THE MEANING OF THE TRANSFIGURATION FOR US TODAY
(A biblical reflection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – 8 March 2020)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 17:1-9
First Reading: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalms: Psalm 33:4-5,18-19,20,22; Second Reading: 2 Timothy 1: 8b-10
The Scripture Text
And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with Him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if You wish, I will make three booths here, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no on but Jesus only.
And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:1-9 RSV)
This momentary vision of Christ, in His glory, was given to the three principal Apostles – Peter, James and John – in order to strengthen them to face the trials to their faith, which the sufferings and crucifixion of their beloved Master would bring on them. For the very same reason it is retold to us today, in the early part of Lent, to encourage us to persevere in our Lenten mortifications. It reminds us that, very soon, the Easter bells will be ringing out their message of joy once more. If we are sharers with Christ in His sufferings, we shall be sharers with Him in His glory as Paul reminds us (Romans 6:1-14)
This is a truth we all too easily forget, namely, that we cannot and do not get to heaven in a limousine. Our spell on earth is the chance given us by our heavenly Father to earn an eternal reward. This reward surpasses even the wildest imagination of man. We could never earn it, but God accepts the little we can do and provides the balance of His infinite mercy. And yet there are many, far too many, who refuse even that little bit that is asked of them, and are thus running the risk of not participating in God’s scheme for their eternal happiness.
And are they any happier during their few years on this earth by acting thus towards the God of mercy? Can they, by ignoring God and their duties towards Him, remove all pain, all sorrow, all sufferings, from their daily lives? Death, which means a total separation from all we possessed and cherished in this world, is waiting around the corner for all of us. Who can face it more calmly and confidently – the man who firmly convinced that it is the gateway to a new life, and who has done his best to earn admission through that gateway, or the man who has acted all his life as if death did not exist for him, and who has done everything to have the gate to the new life shut forever in his face?
Illnesses and troubles and disappointments are the lot of all men. They respect neither wealth, nor power, nor position. The man who knows his purpose in life, and is ever striving to reach the goal God’s goodness has planned for him, can and will see in these trials of life the hand of a kind father who is preparing him for greater things. His sufferings become understandable and more bearable because of his attitude to life and its meaning. The man who ignores God and tries to close the eyes of his mind to the real facts of life has nothing to uphold him or console him in his hours of sorrow and pain. Yet, sorrow and pain will dog his footsteps, strive as he will to avoid them, and he can see no value, no divine purpose in these, for him, misfortunes.
Christ has asked us to follow Him, carrying our daily cross, and the end of our journey is not Calvary but resurrection, the entrance to a life of glory with our risen Savior. The Christian who grasps her/his cross closely and willingly, knowing its value for his real life, will find it becomes lighter and often not a burden but a pleasure. The man who tries to shuffle off his cross, and who curses and rebels against Him who sent it, will find it doubles its weight and loses all the value it was intended to have for his true welfare.
Let the thought of the Transfiguration encourage each one of us today, to do the little God demands of us, so that when we pass out of this life we may be assured of seeing Christ in His glory, ready to welcome us into His everlasting glorious Kingdom.
The season of Lent is a constant reminder of our invitation from the Master to always seek the better life. We hear the Church reassuring all pilgrim people that their efforts are far outweighed by the divine glory to be gained. The stories presented in today’s liturgy are not meant to glorify Abraham or the Apostles, but to make us believe that these grace-filled adventures can also be ours. Our journeys can all have happy endings, provided we are willing to venture forth each day with trusting faith.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, from Your transfiguration, You teach me that my spiritual journey can have a happy ending, provided I am willing to venture forth each day with an unwavering and trusting faith in You. Amen.
Jakarta, 7 March 2020
A Christian Pilgrim