Matthew 17:1-9
 Listen, and You will See 
by Rev. Steven G. Oetjen

Home Page
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.  Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."  While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."  When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and do not be afraid."  And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, "Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

One of the things that can intimidate new Catholics or others who are unfamiliar with attending Mass is that we instinctively know when to sit, stand and kneel.  If you've grown up with it or if you've been attending Mass for a long time, you recognize certain "Cues" without even thinking about it.  Take the beginning of the Mass, for example.  We are standing through the introductory rites of the Mass, and at a certain point the priest says, "Let up pray,"  He then says a short prayer, which usually ends, "forever and ever."  We all respond, "Amen."  And then without thinking about it, we instinctively know that it's time to sit down.  It's time to hear the first reading.

This prayer is far more than just a "cue" for a posture change, however.  The prayer is called the "Collect" (as a noun, the emphasis on on the first syllable), because it "collects" (as a verb, the emphasis is on the second syllable) our praises and petitions of the day together in a succinct way.  It is usually directed to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes, paying close attention to the text of the Collect gives us a hint as to what is going on the Mass of that day.  It lets us know what we are praying for on that specific feast day, and so it also lets us know what God is doing - what specific graces he is making available - through the sacred liturgy that day.

The Second Sunday of Lent, we hear the Gospel account of the transfiguration.  The Collect reads, "O God, who have commanded us to listen to your beloved son, be pleased, we pray, to nourish us inwardly by your word, that, with spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold your glory."

This prayer suggests a sequence of four things that happen in the Christian life.  First, we listen to the beloved Son of the Father.  This is what he tells us to do in the Gospel when he speaks from the bright cloud: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: listen to him."  Second, by listening, we are nourished inwardly by his word.  Do you remember how Jesus responded to the first temptation in the desert?  He said to the devil, One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes froth from the mouth of God" (Mt 4:4).  That word is not just a delight to our ears, but nourishment for us inwardly.  Third, the effect of that inward nourishment is that our spiritual sight is made pure.  We are given a new capacity to see.  This is different from the capacity of our eyes to see - this is a spiritual sight.  It is clouded and needs to be made pure.  Fourth and finally, with that purification of our spiritual sight, we may rejoice to behold God's glory.  In short, we listen to be nourished, we are nourished in order for our sight to be purified and our sight is purified in order that we may see his glory.

This progression helps us to understand why the transfiguration is proclaimed to us on the Second Sunday of Lent.  On Mount Tabor, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee got a brief glimpse of the glory of Jesus' divinity.  And then they were told, "Listen to him."  If you want to behold that glory for all eternity, you must first listen to him.  If we don't listen, we will not gain the purity of sight we need to be able to behold his glory.  Allowing ourselves to be nourished by his word is what allows us to be shaped by him and to see as he sees.  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8).

Purification of our sight comes from listening to Christ.  This more intense listening, and the purification that results, is characteristic of Lent. We do well to block out the noise of the world and the voice of the evil one who tempts us, to strain our ears to hear the voice of Christ.  Blessed Columba Marmion counsels us this Lent, "If the soul is closed to earth's clamors, to the tumult of the passions and senses, the Incarnate Word will himself become Master of it, little by little."