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Bill McCormick, S.J.December 11, 2021
Transfiguration of Jesus, Giovanni Bellini, c. 1490 (Wikimedia)

A Reflection for the Saturday of the Second Week of Advent


“As they were coming down from the mountain,
the disciples asked Jesus,
‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’
He said in reply, ‘Elijah will indeed come and restore all things;
but I tell you that Elijah has already come,
|and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.
So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’
Then the disciples understood
that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist” (Mt 17:9a, 10-13).

Do we allow moments of comfort and joy to prepare us to serve God’s kingdom?

The Transfiguration tells us who Jesus is in all his power and glory: the son of God, the fulfilment of the Law and Prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah. Thus God says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

And yet its coda, which we read today, is not so glorious. Jesus predicts his own rejection and death. What was the point of the Transfiguration? And why does it lead to this grim scene?

Do we allow moments of comfort and joy to prepare us to serve God’s kingdom?

Indeed, the Transfiguration is hemmed in by troubles and trials. It follows Jesus’ invitation to the disciples to take up their crosses and follow him, and precedes both the disciples' failure to heal a boy and Jesus’ second prediction in Matthew of his Passion.

The Transfiguration tells us who Jesus is but also of his service, suffering and sacrifice. Yes, he is the son of God. And yet, precisely as the son of God, he will suffer. He will suffer and be rejected, just like John the Baptist and Elijah.

And just like them, he will not be deterred by persecution. For Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. Even the glorious moments of his earthly life, including the Transfiguration, underline that.

There are many beautiful moments in our faith lives, ones that give us comfort and peace. Perhaps a moving moment at Mass, a happy hour with a cherished friend, a glorious glimpse of a sunrise. And yet we know the beauty speaks to something beyond, something that can take us into uncomfortable, even painful places. That is because the beauty draws us into God’s service, and thus into the service of others. And serving others means entering into the messiness of their lives.

May God give us the freedom to see in the little transfigurations of our own lives as an invitation to serve God’s holy people.

Such moments can be unsettling, leading us to draw back from the challenge of the Gospel. And so we might ask ourselves how we are living out the Gospel as something to be shared with others, as Pope Francis exhorts us to do:

I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life (“Evangelii Gaudium,” No. 49).

In the Transfiguration, Jesus’ saving mission from the Father is made clear. May God give us the freedom to see in the little transfigurations of our own lives as an invitation to serve God’s holy people.

Get to know Bill McCormick, S.J., contributing editor


1. Favorite Christmas Song

Silent Night” is a favorite thanks to the German side of my family.

2. Favorite Christmas Tradition

My family makes a fruitcake every year. It’s a great tradition and is an excuse for a bit of tipple.

3. Favorite Christmas Recipe

Can I talk about the fruitcake again? In South Texas we eat a lot of Tex-Mex around the holidays, and pork tamales are a popular meal for Christmas Eve. Hard to beat!

4. Favorite Article You Wrote This Year

My favorite article was “What will it take to end the death penalty? Catholic activists say a more visceral approach is needed.” It’s an important conversation and I am hopeful it will keep moving forward. It was also such a joy to talk with the many pro-life activitists seeking the end of the death penalty.

5. Favorite Christmas Photo

From my second (1985) Christmas, just over a year old. I was a happy baby!

McCormick Christmas

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