Matthew 17:5
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Why specify a “bright cloud”? Well, the first reason is because a dark cloud would indicate God’s correction was about to fall. Second, I think this cloud is an example of the kind of cloud that rested on the holy of holies tent when the Israelites were in the desert with Moses. It is the glory of God. This cloud of glory indicates that God’s presence is so powerful in that moment that everything else fades to white, instead of fades to black.
This is the glory of God! But let’s return to the first reason. Or rather, the opposite of that. The bright cloud indicates God’s favor! Not a dark cloud indicating his wrath or his correction about to fall. Here in this one moment we see the fullness of God’s revelation through the Jewish people brought into sharp focus through Jesus. Remember, Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets. Elijah we know from the biblical record was taken up physically into heaven in the fiery chariot of God. No one knows where Moses’ grave is at, so some people think that he too was taken into heaven.
Now, here are these two speaking only to Jesus. The apostles did not hear them. While it might be interesting, I’m going to leave it to your prayers, reflections, and imaginations to guess at what kinds of things Elijah, representing the prophets, and Moses, representing the law, would have talked to Jesus about. As for the apostles, all they heard was the Father speaking the same types of words that he spoke when Jesus was baptized: “this is my beloved son, listen to him.”
So now I want to return to my first point about the bright cloud. While the dark cloud, as I said, would indicate God’s correction, the bright cloud he reveals his desire to teach. The Father here is teaching about the supremacy of Jesus.
God is showing that everything he has done up to this point has been intended to lead to Jesus. It starts all the way back with Adam and Eve when God announced that someone would come who would crush the head of the serpent, and it ends with the triumphant king seated on his throne.
Now, all of revelation is contained in the witness of Elijah and Moses. And God the Father draws all of this together with this bright cloud.
All of this is done for the three apostles so that they will have some sense of confidence still with them when they face the death of Jesus. This is one of the main reasons given in the history of the church for why the Transfiguration happened. The apostles needed hope, and we still do.
Now I want to speak about a totally different topic. The news has come. It has hit Nebraska. We have our first case of the corona virus. It doesn’t matter whether we are speaking about the flu or the corona virus. Both of them can be deadly. If you notice, there is a front-page article on the virus threat in the Catholic Voice this week. Front page. There already are some places here in the United States that have made some drastic, but sound, decisions on what congregations should do.
Among those decisions include: no Communion under both forms; no shaking of hands or exchange of a kiss at the sign of peace; no holy water in the holy water fonts; and the last one, which is probably disturbing – but understandable – no Communion on the tongue.
They also include instructions on increased care with the sacred vessels, the chalice and the ciborium and an insistence that anyone handling the Eucharist wash their hands with soap and water just before Mass starts, and have sanitizer available to them just before and after they distribute Communion.
All of these suggestions make sense. To be honest, because of the different ways people come to receive Communion on the tongue, I am seldom comfortable having to distribute on the tongue. Some people never stick out their tongue; some people barely open their mouths; some people stick out their tongue in a way that makes it hard to put the host there; some people make it all but impossible to not touch them when I’m trying to deliver the host, and I have to wipe my hand on my investments afterwards. Though I cannot insist, I would be much more comfortable if everyone received Communion in the hand. It is possible that viruses would be transmitted accidentally from someone’s mouth to my fingers then to another mouth.
Now, there has not been a directive from the Archdiocese of Omaha regarding any of these issues. But, the Diocese of Rome announced… measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in parishes: emptying holy water fonts, omitting the sign of peace and requesting that the faithful receive Communion in the hand.
Consequently, concerns are growing and the sign of peace at the Mass does not have to include touching someone. I read somewhere that the suggestion is to make your smiles bigger. Okay. A bow, a smile, a sign of peace. There is someone from our parish that makes a heart out of her hands and then looks through that at the people around her. I told her I thought she was looking at people through the Heart of Jesus! Beautiful!
It is sad that we have to go that way, but for the sake of others, we need to think about these things.
So, for the good of those around you, if you at all think you might be having problems with your health, please refrain from risking other people’s health. As I said, someone could come up in an odd way to receive Communion of the tongue, and I end up with the viruses on my hand. When the next person comes up, they get it. Let’s just consider using a little bit of common sense. And let’s pray for the victims of both the flu and the corona virus.
Now, for a review, for those of you who choose to receive in the hand, the way you do that: one hand on top of the other, if you are right-handed, your left goes on top forming a throne to receive Jesus there in your hands. You pick up the host, pray a “thank you” silently, and then receive.
Now, my dad took that very seriously. When he received in his hand, he stepped to the side and picked up the host. He then superimposed it on the crucifix above the tabernacle, said, inside himself, “thank you” and then consumed.
It is actually a more ancient way to receive communion than receiving on the tongue. I don’t know if you knew that, there is something to consider. Think of this: if your tongue in your stomach are worthy enough to receive Jesus, aren’t your hands?
We want to be safe. We need to pray. We also need the strength of the Eucharist in our own lives. At this point all I can do is say that. I cannot make any insistence, because the archdiocese has not given us any further directives. I leave it to you. Thank you.