Second Sunday of Lent
Transfiguration of Jesus — Jesus warned them that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected
Reading 1 GN 12:1-4A
The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.
“I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”
Abram went as the LORD directed him.
Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22.
R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Reading 2 2 TM 1:8B-10
Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.
He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel.
Verse Before The Gospel CF. MT 17:5
From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard:
This is my beloved Son, hear him.
Gospel MT 17:1-9
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
The transfiguration of Jesus is one of the great mysteries of our faith. We are not entirely sure what happened at that point, but we do know that Jesus changed in front of His disciples in a way that they could sense the power of God flowing through Him. The voice that they hear confirms that this is something from heaven and confirms the role of Jesus and the reality of Jesus as Son of God.
Jesus is the Son and Abram is also a son of God in the first reading, from Genesis. God promises to Abram that he will become a great nation. As with so many promises of God, the reality is greater and feels different from what people might have expected.
The second reading, from the Second Letter to Timothy, gives us another insight: He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus. So often we are tempted to think that we must become holy, but rather it is God who makes us holy. For sure, we must cooperate. That is our work.
“All we have to do is cooperate.”
This brings us back to the Gospel from Matthew. It is almost impossible for us to imagine the effect of the transfiguration on the three Apostles, Peter. James and John. We can say truly that they were out of their minds! But out of their minds and into faith in Jesus.
We are invited today to go out of our minds and trust completely in the Lord. Let us walk these days of Lent so that we may share in the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. Jesus.
Your brother in the Lord,
All three Synoptic Gospels tell the story of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36). With remarkable agreement, all three place the event shortly after Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and death. Peter’s eagerness to erect tents or booths on the spot suggests it occurred during the Jewish weeklong, fall Feast of Booths.In spite of the texts’ agreement, it is difficult to reconstruct the disciples’ experience, according to Scripture scholars, because the Gospels draw heavily on Old Testament descriptions of the Sinai encounter with God and prophetic visions of the Son of Man. Certainly Peter, James and John had a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity strong enough to strike fear into their hearts. Such an experience defies description, so they drew on familiar religious language to describe it. And certainly Jesus warned them that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected—a theme John highlights throughout his Gospel.
Tradition names Mt. Tabor as the site of the revelation. A church first raised there in the fourth century was dedicated on August 6. A feast in honor of the Transfiguration was celebrated in the Eastern Church from about that time. Western observance began in some localities about the eighth century.
All of us have dreams. The future is born of dreams. What we are enjoying today is the result of the dreams of our forefathers. Much progress has been made in the scientific and technological world because people dare to dream the impossible dream. It is important that we have our own dream. We live on because of our dreams. Without dreams, life would be meaningless. We would just drift through the life, living in the past, without zeal and passion.
Abraham in the first reading was given a great dream for his people. He heard the Lord telling him, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.” Upon the reception of this dream, Abraham set out, not knowing clearly where this would lead him to. All he knew was that God had a big plan for his people. It was a dream for a better life than what they were already having.
In the second reading too, we read of the dream of St Paul. He wrote, “This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our savior Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.” St Paul’s dream was to offer life and immortality to all. In preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, his dream was that all who come to Him will find fullness of life, joy and peace. The Good News that St Paul taught is that the Father loves us in Christ Jesus and we are saved by His death and resurrection. All that is needed is faith in Him, given through grace. We are saved not because we are good or because of good works but purely by the grace of God.
In the gospel, the Lord was given a dream, a preview of what was to take place. He had a vision. “There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him.” God revealed to Jesus the future glory that had always been His. This is the glory that is to be shared with us. When we follow Jesus we too will be transfigured in time to come. Through this experience, Jesus was affirmed to be the New Law and the final prophet. He is the new Moses and the new Elijah.
Today, the dream of the universal Church is the New Evangelization, of making the Good News relevant to Catholics and understood by those who are searching for truth, love and life. We are called to proclaim the Good News, which in today’s terms is to show forth the compassionate face of God in Christ Jesus. Whereas Pope Emeritus Benedict underscored the love of God in Christ, the thrust of Pope Francis is to concretize this love of God in His mercy.
Indeed, more than ever, in this harsh world today, where competition is tough and we are rewarded for the good work we do and punished mercilessly for the mistakes we make, we need to proclaim the mercy of God. This is the reason why Pope Francis wants us to go beyond the rigid laws and change the image of the Church as an institution that is cold and without a heart. Pope Francis wants the world to encounter God’s compassionate love in Christ Jesus who comes to forgive us all our sins, to give us courage and hope, not to condemn us but to save us from perdition. Accordingly, it is important to go back to the spirit of the laws rather than just insisting on the letter of the laws.
