March 16, 2014 – The Second Sunday of Lent
In the recounting of the Transfiguration of Christ in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew we are given just a glimpse of the glory of Heaven. The Transfiguration is included in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as in 2 Peter. Theologians have concluded that the Transfiguration was the way that Jesus could confirm His divinity to the Apostles.
The Transfiguration is unique in many ways. It was completely unannounced and unexpected, and it is, of course, never repeated. For us during the Lenten season it is a reminder to us of the Lord’s status as the Son of God as well as the absolute indescribable glory in Heaven. All of the readings for this Second Sunday of Advent include signals to us of what we need to be doing and concentrating on during Lent.
The first reading from Genesis tells the story of Abram, how he was challenged by God to leave all and follow Him, and how great the rewards would be if he did so. In a way it is the same challenge God makes to us during Lent and throughout our lives: are we willing to leave our sins behind and follow the Lord? If we do, we will receive the same promises made to Abram. And these promises are made to all people in all nations.
The second reading from the Second Letter to Timothy, although short, reiterates the promise of salvation to us and the magnificence which follows that. As is often the case, scholars debate whether this letter was written by St. Paul or by one of his followers. If Paul did write it, it was written very near to his death; if not, it was written by someone very close to Paul just after Paul died. It is worth noting that this segment of the letter is followed shortly by Paul’s famous quote, “I have fought the good fight…I have finished the race…I have kept the faith.” We, too, need to seek and find that inspiration, that strength to live out our lives as good stewards of God’s many blessings. We are encouraged to use the strength of the Lord to pursue the “holy life” to which we are called.
Most Biblical scholars have concluded that the Transfiguration occurred on Mount Hermon, a 9,200 foot snow-capped mountain whose streams flow into the Jordan River. That connection is significant in that it was the Jordan where Jesus was baptized, and God proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son.” God reveals the same during the Transfiguration, again declaring “This is my beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” The message “Listen to Him” is intended for us as well. Lent is a time to listen. Do we listen to Jesus? Do we listen to Him every day as we go about living our lives?
Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the prophets. The additional message for us found in the Transfiguration is that Jesus is the fulfillment; Jesus’ Gospel teachings replace the Law and offer us the route to salvation. This Lenten time is an opportunity for us to listen to Jesus and respond to His calling us as disciples. As we were told in the U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Stewardship, stewardship is a disciple’s response to that calling.