Joy of the Gospel

There in their presence, he was transfigured (Mt 17:2)


There in their presence, he was transfigured (Mt 17:2)
Gn 12:1-4a; 2 Tm 1:8b-10; Mt 17:1-9

As we celebrate the Second Sunday of Lent we recall that Lent is a preparation for the celebration of the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent invites us to diligently hear the word of God (SC 109). In order to worthily celebrate this season, the Christian faithful are to devote themselves to prayer and other spiritual exercises in order to deepen their faith.

Today’s Gospel tells us of Jesus going up a mountain with three of his disciples, Peter, James and John. There on the Mount Tabor he was transfigured. These three disciples will appear again with Jesus on the Mount of Olives (Mk 14:33) when Jesus will be suffering in the garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus was transfigured, two great personages of the Old Testament appeared to them conversing with Jesus and these were Moses and Elijah. Moses represented the Law and Elijah the prophets. This episode confirmed that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the prophets (Mt 5:17).
The transfiguration took place soon after Peter had confessed that Jesus is the Messiah and that he was the Son of the Living God. That was followed by Jesus’ passion prediction when he told his disciples that he was to suffer, be killed and be raised on the third day. The reality of the suffering Messiah was not accepted by Peter and others. Jesus went on to tell his disciples that some of them were “not taste death before they could see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Mt 18:28). We learn then, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the Transfiguration is a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming (CCC 556). The transfiguration was a preparatory and revelatory event. It confirmed the faith of the disciples and prepared them to face the tragedy of the Cross. It gave them hope stronger than the discouragement of the Gethsemane and the horrific passion of Christ. It prefigured the glory of the Resurrection (cf VC.15). By being transfigured in the presence of his disciples, Jesus wanted them to know that they too were to share also his glory. The glory which was shared even after experiencing suffering and martyrdom. St Paul assures us that Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” (Phil 3:23). In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist while still on earth, we encounter Jesus as we listen to his word and we receive his Body and Blood as we anticipate the heavenly banquet.

St Luke describes the same event of the transfiguration by saying Jesus “went up on the mountain to pray” (Lk 9:28). Jesus was transfigured when he was talking to his Father. It can be said that during this Lenten journey we need to ascend the mountain of prayer in order to enter the presence of God. Pope Benedict xvi calls the Mountain of both inward and outward ascent. By ascending the mountain a person is freed from the pressures of everyday life and he breathes fresh air. The mountain is a place where we meet God. We recall Abraham going up the mountain to sacrifice his son Isaac. Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the law. Elijah walked for forty days and forty nights in order to meet God at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).

As we ascend the mountain of prayer we shall meet God. There we shall be transfigured and receive the light of the Father. Let us contemplate the face of the transfigured Christ, so as to overcome all that discourages us from following Christ faithfully. This Lenten season is the sacred time to ascend the mountain of prayer. Today, we see and experience the disfigured face of Jesus in many parts of the world where there is suffering, poverty, wars like Russo- Ukraine conflict, terrorism and many other scourges. Our mission, then, is to listen to the voice of the beloved Son of God and make him the hope all these people who are suffering.

The face of Jesus is also disfigured in lives of child headed families and many young people of today who are exposed to drugs. Their spiritual, physical and social life is all disfigured. Their vision of the glorious face of the risen Christ is impaired. Our mission as the church is to awaken them, accompany them and assist them to see once again the glorious face Jesus. There are many people who are wounded in one way or the other. Today’s gospel reminds us that despite these wounds, Christ is glorious and triumphant. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us, “the transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ’s glorious coming. (CCC 556).

Every Christian disciple is called upon to transfigure the world by living a life of the Gospel and the beatitude. Humanity can be transfigured and look glorious when violence is denounced and justice and peace are promoted.
Together with Peter, we want to say, “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here” (Mt 17,4). Filled with joy Peter wanted to prolong the heavenly experience by suggesting to build three booths, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Our prayer is that let it be well with every community and let the face of Christ shine upon every person. Let Christ dwell in the tents of our homes, communities, political groupings and family of nations.

May our mother Mary, the mother of the transfigured Christ intercede for us always.