Today marks the beginning of the second Sunday of Lent. By now we should be well lined up to follow the holy season. We are making an effort in the busyness of it all, to find a new and more dedicated space for God in our lives. We acknowledge life can be quite distracting as well as demanding. Our priorities can become a little mixed. We end up responding to needs and events, we never seem to get ahead, and we can become a little tired and some wonder what life is all about and what we are achieving. Some of us feel we are on a treadmill. We go round and around. Resources become an issue. Demands are made upon our love and compassion. We feel we need more energy and maybe enthusiasm for daily life. Lent comes along in our liturgical year to renew us, body and soul. Lent prepares us to celebrate Easter but it’s lessons are actually for life. Lent reminds us of our vocations, our calling to be co-workers with the Lord. We are brought back to basics. We must be a people of prayer. We need to ask for God to tell us what He wants and to give us the graces to succeed. Our Lord knows what each day will ask of us and is happy to help us through – all we need do is ask Him. We must love the scriptures as they are the story of God’s love for us. We must fast. Not only from sinful ways and attitudes, but also from such things as despair, regret and helplessness which sap our strength and lower our spirits. We must be generous because our God Who gave His Only Son is generous. We get many opportunities to share our blessings with others less fortunate than ourselves. When others pass such needy people by, we must stop and show compassion, careful to also protect the dignity of the people we are privileged to help.
Our readings today remind us to obey and trust God at all times, especially when we cannot clearly see the ‘why’ and ‘how’ in certain situations. In our first reading from Genesis, Abraham was put to the test and remained faithful to God. It seems hard to be asked to sacrifice your son, but that is exactly what God the Father is prepared to do. Our second reading is full of hope. Paul offers us three assurances: “There is no opposition; there is no condemnation; and there is no separation”. Why? Because God gave up His Son for us. This means God is willing to do anything in order to save us.
Today’s Gospel from Mark, presents the scene for the transfiguration of Jesus. The Lord manifests His glory to His three disciples, Peter, James and John. Jesus has just predicted His passion and death and it has clearly affected His disciples. Jesus is unequivocal, if they want to be His disciples they must take up their cross and follow Him. Jesus leads His friends up the mountain. Mountains are associated with the presence of God. Moses received the 10 commandments on a mountain. Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount and He will be crucified on the Mount of Calvary. He will ascend to Heaven from the mountain. Once on the mountain, Jesus is transfigured. He becomes pure light. It is as if His humanity becomes like a glass and the light of the Lord’s Divinity shines through for His disciples to see. His face is also light. This is the same face that will bear the wounds of the passion. The transfigured face of Jesus is how He will look post passion. Moses and Elijah are with Jesus. Moses represents the Law of the Old Testament and Elijah all the prophesy. These great patriarchs vanish leaving only Jesus. Jesus is the new definitive Law of Love. The Lord is the fulfilment of all prophesy. The old has played its part and gives way to the New and Everlasting Covenant. The cloud is another sign of God’s presence. Most importantly, the voice of the Father is heard stating the identity of His Son and commanding all to listen to Him.
The reaction of Peter is to be at a loss and awestruck. He offers to erect tents for each of the great figures. His error is to place the three figures of equal importance. God’s voice from the Heavens can leave Peter in no doubt as to the unique identity of Jesus as the Son of God. We can sympathise with Peter wanting to stay up the mountain but they must come down to continue the journey to Calvary. The privileged experience of the Lord’s transfiguration will remain with them through the dark days that lie ahead.
God the Father asked the disciples to listen to Jesus. This means taking His Words deep within and allowing the Holy Spirit to effect changes to become more Christ like. Jesus will not only speak to us in the Scriptures and in prayer. He will speak through the people we encounter, the situations and events of our lives. He will speak as we perform our duties. We remember the words from chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus said: “when you did it to the least of these, you did it to me”.
The central effect of the Transfiguration was, for the Lord and His disciples, one of profound encouragement. It was a privileged glimpse into the future. Jesus is seen risen and glorified. It is a supreme assurance that whatever the demands of Christian life, crosses that must be carried, suffering that must be endured and paying the cost of love; it will end in glory in the permanent presence of Almighty God.
Lent invites us to look honestly at ourselves and look for any sin, failing, un-Christian attitude or anything incompatible with our baptism. We must bring all to the Divine Mercy of God to transform these spiritual weaknesses into a greater holiness of life. I feel the incremental approach of God’s grace is wonderful. We do not look to a sudden and enduring transformation. We just serve God one day at a time asking for His grace and spiritual assistance to succeed in doing His holy will. Sometimes we feel it is one step forward and two back. The Lord understands. He just wants us to remain positive as to the outcome of our lives. To trust in His grace to get us and our loved ones safely home to Heaven. In the pilgrimage of life, we will experience many little transfigurations. In particular, each Mass is our greatest moment of grace. The Bread and Wine become the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Jesus given to us to transform us. In the Mass we ascend the mountain to hear God’s voice in the Liturgy of the Word. We are renewed by the Eucharistic celebration. We leave ready, strengthened and encouraged for the demands of life, the sharing of the Gospel and serving in the Kingdom of God. We are reminded it is all worthwhile and will be rewarded.
We have all been challenged by recent trials that have cost many people the loss of loved ones and others their health. It has been hard to find words at times and to know what to do to carry people along and give them hope. Let this future assurance bless our current moment. This feast gives me a strong sense that all trouble is passing, what assails us is short lived though it seems overwhelming at the time. God alone endures. The storm will pass and we will safely reach the shore. We need not be afraid – just sufficiently reassured. Today we are given a glimpse of glory. I am hope for many this will suffice.
Fr. Gerard X