SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT (2023)
Psalms 33:33:45, 18-20, 22
2 Timothy 1:8-10
Part of the essential Christian triumvirate – faith, hope and charity – hope is as important to our personal well being as it is to our Christian life. The disciples in their time with Jesus had seen and heard wonderful things – healings and miracles; Jesus walking on water and feeding five thousand people; and parables which must have made many of the disciples scratch their heads wondering what it was that Jesus was trying to say. After leaving their simpler life of fishing, they also witnessed confrontational moments with the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees, making them well aware that not all of the multitude were fans of Jesus.
In the chapter just before today’s gospel reading, Peter has a profound confession to make, telling Jesus “You are the Messsiah, the Son of the living God.” But that doesn’t keep Jesus only a few verses later from rebuking Peter, calling him “Satan” for completely misunderstanding Jesus’ first Passion prediction. Perhaps that’s why all three gospels recount the story of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration was meant to give the limited number of disciples (Peter, James and John) hope, hope that they hadn’t made a mistake leaving their fishing jobs to follow Jesus, hope that their journey to Jerusalem would go well. The Transfiguration experience was also meant to give these privileged disciples a better insight into just the kind of Messiah that Jesus would be.
The Transfiguration has Jesus transfigured and looking like Moses after his encounter with God: “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Not only does Jesus look like what they were told Moses looked like, but Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, are also seen conversing with Jesus. This is better than the good house keeping seal of approval! Peter is so excited he wishes to make three tents for the dignitaries, but the voice of God last heard at Jesus’ baptism, is heard once again declaring: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The disciples’ joy turned to fear, but Jesus calms them as He will after His resurrection, saying “do not be afraid.”
While the story of the Transfiguration was an important story for the early church, it is also an important story for us. Like Abraham in our first reading we go the way “God directs us,” and like the disciples in our gospel reading we avidly “listen” to what Jesus has to say. We will bear our share of “hardship for the gospel,” as Paul’s second letter to Timothy reminds us, but the image of Christ’s transfigured nature gives us hope that God’s promises to us will be fulfilled.
Our own ‘transfigurations’ began with our baptisms, when the stain of original sin was washed away and we became children of God. We all will spend a lifetime transfiguring our Spirits that we might shine like bright lights in a world that is filled with darkness. We continue building up God’s kingdom, begun by Jesus the Christ, when we live our lives according to the gospel preached by Jesus during His earthly ministry. May today’s gospel story instill hope in our ability to transform our own lives, and become better images of the Christ who is our Savior.