On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed in his divinity – with Moses and Elijah – before three close apostles.
As Paul wrote to the Philippians (2: 6-7), Jesus did not grasp on to his divinity, but humbled himself to take on our humanity.
During the Offertory of the Mass, as water is added to the wine, the priest or deacon prays
By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.
The transfiguration should remind us that we are called to God’s life, divinity, which is our deepest nature – made, as we are, in the image and likeness of God.
Today as we contemplate Jesus transfigured on the mountain, we should recall that God calls us to be transfigured – and to be present with God in the transfiguration of all creation.
Today we also remember the martyrdom on March 12, 1977 – forty years ago – of a good priest, an old man, and a boy on the road between Aguilares and El Paisnal in El Salvador. Padre Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit, was killed because he sought the transfiguration of the people of El Salvador, especially the people of his parish.
But he sought not merely a transfiguration political or social, but a transfiguration of the whole person.
Almost seven years before his death he preached a sermon in the San Salvador cathedral on the feast of the Transfiguration. With many people present, including political leaders of the country he gave an impressive and strong homily.
Christ our Savior came to save the entire person, to transfigure it in this sense into a new person, authentically free of all situations of sin and misery, self-determining and free to enjoy all the privileges of being a child of God, conquered by the triumph of the resurrection of Christ. This transfiguration of the person so conquered, proclaimed, and demanded by Christ and his followers has its starting point in baptism, the holy commitment of each baptized with the resurrected Christ.
We are transfigured in our baptism, called to live a transfigured life.
But this was not for Padre Grande only something personal, least of all individualistic. He probed deeper:
And so we return to the question: Is the Salvadoran person transfigured?
Is the immense majority of the Salvadoran people, represented by our peasants, transfigured?
Is the minority transformed, the one that has in its hands all the economic power, decision-making power, control of the media, and means of communication?
There must be some painful confessions.
Many baptized in this country have not accepted the demands of the postulates of the Gospel that demand a transfiguration.
Therefore, those same people are not transfigured in their mind and in their heart and they put a dam of selfishness in front of the message of Jesus our Savior and the demanding voice of the official witnesses of Christ through the Church, the pope and his bishops!
As I look around me here in Honduras, I see many who are transfigured by their encounter with the Lord.
But what Padre Grande saw in El Salvador in 1970 I also see today in Honduras. I do not see a people transfigured. I see a people crushed under the weight of poverty and corruption. I see leaders who seek their own glory and don’t let the glory of God shine through in the people. I see a people despised by those with wealth and power who many times do not see their glory as children of God. I see a people who are treated as pawns in power struggles, handed “gifts” from party and government officials who only want their votes and do not want a people who think for themselves and seek to be the protagonists of their history.
This, for me, is evident today, primary election day in Honduras, a day where partisan politics takes a central place in the life of the nation. No public gatherings are allowed, but we will have Mass in several places.
Partisan politics here has taken on a role that the lack of real organization of the people has left empty. It has almost become a type of idolatry. I don’t see it transfiguring the people.
But I have hope since I see small signs of people who have been transfigured by their faith and are working quietly in the transfiguration of their communities.
This is the transfiguration Honduras needs and lacks.
And so I pray that as Christ came to share own humanity, we may share his divinity and live as children of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus, transfigured.
Painting in El Paisnal of Romero and Rutilio
The quotation from Rutilio Grande’s sermons was adapted from Thomas Kelly, Rutilio Grande, SJ: Homilies and Writings (Liturgical Press, 2015). The Spanish can be found in Romero-Rutilio: vids encontradas (UCA editores, 1992).