The Malta Independent 23 September 2018, Sunday

A transfigured listening

Sunday, 2 September 2018, 09:33 Last update: about 22 days ago

Thursday 2, Friday 3 and Saturday 4 August of this year will remain three important days in my priestly and consecrated life. This is because on those three holy days, the Lord has given me the great and joyous grace of preaching the sermons during the triduum for the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ which is magnificently celebrated in the Lija Parish. Furthermore, this occasion meant a lot for me since, on the Feast day of Christ’s Transfiguration, August 6, was my fifteenth anniversary of my thanksgiving Mass for the grace of the ministerial priesthood.

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A verse that kept reverberating in my heart and mind during this special triduum was the following one: “This is My Beloved Son: hear Him.” The exact rendition of this verse, as presented by the Catholic Revised Standard Version, is the following: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matt 17:5); “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7); “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9:35). In the Matthew’s gospel, we find practically the same verse spoken at Christ’s baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3: 17). The primitive apostolic witness of our Christian faith perfectly confirms these New Testament texts. For instance, in the Second Letter of St Peter we find: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (2 Pet 1:17).

By prayerfully appreciating this beautiful apostolic text (since it was probably written between 65-68 AD), I came to realise that this text acts as a commentary of Who said those mighty words. In other words, to whom does “the voice from the cloud” that overshadowed the three apostles refer to? The letter of 2 Peter clearly says: “For when he received honour and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory” (2 Pet 1:17). Thus, it was God the Father who pronounced those powerful words that still penetrate our innermost heart whenever we happen to listen to them. But what do those words really mean? Or, rather, what kind of listening is God the Father asking of you and me to listen to his Son, our beloved Lord and Elder Brother Jesus Christ?

According to a commentary I read, listening to Christ means listening to Him with resolution. In simple words, this means that nothing will prevent you and me from listening directly to his life-giving words, be it employment, pleasures or solicitations. When the Son of God calls us we must just go, and we should all feel obliged to do so. Secondly, we must listen to Him with submission. Hence, we must resist strongly our own pride as well as that of our shattered world. This also means that we have no right to determine how much or what part of His message we are to receive or when or where we will follow Him. Christ’ message is integral and can never be received in bits and pieces.

Thirdly, we must listen to Jesus with attention, with serious and concentrated attentiveness. In the Christian Eastern Liturgy there is that great phrase charged with profound meaning and responsibility: “Let us attend!” As the Archpriest G. Benginson in his book, Minor Words in Orthodox Divine Services writes: “Yet it is not always easy to pay attention. Our minds tend to wander, to be forgetful. It is difficult to force oneself to be attentive. The Church recognizes this weakness and so tells us every now and again ‘LET US ATTEND’, let us pay attention, be attentive.”

Fourth, we must listen to Jesus not so much from the principle of fear as from the deep and earnest affection. He came to speak to us because He really loved and loves all of us! Finally, we must listen to Christ with singleness of mind by placing no other instruction on the same footing as His, and far less giving them precedence. Christ’s teaching is the only authoritative and truly regenerating teaching that can ever exist in this world.

 

Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

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