The Good News therefore is directed principally at the poor, those who are spiritually poor and those who are materially poor. He wants the Church to move out of her comfort zone and to be with the poor. Many Catholics have stopped coming for mass. Some have left the Church completely. Many of us are struggling in our sins, especially those related to lust, greed, envy, pride and anger. The Church must show herself to be inclusive. Not everyone can live up to the ideals of the gospel yet. The Church, being a Church for sinners, should welcome all those who are struggling to live up to the teaching of Christ. The divorced, people of same sex orientation, the sick and the poor must find a home in the Church. This is the essence of the Good News, that Jesus loves us all, including the sinners.
But realizing our dreams for the Church and the country is not easy. When we seek to make changes, inevitably, we are faced with opposition, not so much from without as from within. This was the same for Abraham, Christ and for Paul. People oppose change for many reasons. Some oppose it because the vision of their leaders is not their vision. Some feel threatened because of the change of status quo and their comfort zone is affected. Others are constrained by their strict dogmatic beliefs and feel that the Church is abandoning her traditions and the truth of the gospel. Some are not able to feel with those who are marginalized in Church and even at home. Leaders too suffer much opposition from those people who are not happy with our attempts to bring the Church forward because their convenience is compromised.
So what must we do in the face of opposition? We must not forget the dream before us. In times of trials and difficulties, we must keep the dream clear in our minds. Once we lose our dream, we lose hope. St Paul was always conscious of his dream to be with Christ one day in heaven. “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:8) Abraham too, in his long journey to the Promised Land, trusted in God and hoped in Him. “
We must think of the greater good of the future of humanity, Church and society. Our forefathers sacrificed much for us. Without their sacrifices, we will not be where we are today, As the letter of Hebrews says, “And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (Heb 11:39f) Abraham was a rich man with many flocks of animals. He was living a comfortable life. There was no need for him to venture out because when the call came, he was already 76, past retirement age!
Secondly, we must rely on the power of God’s grace. St Paul wrote, “With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace.” This was his secret to peace and joy in his ministry. Pope Francis says that “if there is a problem, I write a note to St. Joseph and put it under a statue that I have in my room. It is a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. And now he sleeps on a mattress of notes! That’s why I sleep well: it is the grace of God.”
We must pray fervently and with faith. Pope Francis says, “I love the breviary so much and never leave it. Mass every day. The rosary … When I pray, I always take the Bible. And my peace grows. I do not know if this is the secret … My peace is a gift of the Lord.” Prayer is the only way to find true peace of heart. The psalmist tells us, “The Lord looks on those who revere him, on those who hope in his love, to rescue their souls from death, to keep them alive in famine. Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield.”
Finally, we must bask ourselves in the love of God as Jesus did. “He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’” So too did St Peter, for the experience was so profound that he wanted to keep it with him forever. Thus he suggested, “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Indeed, later on, St Peter again recounted this experience when he wrote, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (1 Pt 1:16) This transfiguration experience was both for Jesus and for the apostles so that they could face the future trials ahead of them.
So let us be a blessing to others and to the world. The Lord said to Abraham and to us all. “I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who slight you. All the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you.” Let us hold our dreams high as Paul did. He said, “This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus.” We already have a foretaste of it. We have seen for ourselves what the gospel can do for us. It is not that we have not yet seen it, albeit not in its fullness. Let us pray for the courage, the wisdom and strength to bring the Church forward and to bring the Good News to all, especially the poor, marginalized, those living in darkness and walking in the valley of death.
Pope John Paul II Homily on The Transfiguration on March 7, 1993 — He sees the transfiguration as a foretaste of our Christian victory over death:
“Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them” (Mt 17:1-2)
“Lord, it is good that we are here”
We can imagine the three disciples’ astonishment at the vision. They were used to seeing Jesus in the humble aspect of his daily humanity and how great must have been their awe and emotion at seeing the splendor of a transfigured Jesus! Peter’s offer to pitch three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah, expresses his desire to make this moment of grace and uncontainable joy last as long as possible.
“Lord, it is good that we are here”! On Tabor Jesus gave his favorite disciples an anticipation of the glory of the resurrection, a glimpse of heaven on earth, a taste of “paradise”.
