Christ alone

Published on 06 Mar 2020

When they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus [1].   

Lent focuses our attention on Christ.  We prepare to commemorate his passion, death and resurrection.  Others help us to see him properly.  He himself directs us to the service of others.  In the end, however, everyone else is unified in him.    He is in everyone who is served, even the least of his brothers and sisters [2].   Those who teach us and help us in our faith are out of sight behind him. The only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus and only about him as the crucified Christ [3]. It is the teaching of the Son himself that we seek. The Father has told us:  Listen to him [4].

Christ is not insisting on this attention, indeed he deflects it.   As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order.  Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead [5].  The anticipated glory of the resurrection is nevertheless his.  There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light [6].  This glory is conferred on the Son by the Father: and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son. The beloved, he enjoys my favour. Listen to him’ [7].   Our focus on Christ alone is at the command of God.

The divine instruction to centre our attention on Jesus delights us.  Lord it is wonderful for us to be here [8].  However aspects of proximity to our saviour make us tremble. Part of focusing on him is contemplating his passion and death.  The recommendation to think and pray about such agony is not easy to receive. Bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News [9].  The news that death is followed by resurrection underpins the difficult task of praying the passion. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality [10].  The transfiguration helps us to keep this good news in mind.  The Jesus on whom we are centring ourselves rose to life again after suffering and death.  The disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear.  But Jesus came up and touched them, ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid’ [11].

The reassurance in do not be afraid applies not only to the challenge which is in our Lenten meditation on Calvary.  Jesus urges us not to be afraid of the difficulties, anticipated or already experienced, of our discipleship.  To recognise ourselves as sons and daughters of God is to embark on a certain path. Our road is fundamentally joyful, since its destination is eternal happiness. Nevertheless this way is not without some suffering.  Bear the hardships….relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy [12].   The call to go where our creator directs and to be holy as he urges us can involve all sorts of painful renunciations.   Long ago Abraham experienced this when he was called away from his old home to find a new one under God.  The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you’ [13].   Having been summoned away from the bad to the good, we find ourselves also called away from the good to seek the better.

The patterns of holiness and obedience to God, which are helpful to us, come to us through a long history of fidelity and sanctity.  We find God with the help of others.  Jesus does not elbow aside the saints and other teachers and sharers of the good news in order to claim our undivided loyalty.  However the holy men and women, whose guidance we have so needed, were all of them working for him for his own purpose and by his own grace [14].  Their goodness and the memory of their loving kindness sustain us in our devotion to Christ.  Our seeing only him is no snub to our fathers and mothers in faith but rather an acknowledgement of their effectiveness.  The word of the Lord is faithful and all his works to be trusted [15]. Like Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration they disappear.  This is not because they were not important.  The results of their indispensable labour are not confiscated.  Long ago our teachers offered themselves and their service God.  Drawn by their own sacrifice into his sacrifice, they continue to teach us what it is to focus on him.

The Lord looks on those who revere him on those who hope in his love, to rescue their souls from death [16].   We revere Jesus.  Our soul is waiting for the Lord [17]. We centre ourselves on him, gratefully conscious that he is paying close attention to us.  Our gratitude for our saviour’s loving preoccupation with us prompts us to serve others as he does.  If you wish, I will make three tents here [18].  The holy apostle sometimes gets things wrong.  We could see in his eager response to the transfiguration a mistaken desire to capture something which cannot, in fact, be pinned down. A joyful looking forward to the resurrection encourages those who revere Jesus as strength is gathered for the passion and for the death.  This grace-filled moment invites an effort to prolong it.  Peter’s impulse to offer permanent shelter is a sound one.  As things turn out they saw no one but only Jesus [19]. Yet the focus on Christ alone continues to prompt concern for his brothers and sisters in need.  Moses and Elijah are well accommodated.  However others who help us to see Jesus with clarity remain in need of our loving care.  We concentrate on Jesus Christ. He suffers, dies and rises again. In his suffering he recalls the pains of others and urges us, in love for us and for them, to ease the anguish which challenges us.  The Lord love justice and right, and fills the earth with his love [20]

Homily by Fr Peter Gallagher SJ 

[1]      Matthew 17.1

[2]      Matthew 25.40

[3]      1 Corinthians 2.2

[4]      Matthew 17.5

[5]      Matthew 17.9

[6]      Matthew 17.2

[7]      Matthew 17.5

[8]      Matthew 17.4

[9]      2 Timothy 1.8

[10]     2 Timothy 1.10

[11]     Matthew 17.6-7

[12]     2 Timothy 1.8-9

[13]     Genesis 12.1

[14]      2 Timothy 1.9

[15]      Psalm (33) 32.4

[16]      Psalm (33) 32.18-20

[17]      Psalm (33) 32.22

[18]      Matthew 17.4

[19]      Matthew 17.8

[20]      Psalm (33) 32.5