Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

The Transfiguration Embodiment Game

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 26, 2024

The Transfiguration of Jesus foreshadows the Resurrection and links the glory of Jesus to Moses and Elijah. Moses embodies the Law and Elijah the Prophets. The saints are friends of God. and their virtue transfigures them in glory.

So let’s play the Transfiguration Embodiment Game.

Jesus teaches us to embody the First Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22:37)

In the Book of the Maccabees, the pagan ruler issued decrees forbidding Jewish worship, sparking a Jewish revolt. The Maccabees destroyed pagan altars, and the Jews became outlaws. Although the revolt failed, their zeal for the law served as a warning to occupiers. Later, the Romans grudgingly allowed the Jews to worship the one God during their occupation. The Maccabees and their zeal embodied the First Commandment.

Jesus teaches us to embody the Second Commandment when He teaches us to pray, “Hallowed be thy name.”

The Council of Lyons in 1274 emphasized the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. The Dominicans spread the devotion, and it multiplied for centuries. Membership in the Holy Name Society helped tame the rough speech of Catholics and discouraged the abuse of the Lord’s name. Devout members of the Holy Name Society embody the Second Commandment.

Jesus teaches us to embody the Third Commandment: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” (Mk. 11:17)

During the persecution of Catholics in Mexico, the laws closed churches and imprisoned the clergy. In 1926, a young Jesuit priest, Miguel Pro, returned to Mexico and spent the rest of his life in secrecy. He adopted many disguises to administer the Sacraments until his capture. As the soldiers lifted their weapons for his execution, Miguel Pro extended his arms and proclaimed, “Viva Christo Rey”—Long live Christ the King. The photo of his courage under fire inspired Mexican Catholics to continue their holy struggle. We could have used many Miguel Pros during the devastating COVID shutdown to embody the Third Commandment.

Jesus teaches us to embody the Fourth Commandment: “[Jesus] went down with [Mary and Joseph] and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” (Lk. 2:51)

We honor the Fourth Commandment by obeying and honoring parents, especially in old age. Many sons and daughters embody the Fourth Commandment by caring for their elderly parents. But far too many sons and daughters thoughtlessly violate the Commandment by abandoning their parents to loneliness.

Jesus teaches us to embody the Fifth Commandment: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt. 5:44)

The arguments in favor of the atomic bombings in WWII are familiar. It would be better that one city (or two) should die than the whole nation. The high priest Caiphas used the same argument when he conspired to put Jesus to death: “You do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” (Jn. 11:50)

Admiral William Leahy, White House chief of staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during WWII, was unpersuaded by the consequentialist arguments of Caiphas. He wrote in his 1950 memoirs:

The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. In being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.

Admiral Leahy embodied the Fifth Commandment.

Jesus teaches us to embody the Sixth and Ninth Commandments: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt. 5:8)

In the late 19th century, the King of Uganda was a pervert, like the LGBTQ ideologues who disrupted the funeral at St. Patrick cathedral. He made perverted advances on Charles Lwanga and many of the male children, and they resisted until death. On the day of their execution, their tormentors wrapped them in reed mats, placed them on the pyre, and burned them to death. They died calling on the name of Jesus and proclaiming, “You can burn our bodies, but you cannot harm our souls.” Today, they might die rather than condone the blessing of same-sex couples. Charles Lwanga and his companions are embodiments of the Sixth Commandment.

Jesus teaches us to embody the Seventh and Tenth Commandments: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s: and to God the things that are God’s.” (Lk. 20:25)

We embody the Seventh Commandment when we respect private property: we give an honest day’s work for our pay, refuse to demand that others pay for our comforts, and work to prevent government authorities from excessive spending that robs future generations.

Jesus teaches us to embody the Eighth Commandment: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (Jn. 14:6)

Sophie Scholl was a devout Lutheran and attracted to the Catholic faith by the writings of John Henry Newman. She resisted the Nazis in her beloved country. On February 18, 1943, the 21-year-old Sophie and Hans Scholl went to the university in the heart of Munich to distribute their anti-Nazi flyers. Captured by the authorities, Sophie, her brother Hans, and her friend Christoph Probst, were put on trial and executed, beheaded by guillotine. Prison officials, impressed by their bravery, let them smoke cigarettes together before the execution. Sophie’s last known words were: “God, my refuge into eternity,” and, “The sun still shines.” Sophie Scholl and her companions embodied the Eighth Commandment as they spoke truth to power.

As friends of God, our embodiment of His law prepares us for transfiguration in His glory. The Transfiguration Embodiment Game is a game for all ages.

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: loumiamo4057 - Feb. 29, 2024 6:43 AM ET USA

    Clorox, events and actions do not happen in a vacuum. The entire world was at war and everyone wanted it to stop. To suggest that it would have been better to keep on with the status quo would have been to bury one's head in the sand and refuse to deal with the situation at hand. The world can be a messy place, the lesser of 2 evil's, no omelets without broken eggs, etc, etc, etc.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Feb. 28, 2024 7:34 PM ET USA

    I must agree with St. JPII: the 21st-century errors of proportionality and consequentialism are often invoked by proponents of "the lesser of 2 evils" and "the expected outcomes determine the morality" arguments. The fact that the U.S. specifically selected civilian population centers rather than strictly military targets, the fact that the insane political doctrine of "Mutually Assured Destruction" threatened the same, and that present foreign policy supports the same, serve to condemn.

  • Posted by: Clorox - Feb. 28, 2024 5:22 PM ET USA

    Pope John Paul II explains the morally dissident moral doctrine of “proportionalism” in Veritatis Splendor: “The evaluation of the consequences of the action, based on the proportion between the act and its effects and between the effects themselves, would regard only the pre-moral order. The moral specificity of acts, that is their goodness or evil, would be determined exclusively by the faithfulness of the person to the highest values of charity and prudence, without this faithfulness necessarily being incompatible with choices contrary to certain particular moral precepts. Even when grave matter is concerned, these precepts should be considered as operative norms which are always relative and open to exceptions. In this view, deliberate consent to certain kinds of behaviour declared illicit by traditional moral theology would not imply an objective moral evil.” (VS 75) “These theories can gain a certain persuasive force from their affinity to the scientific mentality, which is rightly concerned with ordering technical and economic activities on the basis of a calculation of resources and profits, procedures and their effects. They seek to provide liberation from the constraints of a voluntaristic and arbitrary morality of obligation which would ultimately be dehumanizing. Such theories however are not faithful to the Church's teaching, when they believe they can justify, as morally good, deliberate choices of kinds of behaviour contrary to the commandments of the divine and natural law.” (VS 76)

  • Posted by: Scribbly - Feb. 27, 2024 8:24 PM ET USA

    Song for Nagasaki by Fr Paul Glynn paints the picture of a Japanese Catholic in Nagasaki. The Japanese women and children were being prepared to defend Japanese soil to the death, with bamboo stakes. Nagai preached in the Cathedral after the bomb, that the Catholics of Nagasaki were a burnt offering to end the war. It was after this that the Emperor surrendered, which in many ways he had no right to do as the military ruled the country. I'm sure more lives were saved than lost.

  • Posted by: loumiamo4057 - Feb. 27, 2024 6:14 AM ET USA

    You are always a good read, Father, but Admiral Leahy was wrong when he wrote, "The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." There is absolutely no evidence for that statement. And the proof that Japan was not ready to surrender is Nagasaki. After Hiroshima, the Japanese did not try to contact the Allies to surrender. It was only Nagasaki that finally got through to them. The war had been on since 1931 in Asia and 1939 in Europe. The bombs probably saved more lives than they took.