Today’s Catechism sections discuss Jesus’ transfiguration and entrance into Jerusalem. Supporting material comes from a homily given by Pope John Paul II.

A foretaste of the kingdom: the Transfiguration

554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master "began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised."290 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.291 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus' Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,292 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus' face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking "of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem".293 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"294

555 For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter's confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to "enter into his glory".295 Moses and Elijah had seen God's glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah's sufferings.296 Christ's Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God's servant;297 The cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. "The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud."298

You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.299

556 On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus' baptism proclaimed "the mystery of the first regeneration", namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration "is the sacrament of the second regeneration": our own Resurrection.300 From now on we share in the Lord's Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. the Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming, when he "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body."301 But it also recalls that "it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God":302

Peter did not yet understand this when he wanted to remain with Christ on the mountain. It has been reserved for you, Peter, but for after death. For now, Jesus says: "Go down to toil on earth, to serve on earth, to be scorned and crucified on earth. Life goes down to be killed; Bread goes down to suffer hunger; the Way goes down to be exhausted on his journey; the Spring goes down to suffer thirst; and you refuse to suffer?"303

Jesus' ascent to Jerusalem

557 "When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem."304 By this decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: "It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem."305

558 Jesus recalls the martyrdom of the prophets who had been put to death in Jerusalem. Nevertheless he persists in calling Jerusalem to gather around him: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!"306 When Jerusalem comes into view he weeps over her and expresses once again his heart's desire: "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes."307

Jesus' messianic entrance into Jerusalem

559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of "his father David".308 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means "Save!" or "Give salvation!"), the "King of glory" enters his City "riding on an ass".309 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.310 and so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God's poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.311 Their acclamation, "Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord",312 is taken up by the Church in the Sanctus of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord's Passover.

560 Jesus' entry into Jerusalem manifested the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection. It is with the celebration of that entry on Palm Sunday that the Church's liturgy solemnly opens Holy Week.

IN BRIEF

568 Christ's Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles' faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent on to the "high mountain" prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: "the hope of glory" (⇒ Col 1:27; cf.: St. Leo the Great, Sermo 51, 3: PL 54, 310C).

569 Jesus went up to Jerusalem voluntarily, knowing well that there he would die a violent death because of the opposition of sinners (cf ⇒ Heb 12:3).

570 Jesus' entry into Jerusalem manifests the coming of the kingdom that the Messiah-King, welcomed into his city by children and the humble of heart, is going to accomplish by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection.

Pope John Paul II in his homily on March 7, 1993 expounded on the meaning of the Transfiguration.

The mystery of the transfiguration takes place at a very precise moment in Jesus' preaching, as he begins to confide to the disciples the necessity of his going up "to Jerusalem and suffer greatly . . . and be killed and on the third day be raised" (Mt 16:21). Reluctantly they hear the first announcement of the passion and before stressing it again and confirming it, the divine Master wants to give them a proof of his total rootedness in the will of the Father so that they do not waver in the face of the scandal of the cross. In fact, the passion and death will be the way through which the heavenly Father will have his "beloved Son" achieve glory, risen from the dead. From now on this will also be the disciples' way. No one will come to the light except through the cross, the symbol of the suffering which afflicts human existence. Thus the cross is transformed into an instrument for the expiation of the sins of all humanity. United with his Lord in love, the disciple participates in his redemptive passion. Therefore, in today's reading St. Paul exhorts Timothy in these words: "Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life" (2 Tm 1:8-9). For the believer suffering is nothing but a temporary passage, a transitory condition. Jesus, the Apostle stresses, "has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (2 Tm 1:10).

The goal of our existence is therefore as shining as the transfigured countenance of the Messiah: in him is salvation, happiness, glory, unlimited love of God. How, therefore, could we not be prepared to suffer for such a goal? It finds meaning in our effort to conform our weak nature to the demands of goodness. It takes into consideration the physical and spiritual limitations of our person and of our daily social relationships, unfortunately marred by selfishness and sin, which make our spiritual journey taxing.

Footnotes

290 ⇒ Mt 16:21.
291 Cf. ⇒ Mt 16:22-23; ⇒ 17:23; ⇒ Lk 9:45.
292 Cf. ⇒ Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; ⇒ 2 Pt 1:16-18.
293 ⇒ Lk 9:31.
294 ⇒ Lk 9:35.
295 ⇒ Lk 24:26.
296 Cf. ⇒ Lk 24:27.
297 Cf. Is 42:1.
298 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.
299 Byzantine Liturgy, Feast of the Transfiguration, Kontakion.
300 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 45, 4, ad 2.
301 ⇒ Phil 3:21.
302 ⇒ Acts 14:22.
303 St. Augustine, Sermo 78, 6: PL 38, 492-493; cf. ⇒ Lk 9:33.
304 ⇒ Lk 9:51; cf. ⇒ Jn 13:1.
305 ⇒ Lk 13:33; cf. ⇒ Mk 8:31-33; ⇒ 9:31-32; ⇒ 10:32-34.
306 ⇒ Mt 23:37.
307 ⇒ Lk 19:41-42.
308 ⇒ Lk 1:32; cf. ⇒ Mt 21:1-11; ⇒ Jn 6:15.
309 ⇒ Ps 24:7-10; ⇒ Zech 9:9.
310 Cf. ⇒ Jn 18:37.
311 Cf. ⇒ Mt 21:15-16; cf. ⇒ Ps 8:3; ⇒ Lk 19:38; ⇒ 2:14.
312 Cf. ⇒ Ps 118:26.