In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration Jesus takes three of his closest friends with him up the mountain. The event is miraculous! Their savior is speaking with the representatives of the entire faith of Israel – Moses and Elijah. Moses was believed to have single handedly written the Law; Elijah represented all the Prophets. His disciples must have remembered Jesus saying that he came not to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill. Peter experienced this moment with great awe.
The Transfiguration helped to prepare the way for the coming of the cross. Jesus foretold many times that he would have to suffer and die but his disciples never wanted to hear about it. Peter so belligerently denied that He undergo such suffering that Jesus had to rebuke him on the spot, identifying his mentality with Satan. Peter stands in the first part of this miraculous moment between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah and offers to build tents. In shock he hears the words of the Father. He should be prepared for the coming trial, but we know what Peter will do in the Passion account.
Peter longs for redemption, but does not see that redemption taking place through the cross. The full realization of the redemption of our bodies will be in the resurrection of the body, not merely in a transfiguration. We can’t begin to argue that the Transfiguration is somehow greater than the resurrection, but that is what Peter is doing, albeit in a naïve way. Jesus’ redemption isn’t on the same level as Moses and Elijah; it’s a redemption that is far greater.
It is the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ that allows us to fully experience the redemption of our bodies in the resurrection. This happens because we are baptized into Christ’s Paschal Mystery (CCC 1265). What Jesus is by nature we become by grace. When the Father speaks over Jesus, “This is my chosen Son…” We can become partakers of the divine nature because of Jesus’ salvific work (CCC 460). John Paul II notes that the new state of the redemption of the body comes about because of this “adoption” (TOB 49:2).
We experience this redemption during our very earthly lives as Saint Paul states, “we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Redemption of the body is something much more than the transfiguration; it is the rehabilitation of the gift and of the spousal meaning of our bodies. All this comes about because of Jesus’ work on the cross, which is not God’s final answer on the subject.
The redemption of the body is marked in this life as “life in the spirit” (Romans 8). It really does take the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to experience this redemption of the body, which are all gifts of God. Redemption also means virtue, specifically temperance (TOB 49:4-5). Our Lenten observances of fasting (yes, even from chocolate) help us to attain this important virtue. John Paul calls this temperance self-mastery, without which we cannot hope to experience gift, communion, and “the mysterious reality of his image and likeness” (TOB 49:5). The task of self- mastery must be done with a conscious awareness of the reason why it is undertaken: for love (TOB 49:7). It is the “life of virtue” that we hope to attain more in this season of Lent, so that in Easter we will experience the “life in the spirit” all the more and attain the redemption of our bodies.
Father Daniel Good, JCL is parochial vicar at Christ the King in Daphne AL. He is Defender of the Bond and Promoter of Justice in the Metropolitan Tribunal in Mobile. He has attended TOB 1 in 2007, TOB 2 in 2011, Love and Responsibility in 2012, and participated in the clergy enrichment program in various ways. Fr. Good has also been chaplain for TOB 1 and will be chaplain for the upcoming Way of Beauty Course.