Shortly after the twins were born, I spent one of my many sleepless nights thinking about how my life has changed since the day I met my wife: how I abandoned the thought of becoming a Benedictine monk; how I moved across country, leaving the only home I had ever known; how entering into a life-long commitment of loving communion and intimacy has changed my relationship with God; not really having an appreciation for how four young children can–all at the same time–exhaust me to the point of numbness; make me mad enough to pull out what little hair I have left; make me laugh until I cry; and fill me with so much love and joy that I can barely keep my heart in my chest. My life has not just changed; it has truly been transfigured. I have gone from just living for myself, to dying to myself in loving sacrifice and service to my wife and children in the same way that Christ sacrificed his life for his Bride, the Church.
Lent is a time of setting ourselves apart with the Lord as we prepare to enter the tomb and die with Him on Good Friday, so that we may rise to new life with Him on Easter Sunday. As we make our way up the mountain with Christ Jesus, we won’t need to worry about what to bring; we don’t need hiking boots, or a backpack, or water. Instead, the Lord gives us all that we need in prayer, abstinence, and fasting, which strengthen our souls for the journey. The sacrifices we observe during Lent are designed to help us come face-to-face with our weakness before God; weaknesses that we offer to our Lord as spiritual sacrifices which empty us of sin so that God can fill us with His life.
But with transfiguration comes fear and death. We fear because in order to be truly transfigured to Christ, we must abandon sin, which means removing all obstacles that prohibit us from loving God alone and making ourselves vulnerable before the God who made us. It means exposing the weakest parts of who we are in the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that God can make us strong. It means becoming blind to the ways of this world so that Christ can lead us. Transfiguration means dying to ourselves so that we can rise with Christ in glory.
During His transfiguration, Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. John the Baptist’s father Zechariah foretold that Jesus would be the dawn from on high that would break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and guide our feet in the way of peace. We live in a world of eclipse, in a world consumed by a darkness whose far-reaching shadows of abortion, contraception and pornography are cast across the threshold of family life. Our only hope for salvation is in God’s mercy and infinite love. When we truly live our Catholic faith with fidelity and joy, we bear witness in a convincing manner to the victory of God’s love over the power of evil in ourselves and in our culture.
Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets of the old covenant, are with Jesus, who is the Word made flesh, and who will offer his body and blood for a new and everlasting covenant. Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said, “We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist . . . Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration.” The reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, as Mother Teresa so beautifully reminds us, is at the heart and soul of what it means to be Catholic. The Eucharist is the principal source of strength and nourishment for our souls precisely because it is Christ himself whom we receive. The power of the Eucharistic Christ—present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in Adoration—gives us the perseverance and fortitude to stand up to the convictions and truths of our faith: to be the disciples that Christ calls us to be. The Eucharist is not just important to evangelization: the Eucharist is evangelization!
The Eucharist exists to make us the Body of Christ, to make us the sacramental representation of Jesus Christ on earth. Our being changed into Christ is what the Eucharist is all about. “The Eucharist is the intimacy of the union of each person with the Lord” (von Balthasar, 284). Thus, it is in eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ that we truly become what we receive; and in receiving the Eucharistic Christ, we receive the grace that gives us the courage to say with Saint Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
In this acceptable time let us pray that the King of the universe will send forth the Holy Spirit to fill us with His grace so that we may worship Him with our lives. This Lenten season, if we give everything to the Lord and follow Him with all our hearts, the Spirit will shower us with His blessings. Let us rise and not be afraid for it is good that we are here. As we come down from the mountain and go back into the world, let us pray for our own transfiguration, that we become living sacraments of God’s divine life, and true symbols and witnesses of that loving relationship to the world.
©2011 Aurem Cordis and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers