March 1, 2015 – Second Sunday of Lent
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them.” The Transfiguration of Christ, as related in this week’s Gospel from Mark, is according to many theologians and scholars, the “high point” of His public life. His Baptism marked the beginning of His public ministry, and His Ascension marked the end. It is impossible to minimize the significance of the Transfiguration.
It is reported in detail in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and Peter and John, two of those who witnessed it, both make reference to it. Peter says “We were eye witnesses of His majesty,” and John wrote “We have seen His glory.” Jesus literally glowed with divinity, His inner divine nature shining forth with dazzling brightness. It was a glimpse of the glory of heaven for those who saw it. Peter did not want to leave from that holy mountain top (“Let us make three tents.”).
It was the Transfiguration that strengthened the Apostles through the trials and ordeals to come.
The readings on this Second Sunday of Lent are intended to strengthen and confirm our own faith in the midst of our Lenten treks. The faith of Abraham and Isaac are presented in the first reading from Genesis. Clearly both Abraham and his son Isaac have total faith in God, the kind of faith we are called to pursue and to demonstrate through lives of stewardship. When God says to Abraham, “Take your son…whom you love” it is the first time the word “love” appears in the Bible. It is the love between a parent and a child; it parallels the love God feels for His Son (“This is my beloved son; listen to him.”); it is the love to which we are called, understanding that God loves us, and we are to love God. Knowing that love allows us to what we must and should do.
In his letter to the Romans, our second reading, St. Paul builds on the love demonstrated in the first reading when he tells us “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul points to the gift of Jesus Christ as substantiation enough that “God is for us.” As we continue through Lent and through life, we must never lose sight of that redeeming fact. Abraham trusted in God; St. Paul trusts implicitly in God, and we, too, need to feel that trust and security. As implied in the first reading we need to be filled with the love of God.
We have previously noted that the Gospel of Mark is believed to be what Peter told Mark firsthand of his life with and experiences with Jesus. Thus, the description Mark recounts of the appearance of Jesus at His Transfiguration may well be Peter’s words: “His clothes became dazzling white.” The light that shone forth from the Lord came from the inside, not the outside. The word “transfigure” implies a total change, not a superficial one. In a sense we are called to seek a type of transfiguration in our own lives during Lent. It is this conversion of heart that leads us to stewardship. However, it is something we must strive for and work at; it is not easy, but the rewards are beyond our imagination and our ability to comprehend them. Peter, James, and John knew. We, too, know.