THE LITURGICAL YEAR
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent gives us the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. It is rich in material for reflection. There is always something awe-inspiring about mountains. On the top the air is clean and crisp. The panoramic view of the surrounding country-side lifts us from the hustle and bustle of the rat-race, and raises our mind and heart to God.
The top of a mountain is a natural place for encountering God. It is small wonder then that in the Bible God often chooses a mountain top to reveal Himself and His plans. It was on Mount Sinai that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Jesus gave his first teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. He often retired to the mountain at night to pray. He was crucified on Mount Calvary and ascended to heaven from Mount Olivet.
In today’s Gospel he is Transfigured before his apostles on Mount Tabor. Peter, James and John are with him. And they will be with him in the agony of the garden. This will be a preparation for that ordeal. Moses and Elijah are also present speaking with Jesus about his approaching death. Moses is the great law giver and Elijah the great prophet. In the presence of these two, representing the law and the prophets the voice of the Father is heard, “This is my beloved son listen to him.” Slowly, the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant is taking place.
Jesus came not to destroy the law and the prophets but to bring them to completion. Christianity is not to be an abstract creed or code but a Person. Jesus Christ, true God and true man is to be “the way, the truth and the life.” We are to listen to Him and follow Him. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that “In times past God spoke to us through the prophets...but in these last days through his Son.”
For Jesus the Transfiguration was the turning point in his life. Until now all was onward and upward. He was captivating the people with his preaching and miracles. Now he must descend to the valley, to the road to Gethsemane and Calvary. The Transfiguration gave Jesus a foretaste of his glory, and in the strength of that joy he could endure the cross and despise the shame. But most of all the Transfiguration gave Jesus another affirmation of his Father’s love. At His baptism in the Jordan his Father had affirmed him, “This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.” Now he says, “This is my beloved son, listen to him.”
For the apostles it was an awe-inspiring experience. They had never seen their master like this before. Peter, filled with consolation says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. Let us erect three booths here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But it is not to be. This is only a preparation for things to come. With Jesus they must descend the mountain to the valley below and on to the garden of Gethsemane and Calvary. On Mount Tabor they didn’t want to leave. In the Garden of Gethsemane they didn’t want to stay. When Jesus was arrested they all fled.
We can all identify with the apostles because in our mountain-top experiences of joy and consolation we also want to stay. We want them to go on forever. And then in the moments of trial we want to flee. We forget that our Lord did not promise us a rose garden, but a garden of olives and a crown of thorns. “If anyone will come after me let him pick up his cross daily and follow me.”
was the mountain-top experience of the apostles which prepared them for
their future trials. The Mass is our mountain-top experience which prepares
us for the trials of our day. The Mass is not a transfiguration but a
transubstantiation, in which bread and wine are transformed into the glorious
Risen Jesus. And in the joy and consolation of Communion we say with Peter,
“Lord, it is good for us to be here.” And we do not want to
leave. But it is not to be. Soon we will hear the words, “The Mass
is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” So we pick up
our cross and leave to face the trials of the day. But having been to
the top of the mountain we know that “nothing can separate us from
the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
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