Meditations by Msgr. Liptak


Msgr. Liptakweekly gospel meditations



Transfiguration: How to Understand Jesus


Genesis 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 831-34; Mark 9:2-10



Aim: (1) to show Jesus in the Gospels as human but also divine; (2) to explain the Church's definition of Jesus as possessing a divine and human nature; (3) to stress the need for unreserved faith in God through Jesus, Christ our Lord.


God saved Abraham's son from death; so today's First Reading reminds us. But, as Paul recalls in today's Second Reading, the Father did not spare his own Son, the Eternal Word, from death. Jesus, whose identification with the Father's glory is revealed so clearly in the Transfiguration event (today's Gospel), must carry a cross to the death.


Isaac, whose sacrifice was aborted, prefigured Jesus, the Son of God incarnate. We learn this from St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (3:16).


Why, we ask, did Abraham unhesitatingly follow God's command to take Isaac's life? Surely it was because Abraham believed that God is powerful enough to bring Isaac back from death.


Isaac of course did not die. At the last moment, God stayed Abraham's sacrificing hand. This happened because, again, Isaac was the forerunner of Christ. As the early Church Fathers loved to


emphasize (e.g., Tertullian), the real sacrifice was to occur later, in Jesus. Incidentally, concerning that curious reference to the wood on Abraham's altar Genesis tells us that Isaac carried it there: the Church Fathers used to see in this a beautiful allusion to Jesus' carrying the wood of his cross to the altar of Calvary.


Spiritually, we are children of Abraham; in the Roman Canon we speak of him as "our Father in faith." But we know, as he did not, that faith in God is faith in Jesus. Abraham knew that God is so powerful that he can bring the dead back to life. But Abraham did not know that God's only Son, Jesus, would conquer death by his own sacrificial death, foretold in the Isaac event, and, risen from the tomb, would live forever in our midst.


Jesus, we believe, is true God and true man, as we affirm in the Creed of Mass. Like ourselves, he walked and slept and ate and wept. But this Person, Jesus, who lived a fully human life, is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, whose glory was seen atop the Mount of the Transfiguration.


Jesus, we profess, is not only the supreme teacher and perfect model for man; Jesus is God-made-man, Lord and Savior, sent by the Father for our salvation. The Person born of Mary at Bethlehem is therefore the only Person who ever had a prehistory. Though Jesus began in time as a human being, he is without beginning as Son of God. Before his earthly existence, Jesus is God, existing from all eternity. The Person who is Jesus Christ did not begin to be at Bethlehem; rather, the Person who is Jesus Christ never began to be; he is from all eternity. He is God. A glimpse of his divinity is seen atop the Mount of the Transfiguration.


Abraham never knew about the Transfiguration. Yet how he believed!  What of us, who have seen what Abraham and the prophets longed to see.


As we recall Abraham's faith in the Eucharistic Prayer today (we shall use the old Roman Canon), we shall make an attempt to intensify our faith commitment in the risen, living Lord Jesus.



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