Transfiguration Leads to Life through Death

Photography © by Andy Coan

Imagine: you are ten years past customary retirement age.  It’s time finally to kick back and relax.  You live in a great city where everything is at your fingertips – shopping opportunities, cultural events, all your relatives and lifelong friends.  Suddenly God appears and tells you to pack up, uproot your life, and march into an uncivilized wilderness.

This is what happens to Abram in Genesis 12.  He lives in Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.  He’s 75 and he and the wife are not getting any younger.  He does not even know the name of the God who calls him.

Wouldn’t you “discuss” this one a bit?  Not Abram.  Genesis reports no backtalk, no “yeah-buts.”  In a fit of understatement, Genesis simply says “Abram went as the Lord directed him.”

That’s faith.  Abram hears a command from a God he can’t see, believes that this God must know what He is talking about, and begins a journey to he knows not where.  Keep in mind that Paul says, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).  That’s why Abraham is the great model of faith in the Old Testament.  For faith is not just about believing.  It’s about walking.

Obviously Abraham’s choice to walk involved great hardship.  What was the motivation that drove him to do it?  Simple.  There was something that God promised him that he desperately wanted.  He had a lot of things – wife, property, servants, and all the creature comforts afforded by his civilization.  Yet he lacked a son.  And for a Semite like Abram who had no belief in any sort of afterlife, a son was the only ticket to immortality.  A son would, presumably, go out and beget sons, thus keeping his father’s name and memory alive.  God promised not only descendants, but a progeny so numerous that all the communities of the earth would find blessing in Abram’s name.

So it was desire for future glory that enabled Abram to put up with the hardships entailed in answering the call.  This desire is called hope.

About 1900 years later, St. Paul writes these words to Timothy, “bear your share of the hardship which the Gospel entails” (2 Tim 1:8).  To be a Christian during the first 300 years meant risking everything.  If the Romans caught you, it could mean torture or death or, if you got off easy, the confiscation of all of your possessions.  Why would people take this chance?  For the same reason Abram embraced hardship-hope.  They had been giving a vision and a promise of eternal glory.  They understood that no earthly good could compare with this everlasting joy and so were willing to suffer whatever loss necessary in order to secure it.   In this, they followed their master who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

Aware of the trauma the apostles would shortly suffer through the horror of his crucifixion, the Lord Jesus gave their leaders a vision of hope to sustain them.  He went up on Mount Tabor and at last appeared as he really was.  In anticipation of his risen glory, the Light of the World shown forth in the dazzling white of his divinity.  The Law and the Prophets bore witness to Him through Moses and Elijah. The Father’s voice boomed the affirmation that this was his beloved son.  The Holy Spirit was manifested as the shekinah cloud of glory which had led the Israelites on their desert journey.  This transfiguration is a scene that proclaims the whole gospel, the Good News of a glorious life, won by the Savior, that would last forever.

But the experience itself did not last forever.  It was not given to them so they could erect tents and stay there.  There was still walking to do.  The path called the Via Dolorosa lay before Him and before them as well.  The experience called the Transfiguration was to show them that this way of the cross was not a road to death but through death to a life that makes even death seem but a trifle.


Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Second Sunday of Lent (Year A) – Genesis 12:1-4; Psalms 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22; Second Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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