Matthew 17:1-9
The Church: Divine and human,
by Rev. Paul Grankauskas

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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."

It was not all that long ago that we were celebrating the birth of Jesus.  The lights and decorations in the malls and in our homes, the Christmas cards and cards depicting scenes of the Holy Family all give the season a warm glow.

Now we are the start of Lent, a solemn 40-day period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  There is nothing warm and fuzzy about this season.  This is the time when the cross of Christ looms large.  Now we are invited to meditate upon the sufferings Christ endured for our salvation - the betrayal, the denials, the abandonment, the false accusations, the beatings, the mockery, the agonizing death on the cross.  It is one thing to contemplate the beautiful, joyful birth of a child.  Here we are looking at the face of the suffering Christ.  Before the hour of the cross, however, there was the hour of the Transfiguration. What a shock this must have been to Peter, James and John.  Up to now, they had only seen Jesus as one like them.  Yes, He could perform wondrous signs - walking on water, casting out demons, raising the dead - and teach with authority, but He was a man like them.

The point is, they see Jesus in a way they never have before.  They see Jesus glorified, something hidden from them up to this point.  We have had 2,000 years to reflect on the meaning of this moment when Jesus is once again revealed as true God and true man, but for the apostles, this was something new and rather startling.

As we continue our Lenten journey, as we ponder Christ glorified in the Transfiguration and Christ crucified on Good Friday, we might reflect upon how all of this applies to the Church, the mystical body of Christ.  It is easy for us to see the sinful, human element that makes up the Church.  The scandal of sin can often turn people away from the Church, much like people probably turned away from the bruised and bloody countenance of Christ.  But, we can never forget what we profess in the Creed each Sunday; that the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

The Church is holy because Christ Himself is the holy one of God.  It is He who makes her holy with the gift of His Spirit, the source of all grace.  It is through the sacramental life of the Church that we are formed as God's holy people.  It is through the Church that Christ continues His saving work of teaching, sanctifying and governing His flock.  If all we do see is the sinful, suffering, human element of the Church, we have only part of the picture.

The apostles learned through the Transfiguration that there was much more to Christ than meets the eye.  We have to learn that the same thing applies to the Church.

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