Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 22:1-2, 9a,10-13,15-18
Some of the most important events in my life did not seem significant at the time. In retrospect, they could be called “watershed events.” They formed my values and directed my future. There are similar events in the lives of those who have brought the Church to this time in her life. For Peter, James, and John, the transfiguration was such a time. At the moment, it was an “awesome” event that both dazzled and baffled. As the Church matured and discovered its faith, this was an important experience that lit the way to the resurrection.
Peter, James and John had accompanied Jesus to a mountain—perhaps Mount Tabor but more likely Mount Hermon. None of the evangelists can adequately explain what happened on that mountain—the radiance of Jesus’ garments, the appearance of Elijah and Moses, the cloud, and the voice. At first sight, it appears that this was an event that occurred for the sake of Peter, James and John. But, the transfiguration had great significance for Jesus. He was facing his death on the cross. On the mountaintop, he received approval of his decision. This is clearly heard in the voice from the cloud. In Jewish thought, the cloud was connected with the presence of God. In a cloud Moses met God, God came to the Tabernacle and a cloud filled the Temple when it was dedicated after it was built by Solomon. The Jews believed that when the Messiah came a cloud would descend.
All the clues were there. The disciples were devastated when Jesus told them he was going to Jerusalem to die. Although they did not understand, the transfiguration gave them hope. The transfiguration was an important step toward the crucifixion.
It is unlikely that Peter, James and John saw it that way. What all of them did understand was that this event would change their lives and cast light on the hard days that were to come.
The First Reading puts the Gospel narrative in another perspective. This is the story of the generosity of Abraham. But the tale does not end there. Having made the point that this is the greatest sacrifice one can offer, the One who asked the sacrifice does not accept it. It was too much for God to ask of Abraham. But it was not too much for God to ask of himself. The Epistle tells us yet again that God is “He who did not spare his own Son.”
At this liturgy, we stand with all those who have difficulty contemplating suffering and death as having anything to do with coming to glory. For us, as for the three apostles, the real transfiguration is our becoming aware and accepting that Jesus is the suffering servant who will be poured out for us and for our salvation.
At this Eucharist, we are challenged to be willing to be poured out for one another.
We are called to follow Jesus in his suffering and in his death.
We are called to be full participants in the Paschal Mystery that leads us to resurrection.