Reflections on the Teaching of Vatican II Through the Magisterium of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis
Sunday, February 21, 2016
God on the Mountain
Bishop Robert Barron:
Today at Mass, we
hear about the Transfiguration of Jesus, which was of great importance for
the early Christians.
The Transfiguration takes place on a mountain, and this right away places
it in relation to the Old Testament. Abraham is willing to sacrifice his
son on a mountain; Noah’s ark comes to rest on Mt. Ararat; the law is given
to Moses on Mt. Sinai; Elijah challenges the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel;
Jerusalem is built on the top of Mt. Zion.
Mountains are places of encounter with God.
In the New Testament, Jesus gives the law on a mountain: the Sermon on the
Mount. He dies on Mt. Calvary. And, in a climactic moment in his public
life, he brings three of his disciples to the top of a mountain—and there
he is transfigured before them.
What is especially being stressed here is the manner in which Jesus
represents the fulfillment of the Old Testament revelation, economically
symbolized by the two figures with whom he converses: Moses, representing
the law, and Elijah, representing the prophets.
When a Jew of Jesus’ time would speak of the Scriptures, he would use a
shorthand: the Law and the Prophets. So in speaking to Moses and Elijah, in
the glory of the Transfiguration, Jesus signals that he brings the law and
the prophets to their proper fulfillment.
N.T. Wright, the great contemporary Biblical scholar, says that the Old
Testament remained, fundamentally, a story without an ending, a promise
without fulfillment…that is, until Jesus came into history.
Transfiguration is the radiation of divinized flesh as relational to the
Father in prayer. Prayer is the activation of the person as Person. All the
saints as “other Christs” radiated light, and continue to do so.
That light is
perfused with mist as the cloud came “and cast a shadow over them” (Lk. 9,
34). The divine Person transcends creation and the human way of knowing and
hence cannot be known by the clear and distinct idea, or any idea. The
divinity can be known in its divinity only by Love [self-giving] and the
consciousness accompanying it. It is what we understand as contemplative or
mystical and is meant not for an elite few but for all. As all are called
to be Christ, so all are called to know Christ and the Father (Mt. 11, 27).
This demands the asceticism of climbing
the mountain, of having mercy on the other, on forgiving and loving the
enemy, that is meant, again, nor for the few but for all.