While Peter “was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”‘ (Mt 17:5). It is a true manifestation of God, which recalls the “theophanies” experienced by the patriarchs of old, and it is similar to what took place on the banks of the Jordan after the Redeemer’s baptism. As then, here too a trinitarian presence is revealed: the voice of the Father, the person of the incarnate Son and the shining cloud, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, like the dove which rested on Christ when he was baptized by his fore-runner. The Apostles’ emotions change: their joy is replaced by a great fear; they fall prostrate to the ground. “Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid’. And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone” (Mt 17:7-8).
Transfiguration shows goal of our existence.
The mystery of the transfiguration takes place at a very precise moment in Jesus’ preaching, as he begins to confide to the disciples the necessity of his going up “to Jerusalem and suffer greatly. . . and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). Reluctantly they hear the first announcement of the passion and before stressing it again and confirming it, the divine Master wants to give them a proof of his total rootedness in the will of the Father so that they do not waver in the face of the scandal of the cross. In fact, the passion and death will be the way through which the heavenly Father will have his “beloved Son” achieve glory, risen from the dead. From now on this will also be the disciples’ way. No one will come to the light except through the cross, the symbol of the suffering which afflicts human existence. Thus the cross is transformed into an instrument for the expiation of the sins of all humanity. United with his Lord in love, the disciple participates in his redemptive passion. Therefore, in today’s reading St. Paul exhorts Timothy in these words: “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life” (2 Tm 1:8-9). For the believer suffering is nothing but a temporary passage, a transitory condition. Jesus, the Apostle stresses, “has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Tm 1:10).
The goal of our existence is therefore as shining as the transfigured countenance of the Messiah: in him is salvation, happiness, glory, unlimited love of God. How, therefore, could we not be prepared to suffer for such a goal? It finds meaning in our effort to conform our weak nature to the demands of goodness. It takes into consideration the physical and spiritual limitations of our person and of our daily social relationships, unfortunately marred by selfishness and sin, which make our spiritual journey taxing.
Finally, the transfiguration offers us prospects for a change which is both fundamental and supernatural, of a victory and proclamation of the passover of Christ, an announcement of the cross and resurrection. It is the transfigured Christ, the Christ whom after his resurrection the Apostles and so many other witnesses of his resurrection will see with their own eyes. They are witnesses of the newness of the world inaugurated by his resurrection and foretold by his transfiguration.
Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus has given us the means to be victorious in fighting the good fight of faith in fidelity to his word and humble adherence to the cross. Assiduously listening to the Gospel, celebrating the saving mystery in the sacraments and the Eucharistic liturgy, we become capable of proclaiming and bearing witness to Christian newness with a generous, prompt readiness. Not by ourselves, however, but as part of the Body of Christ which is the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation. The Church is the great community of those who believe in Jesus Christ, led by the Pastors he has chosen. In his love for mankind he constituted the Twelve as his witnesses and entrusted to them the task of safe-guarding the faith and continuing his work under the guidance of Peter. The Apostles and their successors gave life to the particular Churches, foremost among which is our Church of Rome, the Diocese of Peter’s Successor.
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Lent is about transfiguration! It is not just our Lord Jesus who becomes transfigured. Rather, all of us can be transfigured if we want the path that He has shone us by His life, death and Resurrection.
The Book of Genesis today gives us the beginning of the story of Abraham, our faith in faith. Abraham begins as Abram and hears God speaking to him, calling him to leave his own country and his people. Abram is to live for God alone. This never means that Abram will be without other people in his life or that he will not love other people. It only means that God is first and that Abram will try to do God’s will to the best of his ability. This is also what God is asking of you and of me today: leave on an inner journey, go with God, do God’s will not matter how uneasy it may make us.
Saint Paul gives this same advice to Timothy in the second reading today, from the Second Letter to Timothy: He called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.
The secret of any spiritual life is to seek God’s will and then to try to do that will with as much faithfulness as possible. We are humans and weak and most of us are not saints, but we can keep on trying to do the will of God. Lent is a time to strengthen our resolve by becoming more aware of God’s love for us.
The Gospel of Matthew today gives us an account of the transfiguration of Jesus. No one is really sure what happened to our Lord at the transfiguration. It is as though the divine nature of our Lord cannot be contained and begins to break through. Later in Christian spirituality, it comes to be recognized that this divine nature is also ours by adoption and can also begin to manifest itself in us if we strive to be faithful.
Lent is the time of transfiguration for us! We plead with the Lord in this time of Lent to transform us, to transfigure us, to help do His will with joy. At times, we rebel against the Lord and then we plead for His mercy, but always trusting completely in His love and in His will to save us and transform us. Lord, have mercy on us! We are sinners and we trust in you! May your love transform us.