In this short homily for 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A, Father Hanly looks at the Transfiguration.
Readings for Second Sunday of Lent, Year A
- First Reading: Genesis 12:1-4
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
- Second Reading: Second Timothy 1:8-10
- Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes his three favorite disciples, Peter, James and John, his brother, up a high mountain, the sacred Mount Tabor.
When they arrive at the top, the disciples are tired and stop for a rest. They fall asleep.
Jesus goes further on, kneels down and prays to his Father in heaven. He asks his Father’s support and guidance, for he knows what lies before him, his passion and his death in Jerusalem.
After a time, he returns to his disciples for comfort. They are still half asleep, and finally as their eyes are opened, they suddenly see a great change. The face of their Lord shines like the sun, just as Moses’ did when he received the covenant from God Himself on Mount Sinai over two thousand years before. And the disciples fall to the ground again in awe and fear, their heads bowed low.
When they finally look up again, they see two men standing one on each side of Jesus: Moses, the Liberator, who led the people of God out of the slavery of Egypt and into the Promised Land; and Elijah the prophet, who in times of great peril when the people strayed and all seemed lost, single handedly brought the children of God back from the darkness and returned them safety to where they belonged, in the arms of God, their Father and protector.
And then the disciples suddenly raise their heads to the heavens, they see a great cloud and from the cloud they hear a majestic voice speak: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” Beautiful words, gentle but firm: Listen to him!
And, of course, Jesus is reassured that his Father has never left him, in fact he is closer now than ever. Yes, his disciples are dumbfounded, but they, too, realize the sudden change in Jesus their Lord. He is not now just a companion along the road, but the Son of God, who loves them, is sharing his life with them, and invites them to share in the life and love of God his Father.
What does the future hold for the disciples?
Jesus knows those who follow him will be severely tested, surrounded by enemies, rejected by friends, even their families will abuse and scorn them. It is then the disciples must hold firm. Yes, at first they all ran away, leaving only Mary, his Mother, with John and a few loyal friends to weep at the foot of the cross.
And what of Peter and James, two out of the three disciples who, just a short time before, witnessed the Transfiguration of their Lord and Master?
They too wept, but tears of shame for having left their dear Lord to face his enemies all alone. However, they also would recall the moments of glory they shared with Jesus on the mountain top, and heard from the Cloud the voice of his Father cry out: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”
They who ran away would return, finding a new faith and a deeper courage with which to create a new hope for the future. The risen Lord welcomes, heals, comforts, and manifests his great love for them and, yes, for us all as well.
And out of the tears of pain and sorrow, down through the ages all peoples shall come to know it is out of the forgiveness and self-sacrificing love of Jesus that the glory of God his Father shines through a dark and dreary world to create new life, and a new way of living for us all.