CONSECRATED LIFE: Transfigured Into Christ
Back in 2005 our chaplain gave an inspired homily using the mystery of the Transfiguration of Jesus as an image of Consecrated Life. I like to pray with this reflection and thought tomorrow’s Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus an apropos time to share it with you! It is based on Vita Consecrata – Saint John Paul the Great’s Apostolic Exhortation on Consecrated Life.
A mystery is something that is more than what we can explain. A husband and wife cannot totally explain their love for one another, nor can a priest or nun explain their vocation. God’s call is greater than what we can explain.
In the same way, the Transfiguration of Jesus is a mystery of our faith; it’s more than we can ever explain. There will always be more to it. And in fact, the Transfiguration is one of the new Luminous mysteries of the Rosary.
Pope John Paul II has used this mystery of the Transfiguration of Jesus as an icon, an image of the mystery of Consecrated Life. With him I would like to reflect on this mystery of the Transfiguration of Jesus and the mystery of the Transfiguration of our lives.
In a simple way, contemplative life has been compared to Jesus’ prayer on the mountain. But there is so much more. In the Transfiguration we behold the face of the Transfigured glorified Christ. But the Transfiguration is only a glimpse of who Jesus is. The Transfiguration prepares the disciples and us to behold the face of the disfigured, crucified Christ.
Our time with Jesus on Mt. Tabor, the mount of the Transfiguration, prepares us for Golgotha, for Calvary. The connection between the two is vital. In both we behold the face of Christ in glory and in humiliation. In both cases, John Paul says, the Church is “the Bride before her Spouse, sharing in His mystery, surrounded by His light.”
“In the contemplation of the crucified Christ, all vocations find their inspiration. From this contemplation all gifts, in particular the gift of the consecrated life take their origin.”
Consecrated persons discover that the more they stand at the foot of the cross, the more immediately and profoundly they experience the touch of God who is love. On the cross the one who in death appears disfigured and without beauty fully reveals the beauty and power of God’s love.
Here we see the connection between Tabor and Calvary. There is no Transfiguration without the crucifixion. Its sole purpose is to prepare for, to lead to Calvary and beyond.
In the Transfiguration the humanity of Jesus is transfigured as well as the divinity. The divinity transfigures the humanity of Jesus. The body of Christ is transfigured and emanates light, a light more radiant than the sun because it is the Light of God who is Light.
And so it is the body, the humanity of Jesus, which is transfigured and expresses the divinity of Christ. In the same way, our lives in faith are a transfiguration in which the power of God shines forth in our poor humanity.
John Paul says that this is particularly true of the consecrated life. The first duty of the consecrated life is to make visible the marvels wrought by God in the frail humanity of those who are called. They bear witness to these marvels, not so much in word, as by the eloquent language of a transfigured life.
How are you, Sisters, being transfigured, both as individuals, but even more as a community? We can witness the transfiguration in a married couple, as they show with the passing of time, we hope, how two people become one.
In the same way, your community is a privileged place to behold the Transfiguration taking place. Perhaps like a husband and wife who are with each other daily it is difficult to see this transfiguration taking place, as it is difficult to notice a spouse’s hair becoming gray or white.
Through your life, more faithfulness to prayer
- By standing at the foot of the cross with Mary and repeating her fiat.
- By praying with Jesus in the garden: Thy will be done, not mine;
your will is conformed to the will of the Father, by accepting the cross you find joy. Not only is your will transformed, your whole person is transfigured and expresses the transformation.
The beauty of your community is that you span generations, from postulants and novices to Sr. Mary Bernadette who celebrated her 70th anniversary in religious life. Each of you at different points in the journey is being transfigured.
We also see how your community is transfigured, as you share in the suffering of the cross both in body and in mind. Through this suffering, you are being transfigured as a community.
“It is well that we are here,” Peter says to Jesus, in the midst of the Transfiguration experience. But the experience passes, and the disciples see only Jesus. So it is with us. There are those transfigured moments and there is each day your time of prayer, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and at Mass. But each day you pass from that, you come down the mountain to cook and clean and do the business of daily life.
As consecrated persons, you are not immune from the suffering of life, nor from its routine, it is in your daily life also that the Transfiguration and the cross take place.
Conclusion: The Transfiguration is a mystery of our faith, not only in the life of Jesus but in our lives as well. The Transfiguration enables us to stand at the foot of the cross, to behold the crucified Christ and as we behold the crucified Christ and accept our share in his life as well, we are transformed and we are transfigured. So that like the transfigured Christ we become icons, signs of the marvels God is doing – in Christ and in us.