I must admit that I lament the way many of my Catholic brothers and sisters lack knowledge of the scriptures. I sometimes hear crazy stuff that defames the Old Testament, the discipline of memorizing scripture or even the idea of having a Bible in the house. That just makes me sad. This lack of understanding from some Catholics simply leaves them defenseless and vulnerable to attacks of the enemy who is always about like a “Prowling Lion”.
For instance, many believers have the misguided concept that the only thing of real value in the Bible is the New Testament and all of that old law-prophet stuff is woefully out of date. This is nothing but pure deception from the enemy. One of the scriptures that informs this idea differently comes at the beginning of Lent. The real purpose of Lent is transformation, not suffering. The reading that strengthens this teaching is the story of the Transfiguration in Matthew 17.
You probably have some recollection of this story. Jesus takes his main men, Peter, James and John, up a mountain. Together they have mystical experiences including the physical appearance of fathers of the faith, Moses and Elijah. In an interesting configuration Jesus actually winds up standing between these two icons of the faith. That’s not a chance occurrence. Ever since the Bible has come into being, scholars understood that mention of Moses represents the Law and of Elijah, the prophets. In a one succinct image, the complete story of salvation is revealed. Jesus is literally the link between the old law, the wisdom and long-suffering encouragement of God’s prophets, and the reality of something brand new for the people of God. He is the existence of God’s promise in the flesh linking the two, closing all gaps and completing God’s promise. There is no new unless there has been the old. The old has formed the foundation for the new.
Needless to say, the Apostles are pretty much thrown for a loop and can’t even speak. Peter wants to build tents! Most anyone would be stunned out of their senses if they were at this occurrence. Peter, James and John were all transformed and impacted by what has happened in front of their eyes. Jesus vehemently commands them to tell no one what has occurred. Don’t be confused by this. Jesus knew that this trip would be permanently burned in their minds and hearts and would later serve as impetus and encouragement in the tough days ahead. My guess is that this spectacular story was retold many times.
Like all scripture this notable story has layers and layers of teaching. One of the primary lessons here is that God purposely takes what is past, links it to the present and creates the future. As with the history of the Hebrews, it does not matter if the past was a rosy story or one fraught with great struggle. God has set a pattern and given us Jesus to enable the opportunity of new creation. We must remember to put him in the center of our past and present. This opportunity is ever available and ours simply for the asking. Another lesson that we can take from the story of the Transfiguration, which can inform our spiritual life and give us new perspectives when reading scripture, praying and just trying to live as a Spirit filled individual is the lesson of three.
We all know that the Trinity is the core of what we believe, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In our daily life, our prayer, our worship and our faith, the Lord is always sending us encouragement and reminders that he is present. Take a more focused look at this reading. Note that there are six days before they begin, that’s twice three. There are three Apostles chosen, three figures in the vision, there tents that Peter wants to construct. In Hebrew teaching numbers are very important. As you read scripture and other holy writings, be aware. If something appears three times it is a likely clue that the fullness of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is close. If you are seeking advice or discernment for something, take note. Did you hear or see the same thing three times? God is communicating with us all of the time. All we have to do is know how to pay attention.
As a nod to the Great Saint Patrick we recall his most potent teaching tool. He would often pluck a shamrock (three-leaved clover) and use it to explain how the three-part Trinity can actually be one whole, as an example of the Triune God. Remember that the four-leaf clover and the shamrock are NOT the same thing.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.