Become What You Behold

The following homily was given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde for the feast of the Transfiguration on August 5 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, and on August 6 at Precious Blood Church in Culpepper.

As I was preparing today's homily, I was truly moved by a phrase I read in Magnificat: "Become what you behold" (cf. vol. 8, No. 6, August 2006, p. 91). "Become what you behold": this is the invitation given us by today's sacred liturgy, celebrating the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are being invited to focus on Christ Transfigured, Christ in glory, and to seek to be transformed ourselves into His image. Just moments ago, in the Gospel proclamation, Christ's transfiguration was projected before us. "Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzlingly white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them."

Yes, Christ in glory was revealed to those three Apostles then and now to us. Why? Today's preface tells us: "His glory shone from a body like our own, to show that the Church, which is the body of Christ, would one day share his glory." We are the Church, members of Christ's Body. One day we shall share in His glory, revealed in the Transfiguration mystery. But, right now, even as we journey toward that goal of eternal glory, we are being called, as Christ's disciples, to become transformed ever more clearly into Christ's image. In that way, the people who live with us, who interact with us, will see, as the Gospel puts it, "only Jesus" — Jesus shining through us.

How does this ongoing transformation take place within us? By following the advice of God the Father in today's Gospel: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him." Where do we listen? Above all, in prayer. Prayer is the place wherein we are transformed ever more into Christ's image. It is in prayer that we listen to Jesus speaking to our hearts.

In prayer, the Lord speaks His life-giving word to us. At every Mass, during the Liturgy of the Word, the Lord reveals to us the thoughts of His heart, His faithful love. Do we come with attentive, eager hearts to receive His Word? Do we come thirsting for the Word with joy and try to respond with obedient faith? At home, too, we can pray, reflecting on the Lord's Word, listening to the Son. Take 5 or 10 minutes each day to pray with Jesus over a passage from the Scriptures, especially the Gospels. Ask Him: "Lord, what message do You have for me today?" Then, quietly, trustfully, listen to Him.

Above all, it is in the prayer of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Mass, that we listen to the Son. Yes, as I said earlier, in the first part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, the Lord speaks to us. And in the second part, the Liturgy of the Eucharist Proper, He, the Incarnate Word, comes to us Himself under the signs of bread and wine. He comes to us, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in holy Communion, in that privileged experience when He is one with us and we with Him. In our prayer after receiving Him in holy Communion, we again listen to Him, speaking to our hearts and uniting our hearts with His. In this experience of union with Jesus, this "Com-union", we are transformed into His image. Indeed, today's prayer after Communion reminds us: "May the food we receive from heaven change us unto his image."

So, the grace we seek, especially this day, is to be transformed ever more into Christ's image. As your Father in Christ, the bishop of the diocese, I ask the Lord Jesus for this grace for me and for each member of our diocesan Church. I make my own the prayer which St. John Vianney made for his parish. I make it for this diocese. "Make me holy and make my diocese holy."

At this Mass, I ask this grace in a particular way for our permanent deacons, who have been ordained through the Sacrament of Holy Orders for their three-fold ministry of the Word, of the altar and of charity. I pray that these men will become ever more clearly images of Christ the Servant as they continue to fix their eyes on the Transfigured Christ, becoming what they behold. Then, transformed, they will more readily lead God's holy people to this same goal: clearer images of Jesus as they interact with their families, coworkers, parishioners and neighbors. I also ask Our Blessed Lord to bless the wives of our permanent deacons, who so faithfully support their husbands by prayer, sacrifice and encouragement, enabling them to serve with the same joy which they too experience.

Yes, the invitation and message of today's feast of the Transfiguration is clear: "Become what you behold." May each one of us, in whatever vocation we find ourselves, be transformed into clearer images of Christ until we meet Him in the glory of heaven, the glory He revealed on the mountain. Let me say it one more time: "Become what you behold!" Amen.

Bishop Paul S. Loverde

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Bp. Paul S. Loverde is the bishop of the Diocese of Arlington in Virginia.

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