Not Mere Cogs in the Divine Wheel
“Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory.” (CCC 398) “Divinized:” the term means human dignity on heavenly steroids. The Transfiguration renews God’s promise to restore and elevate our dignity after the Fall.
Adam’s disobedience brought on many unpleasantries. God removed the Tree of Life that would have led to our eternal (and mysterious) divinization. Work became a chore. “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life… In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:17-19) Sin deforms the divine purpose of our work. The disobedience of our First Parents did not ruin the dignity of work but left us searching for its meaning.
Routine and boredom are among the unpleasantries of work after the Fall. We often feel like cogs in the wheel, performing meaningless tasks: School gets boring. Jobs get old and unfulfilling. Athletes retire and become obese. Soldiers become battle-weary and cynical. Marriages grow stale. The twilight years of retirement are increasingly difficult as we mark time between doctor appointments. Priests discover that much of their work is futile, with only occasional successes. Discouragement escalates as we consider debilitating evil and failures in the culture, the world, and the Church.
We forever struggle—often in vain—to give meaning to our work. Our toil is essential to pay the bills and keep enterprises in good working order. We remind ourselves that our routines have worthwhile and pleasant celebratory markers. Kids in school graduate. Many professionals receive new challenges with promotions. Game day rewards the work of athletes. Renewing romances spice up marriages. We defeat incompetent or profoundly evil candidates in elections. Still we’re unsatisfied.
So we strive to escalate the importance of our work—according to our wits. Capitalists identify money as their guiding principle. Marxists seek the dictatorship of the proletariat. Globalists aim to consolidate their economic power. The Woke ideology enshrines the secular understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion (but primarily all forms of perversion). Married people violate the Sixth Commandment in a vain search for a “compatible partner.” St. Paul summarizes: “Their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19) But false gods have no power to divinize.
Jesus divinizes. The life and ministry of Jesus expand the account of the creation of man—Adam and Eve. Just as God created man in original innocence, the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary bears Jesus, the New Adam. Just as God establishes man’s dominion over all creation, Jesus manifests His dominion when He walks on the waters of Galilee. Just as the Tree of Life would have nourished Adam and Eve until their mysterious “divinization” in heaven, the Transfiguration reveals the glory of our divinization in Him.
Just as Moses climbs the Mount to converse with God and descends to deliver the Ten Commandments, we accompany Jesus on the Mount to speak with His Father. Jesus fulfills the Commandments, with the heavenly Father instructing us: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Lk. 9:35) The Transfiguration foreshadows the glory of the Resurrection, removing the “scandal of the Cross…from the hearts of his disciples” (Roman Missal). The Transfiguration—like the Descent of the Holy Spirit—reveals the meaning of the sacred ministry of Jesus.
The Transfiguration puts a heavenly exclamation point on the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus. Absent the Transfiguration, we easily mistake Jesus for a functional rabbi, miracle worker, and even the promised messiah—on human terms. The Transfiguration reveals that His ministry is the reconciliation of heaven and earth.
The Transfiguration reveals the destiny of Adam and Eve had they not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It restores the meaning of human work. In the Garden, man’s toil was not a burden. His dignity included sharing in the creating work of God. The Transfiguration restores the excellence of work and bestows it with a heavenly meaning.
We, baptized into His Mystical Body, also participate in a heavenly ministry according to our state of life. Every Christian functionary finds meaning beyond good grades, the duties of marriage, job security and advancement, the thrill of battle, and priestly chores. Even the work of a slave laborer finds a heavenly meaning in the Transfiguration.
The famous story of Jesuit Walter Ciszek, chronicled in two books, With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me, makes a similar point. Ciszek found meaning in the grueling slave labor in the Soviet Gulag when he permitted God to transfigure his work for God’s glory. The motto of his mentor, St. Ignatius, echoes Saint Paul: “For the greater glory of God!”
There is a hint of the Transfiguration during the Offertory of the Mass as the priest places a drop of water in the wine. The wine represents the divinity of Jesus. The water symbolizes His humanity—and ours. The priest silently prays: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Our “divinization” in Jesus comes to completion during Holy Communion and prepares us to descend the Mountain and proclaim the Gospel with our lives.
The ministry of Jesus repairs, restores, and elevates the damage caused by the sin of Adam and Eve. The Transfiguration anticipates a new Tree of Life of our divinization in Him. Our transfiguration—and the transfiguration of our work in Jesus—come to completion in heavenly glory. In the transfigured Jesus, we are not mere cogs in the divine wheel. We joyfully cooperate in His eternal plan for our glorious destiny.
A retired Catholic federal judge has acute dementia. He’s down to one phrase: “All that matters is salvation.” God’s grace divinized him.
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