resurrection to make the latter resurrection more acceptable. Yeah I know, it doesn't make any sense to me either.
Thomas Aquinas wrote that it was a miracle that suspended a previous miracle. That is, when God became human, the divinity would have overpowered the humanity of Jesus every minute of every day. So, God miraculously shaded the divinity to give the humanity space to be itself. Then on that mountain, God suspended that continues miracle for a few moments, and the divinity of Jesus was free to break forth in splendor.
But exactly what broke forth? What would have overwhelmed the humanity of Jesus had it not been suppressed? The infinite compassion of God for all his creatures; the stunning wisdom of God; the dazzling brilliance of God's beauty; the overpowering crush of God's justice; the dissolving tenderness of God's Mercy. All this converged and exploded on that mountain.
Jesus was not a mere channel for Divinity, not just a vehicle for some divine display. Jesus was equally human and he did not simply appear at that moment. He worked his way there from the beginning of time and evolution. And that is when his personal genius took command. He learned a skill, appreciated nature, loved children, became a notable storyteller, attracted friends, discovered a poetic talent, became passionate about God's kingdom, grew in wisdom and grace, became proficient in prayer, called God his own father. And all of that perfect humanity came to a head on that undistinguished hill. The humanity of God met the divinity of a man and exploded in ecstasy.
Lest someone should think we are confusing the issue we should be reminded that God is so far beyond our vocabulary, we get sloppy with words. We say that God became human. But of course, God did not become anything. God cannot become because God simply is. What we mean to say is that God took our humanity; God assumed a particular human nature.
We also can accurately say that Jesus is equally God and man. But of course, nothing is equal to God. Any human person would be shattered like a mirror in the face of God. What we mean to say is that Jesus is fully divine and fully human, that God did not lose any divinity by becoming human and that Jesus did not lose any humanity by becoming divine. Both natures are miraculously protected.
Jesus is not a combination of two persons, or a split personality. Jesus is one Divine Person. Just as you may have a whimsical or tragic personality apart from your essential self, so Jesus had a unique human personality that is expressed as a Divine Person.
It's complicated, I know. We must speak of God in human terms because that's all we really have. But once we arrived at some human notion of God, that tells us something more about ourselves. It says that your essential self is to live in Christ. You spend a life- time forming your personality around the person of Christ. Then you die, imperfect.
But God transforms your mortal life into God's Divine Life. You become living proof of Irenaeus' conviction: "The glory of God is you fully alive."
So do not doubt, but believe!
Be Good, be Holy, preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words!
'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.