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The Transfiguration of Jesus (Part II)

(by Lino Cignelli, ofm - translated by Fr. Silas Musholt, ofm)

2. Context of the Transfiguration

There is a close connection between the Transfiguration and the events which preceded it. The Transfiguration is actually the logical development of these events. St. Leo the Great (5th century) had earlier spoken about this when he said, "With the illumination of divine grace we will more easily reach this type of comprehension - of the 'great Mystery' - if we give attention to the gospel context which precedes it immediately" (Tr. 51, 1). For Pope Leo the context in question begins with the confession of Peter (Mt 16, 13ff). Thus the Transfiguration sheds light on both the person and the actions of Him who is "the Christ, the Son of the living God."

The Mystery of Tabor took place "six days after" the noticeable turning point in the public life of the Master. It is connected to His foretelling His Passion and the disclosure of the cross which was yet to be (Mt 16, 21ff). Let us be more exact about the steps leading to this change which marked "the climax of the public ministry of Jesus" (John Paul II, Homily March ll, l990, n. 2).

In Mt 16, 21 the Master makes the first announcement of the paschal Mystery (passion - death - resurrection), and emphasizes its negative aspects (much suffering and the death inflicted by the religious leaders of the people). This foretelling brought on a bold and...awkard reaction from the head of the apostles (Mt 16, 22). "The protest of Peter 'This will never happen to you' (Mt 16, 22)," says Pope John Paul II "is repeated again today by those who would claim that suffering should not be part of human existence."

Jesus emphatically turns aside the attempt of His Vicar to divert Him from the plan designed for Him by God the Father (Mt 16, 23) and instead instills in the disciples the sacrosanct need to follow Him along the same way pointing out that the cross saves if it is shared (Mt 16, 24ff). Christian discipleship really involves a word-play on the "message of the cross." It means: either the cross or "perdition!" (1 Cor 1,18; Phil 3, 18f; cfr. Mt 10, 38f; Lk 14, 27). But the context shows that the disciples, with Peter in the lead, have not been convinced by the Master. At this point and in this situation the Transfiguration event is stamped with the decisive intervention of God the Father.

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