Jesus climbs Mount Tabor to pray, and while he was praying, He is transfigured before Peter, James, and John. These three glimpse Christ’s true nature in order to be prepared for the scandal of the Crucifixion. “This is my beloved Son,” a voice resounds from within the cloud. This is my Son, blazing forth the radiance of a billion stars.
Our story begins with Father Abraham, though, in the First Reading from Genesis 15. The Lord God directs Abram’s eyes to the night sky: “Count the stars, if you can.” Let’s turn our attention to the night sky for a moment too. On a clear night here at Thomas Aquinas College, you can see hundreds of stars and a few planets, and perhaps the smoky edges of our own galaxy. If you know where to look, you might see the dull smudge of the Andromeda galaxy, 2.5 million light years distant (that’s 10,000 million trillion miles—the Lord owns a lot of real estate). Astrophysicists estimate the Milky Way contains 300 to 400 billion stars. Andromeda has over one trillion stars, each with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of planets and exoplanets. Both galaxies belong to the Local Group of about 50 galaxies, which belongs to a cluster, which makes up filament patterns of superclusters. We can see, with Father Abraham and a little help from the Hubble telescope, at least 100 billion galaxies in the night sky. Hubble took a picture of the night sky the size of your thumb held at arm’s length and found 10,000 galaxies in that small dark spot. If every star were a grain of sand, the box to contain all the observable stars in the universe would have to be two miles high and two miles wide and stretch from New York to Atlanta.
Why did the Lord God ask Father Abraham to look up into the night sky? To show him how many children he would have? Not really: God wanted Abram to glimpse some inkling of his glory. It is I who made all these stars, and I keep them perfectly tuned every day. I and no other, but it is I who am talking with you now. I love you, and I will send my son to die for you. I make a covenant with you and your children, a covenant of love. Father Abraham could hardly believe it. He was transformed by the realization of God’s providence.
I can’t go further without mentioning St. Paul’s affection for the flock entrusted to him in the second reading. “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.” See how God’s servant Paul radiates God’s tender affection for us too.
Now back to the Transfiguration. After six days, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a steep mountain. While he was praying, his face blazed like the sun and his clothes shone white as light. He spoke with the glorified figures of Moses and Elijah, the greatest men of the Old Testament, representing the Law and the Prophets. Jesus reveals himself in complete majesty, he who commands the sun, Creator of the stars of night. His brightness manifests a quality of glorified bodies, “who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt 13:43). No wonder St. Peter wants to stay on that mountain—he has been granted the beatific vision. It is a transformative experience, meant to strengthen the Apostles’ faith. But faith comes more through hearing than through seeing. And so the Father’s voice commands them to “Listen” to his beloved Son. The Father has said all He need and can say, and all we need to hear, in his Son. But how many are listening?
Some have not seen what we have seen, because they refuse to listen and refuse to believe. They do not see anything beautiful in the Holy Mass or in the Church. They do not see the Father’s providential love in the waters of the sea or the lilies of the field or the stars of the night sky. They do not see the image of God in the human person, and so they destroy people—even babies—without a thought, because they have not listened. The Father’s voice begs us, commands us: Listen! In this Year of Faith, let us make certain that we are listening to God’s beloved Son as He speaks through the Church. Having heard His voice and seen His face, may we manifest the radiant and beautiful face of God to every other person by loving them with Christian affection. May Our Lady, the Star of the New Evangelization, show us how to see Christ in others, and to magnify his glory among them.