Today’s Scripture: Second Sunday of Lent
Mountaintop experiences are rare and we cannot stay there, as much as we would like. The Scriptures give us a glimpse into reality. Without warning, Jesus was transfigured. The encounter with the divine often happens that way, without warning. And it seems that as soon as we have the encounter, it is over, and we are left to descend the mountain. We can share Peter’s desire to commemorate the event. It seems natural to erect a monument to which we can return again and again. But this is not to be. The three are left wondering what the experience means, and what Jesus is saying about rising from the dead might mean. Of course, it all becomes clear, in hindsight, after the crucifixion.
This is a model for us of how the paschal mystery is lived. We have peak experiences followed by moments of wonder and discernment. The
Christian life is not one grand, never-ending peak experience. In fact, such experiences may be rare, even as they were for the disciples. And the Christian life is not all wonder and discernment, as meaning develops gradually and in light of unfolding events. We stay faithful to Jesus and accompany him in the peak experiences, and also in the struggle to discern meaning.
For the second time in the Gospel of Luke, the voice of God claims Jesus as God’s son. The first moment was at his baptism when “the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form.” At that time the voice of God proclaimed, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” At the Jordan River the voice from heaven speaks directly to Jesus, but on the mountain where Jesus goes to pray with his closet companions the voice addresses those around Jesus— Peter, James, and John—telling them: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” These words are addressed to us when we encounter our Lord in the Word and the Eucharist, “Behold, here is Jesus the chosen one, listen to him.”
In today’s readings, we see the image of darkness as the place where God’s shining glory is revealed. In Genesis, once the sun had set and it was dark the smoking fire pot and the flaming torch represented God who made the covenant with Abraham. Like Moses, we are called to enter into the dark places of our human hearts in order to allow Christ’s light to shine there. The Lenten season is meant to uncover these dark places and then strengthen the grace that the Spirit has already poured into our hearts.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we hear the promise of what is to come. On the mountain Peter, James, and John see Jesus’ “glory” when he changed in appearance. As Christians, our ultimate goal is to be Christ-like, to reflect the dazzling glory of Christ in all of our interactions and so to bring honor to God.
Questions to Ponder
· When are we confronted by both the Christ of the transfiguration and the Christ of the crucifixion?
· What has been the hardest thing that God has asked of you—and how was your trust rewarded?
· What have you learned of your own experiences of suffering, anguish, and pain that had a profound and lasting effect on your life?
By Sister Mary Henry