23 Feb 2nd Sunday in Lent
February 21, 2016
2nd Sunday in Lent
The Transfiguration is in many ways an answer to the questions raised by the two preceding stories in the gospel of Luke. One where Jesus asks the disciples, ‘Who do you say that I am?’, and one where Jesus anticipates his suffering, death, and resurrection. The transfiguration event is also meant to remind us of two other parallel events written about in the Law and the Prophets. Both events take place on Mount Sinai. The first is about Moses, we read; “Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount. Sinai…. Moses came down from Mount. Sinai…. Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God… the Israelites…were afraid to come near him.” (Ex. 24:15f; 34:29ff)
The second event is about the Prophet Elijah, we read; “Then the word of the Lord came to him…. ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains… but the Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here Elijah?” (I Kings 19:11ff)
This last question, “What are you doing here Elijah?” is a question asked of each one of us. Peter, James, and John, standing on the mountain of Transfiguration must have asked the same question, ‘What am I doing here?’ ‘What am I seeing?’ Here they are, up on the mountain, praying with Jesus…”And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” What an amazing event. Holy, Holy, Holy…. Imagine being there. But wait, we are there, liturgically, Christ is transfigured before us in the Eucharistic feast. Holy, Holy, Holy…. Wow, being there on the mountain, no wonder Peter wanted to camp out and savour the experience for a few days.
And what happens next? – Suddenly, as if to confirm the authenticity of this experience, “They saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to Jesus.” Moses and Elijah represent the law and the Prophets, together they bear witness to, they confirm the Messianic identity of Jesus. “Who do you say that I am?” The answer to this question is also here in the Transfiguration event. “Since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory, and the two men who were with him.” If we also want to see his glory, we too must stay awake and be attentive to the ‘weight of his presence’, the ‘flash of his beauty’, in the light of his transfiguration. So what happens next? “A cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.” Now these men, Peter, James, and John, they were all good Jews, they were familiar with the stories of Moses and Elijah, they knew what the cloud meant, and they knew all about what happens on mountains when people are praying. God speaks, light shines, people hide their faces, no wonder they were afraid, filled with reverential awe.
Again, what happens next? “Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘this is my Son, the Chosen, my beloved, listen to him’.” We have heard this voice before, it is the voice at the dawn of creation that spoke all things into existence, the voice that called Abraham and Sarah, it is the commanding voice of Mt. Sinai, the same voice that spoke to Moses from the burning bush, the still small voice that spoke to Elijah, the same voice that spoke at Jesus’ baptism. “This is my Son, my Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”(Mt. 3:17) So, let us be attentive once again to the voice of the Father. “This is my Son…listen to him.” God has spoken definitively in his son Jesus, the word of God made flesh. The transfiguration bears witness to the truth of the Incarnation, ’this is my Son’. The transfiguration also shines as with the light of the first day of creation; “And God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light” (remember, the light of the sun was not created until the fourth day); the light of the transfiguration anticipates the new creation that will dawn on the eighth day, the day of the resurrection, Easter morning, a sun that will never set.
In the middle of Lent, the Church gives us this moment of ‘glory’, to light up the horizon, luminous with the light of the Word Made Flesh, a little anticipatory taste of Easter to sustain us on our Lenten pilgrimage. And it even tells us what to do during lent, and always. “Listen to him.” “This is my Son, my beloved. Listen to him.” For, example, since this is the year of Luke, and Luke is the gospel of Mercy; we could read the gospel of Luke during this year of mercy Lent. With Peter, James, and John, let us climb the mountain, stay awake and pray with Jesus, and we too will see his glory. As St. John says, “The glory as of a Fathers only Son, full of grace and truth.”(Jn. 1:14) As St. Paul says, “And all of us with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” “Listen to him”, and be transformed.