Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Transfiguration and Why You Cannot Leave the Catholic Church

On Ash Wednesday, we began Lent by hearing Jesus warn us against doing things for the wrong reasons. When you give alms, don't blow a trumpet. When you fast, don't look gloomy. When you pray, go to your room and close the door. Do things so that God sees them. Don't do them for the purpose of showing off to others. The Lord, however, doesn't say, "Don't do those things." He says, do them for the right reasons. 

In a homily on that passage, St. Augustine says that just because wolves sometimes dress in the garb of a sheep, doesn't mean that the sheep should give up their sheep's pelt! That line has continuously come back to me during these first days of Lent. Mostly, it comes to mind because I've heard more than one person say that they are struggling to remain faithful to the Church these days. I get it. It's been a tough year. I won't even try to get into the long list of reasons because different people have different reasons. What is tearing at the heart of one person might not necessarily be what's angering another person. But, lots of people are angry, hurt, and discouraged. I get it. 

Today in the Gospel, Jesus takes his companions--Peter, James, and John--up a high mountain. The journey takes effort and is demanding. The spiritual life is demanding. It requires effort, commitment, patience, and long-suffering. At the height of the mountain, Jesus is transfigured before His companions. He reveals to them His Glory. Their effort and commitment, their patience and their long-suffering is rewarded. Why does the Lord reveal His Glory to them? He wants to strengthen them so that in a short time, when they see this very same body brutalized, tortured, and ultimately killed upon the Cross, they will not be scandalized beyond repair. He wants the memory of what He revealed to them on the mountain to be preserved within them and to sustain them through the dark days of the Lord's Passion.

We are the Lord's sheep. We are His flock. Our pelt--our clothing--is our baptismal robe. As members of His flock, we are called to live a life of prayer. We are called to reject sin. We are called to worship God in His Church, to receive the Sacraments devoutly, to live a life of charity. Are there wolves who dress the same way?  Are there wolves who do all of those things, disguising their sinister intent by appearing to be sheep?  Yes, there are. So there has always been. And, even the sheep are often weighed down by sin and weakness. 

In moments when we come face to face with the mystery of evil, we are faced with a decision. Are we going to be faithful to what Christ has revealed to us or are we going to allow evil to overwhelm us? Are we going to continue the hard work of climbing the mountain of prayer, allowing Christ to teach us, or are we going to abandon Him? Are we going to remain faithful to our baptismal promises or are we going to renege? Are we going to surrender our sheep's clothing because sometimes wolves dress like sheep, or are we going to remain in our sheep's clothing because Christ laid down His life for His sheep?

The Transfiguration is given to us so that in times of adversity, times of trial, and times of evil, when we feel incapable of taking another step along the road of discipleship, we might call to mind the Glory of Christ. His Glory is sometimes hidden from our eyes, but the Transfiguration reminds us that His Glory is indeed there. His Glory will prevail over sin and over death. 

Don't give up the sheep's clothing! Now is the time for each of us to be even more serious about being Christ's sheep. Now is the time to become more faithfully His sheep. Now is the time to climb the mountain; to be more prayerful, not less. To be more committed, not less. To be more devout, not less. Now is not the time to cast off our sheep's clothing. Now is the time to cast off the power of darkness and every semblance of sin.  Now is the time to repent, not to renege.

The wolf wins if he gets us to surrender our Catholic life. He wins when he cons us into abandoning the Catholic life. Now is the time to become more Catholic, not less. Now is the time for Christ's sheep to look upon the Good Shepherd--in all of His Glory--and to tell the wolf that he can take his lies and deceptions and go straight to Hell. 


  1. The Transfiguration was not only a sign to the Apostles that was meant to be shared with the future Christians, it was also a demonstration of the promised glory of the "resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come." What is a sheep's life but to be nourished only to be sheered and eventually slaughtered. Every ounce of the goodness God created in us, is meant to be at the service of others. The problem isn't so much the wolves as it is the sheep saying "How dare you?" to the sheerer, or "surely not I" to the butcher. ("Get behind me Satan").

    Is not another sign of the Glory that is to come to us the lamb upon the throne, or the resurrection lamb with the banner of glory piercing through its heart? "Those who seek to save their lives will lose it."

    We act as if anti-christs are some doomsday prophecy that'll never happen in our lives, but the Spirit of the Antichrist was born in Judas (figuratively) and has plagued the church since. It has always plagued our Holy church but it will never conquer it or prevail. The latest iteration of the anti-christ's spirit at work is the sex abuse scandal. It has been said by a famous saint, "childhood sexual abuse is the assassination of a soul." That, luckily, happens to the few and not the many. However, the anti-christian Spirit rises up in us, fueled with righteous indignation, but directed toward improper ends. We are tempted to surrender the source of holiness as a protest to evil. It is the principle of ex opere operato in reverse, it is condemning the holiness of the church based on the conduct of its members, particularly the clergy. It is rejecting and blaming Christ and the church for the grave conduct of its priests and leaders.

    This indeed is not the time to let the anti-christian spirit win, to pretend in vain that we are not "associated" with sin or are somehow supposing our earthly shepherds are without capacity for evil. If we are truly sheep of the Lord's flock who are we to demand when we should be humbled through sheering, or the time and nature of our slaughter. Jesus, the lamb of God, was first called to the slaughter (He is the first fruits), his reply to the call, "Lord, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not what I want but your will be done." Or the words of our blessed mother when she embraced both her glory and her suffering, "Let it be done unto me according to your word." We must all embrace the criminal's mark as Christ embraced his criminal's cross. For we are obliged to "Take up [our] cross daily and follow [him]," where? to unity with God in heavenly glory. We are all called to the promise of transfiguration, to have our bodies and souls conformed to Christ's for everlasting life as participants in Trinitarian and Divine Life, being one with the Son.

  2. So true Fr Barnes, thank you and God bless you always

  3. Thanks for the post father. I know it's not the same exactly, but reading this reminds me of what we witness in the Eucharist and how, at least for me, this just seems to put everything else in perspective.