As the year goes around Christians can usually point to one or more words or passages from Scripture or the liturgy that sticks with them long beyond the Sunday hearing. These memorable moments change from year to year and any year can hold many or few of them.
This year I have been thinking on the words from heaven, "This is my beloved Son" heard at Transfiguration, traditionally, the Second Sunday in Lent. These words are rich in meaning much beyond what I write here. Two ways of applying these words may be addressing the identity of Jesus and then, as I have been thinking lately, addressing the significance of these few words.
There have always been popular claims to Jesus' identity. In recent years two claims particularly are fresh in mind. First, there is the Jesus as "CEO" emphasis. Then there is the "revolutionary" Jesus emphasis that we hear so much these days. Both of these claims are influential but fail because they reveal more about those making the claims than about what is divinely revealed to us. The reader understands.
What caught my ear this year has more to do with the words themselves. Here especially the word "is" sticks out. Scripturally, we can think right away of Scripture's rendering of the words "I AM." We can also draw a similarity to words Jesus spoke on the night he was betrayed: "This is my Body . . . This is my Blood." This latter similarity beckons the thought that when the Father speaks from heaven at Transfiguration He is not speaking symbolically, ie, Jesus is not a symbol of what it means to be the Son of God. The Father says from heaven that Jesus "is" His Son. These words of God also put to question our own claims to Jesus' identity and our own tendency to see sacraments, which Jesus Himself instituted, as mere symbols of our faith.
This Holy Week we draw near to the realities of the cross of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. The cross and the empty tomb are today in some ways symbols but they are symbols of greater realities, closely related to Jesus' identity, and closely related to who we are and will be in Him.