Joy is Found in Dissatisfaction: How to Move Beyond the Shallows (Gospel Reflection)
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One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Mass Readings personally and to meditate on a Gospel reflection.
A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
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This week, Fr. Piccolo reflects on Matthew 17:1-9, the Gospel reading for the Feast of the Transfiguration.
We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
Gospel of the Transfiguration of The Lord (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.”
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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.”
The Gospel of the Lord
Our lives often stop before a figure, an appearance, or an image. If we are unable to capture their meanings, perhaps it is because we are unable to look deeply enough. When this happens, the images then become barriers rather than windows. In the same way, events become obstacles rather than opportunities.
God is beyond the figure.
The readings for this Sunday insist on calling to our senses: looking, being eyewitnesses of, hearing the voice. “As the visions during the night continued…” says the book of Daniel. It’s all about never being satisfied with looking at things as they appear before us and never stopping at the surface of an experience.
The Transfiguration is question of depth.
It’s only by going beyond the appearances that one finally reaches joy, like when you’ve been searching for a meaning for a long time and you finally find one.
“Walk where you cannot! Look where you do not see! Listen where no sound is made and there are no echoes: It will be like God is speaking.” – Silesius
The Transfiguration is the experience of moving out from the shallows, from superficiality. By transfiguring himself, Jesus completes his own exodus: He leaves behind his daily appearances. It was this exodus that carried him out of the bosom of the Father and towards Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not only the cross. Jesus transfigures its meaning, seeing the life that shines through the coarse wood of the cross.
Even in our common language we speak of a woman’s face being transfigured by joy as she waits for the birth of her child; we speak of a radiant face and of eyes that shine.
Jesus transfigures himself, He is radiant, because of the joy of being able to share with his friends the deeper meaning of his own life.
Exegetes describe the transfiguration as a first appearance of the Resurrected Christ, as if, during his earthly life, Jesus was not able to express his happiness.
The presence of Moses and Elijah is certainly significant because they attest to the fact that Jesus is truly the awaited Messiah. They are two figures from the Old Testament who, according to Jewish tradition, would return to announce the Messiah’s presence. They also represent symbolically the fullness of the Scriptures: “The Law and the Prophets.” Moses was indeed considered the author of the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) and Elijah evokes the figure of the prophet par excellence.
Looking and listening beyond the appearance, Moses and Elijah also appear to be those with whom Jesus can share that which is in his heart: humanity, the slavery of his people, ardent love for God, passion for truth. There is a spiritual sharing that transfigures because it fills one with joy. We all struggle to find someone with whom to share the quest for the authentic meaning of things.
Jesus is transfigured by joy because he feels the Father’s recognition. The voice of the Father is a testament to his identity. The Father sees him worthy to be heard and recognizes him as his beloved Son. These are the words that every son wishes to hear from his father. However, these are the words that we rarely hear because we do not know how to listen well. Words too often become walls rather than windows.
Jesus opens for us the path of transfiguration; He invites us to look and to listen in a deeper way, giving space to the words and images that give life and letting go of those that trap us on the surface. God is beyond appearances.
Questions for personal reflection:
- What do you see if you try, like Daniel, to see into your visions during the night?
- What are the words and images that give you a deeper joy?