Second Sunday of Lent – March 5, 2023
Lectionary Readings: Gen. 12:1-4; Ps.32:4-5.18-20.22; 1 Tim. 1:8-10; Matt. 17:1-9
Theme: Transfiguration of Jesus and of our lives
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is transfigured on a mountain before the disciples Peter, James and John. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white while the Father’s voice proclaimed from the cloud: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased, listen to him.”
The three disciples are given the grace of seeing Jesus in his glory, revealing his divine nature. As people of God, we too are invited today to see the radiance in the face of Jesus and to listen to him.
Although it is not named in the narrative, Mount Tabor in Northern Israel is the traditional site of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Pilgrims going to its summit where churches have been built have to transfer from big buses to vans. Though comparatively low (1,929 ft or 588 meters), the road to its top is narrow and steep. It must have been a long and hard ascent for the disciples; but the vision of Jesus they were blessed to see was more than worth it. It made a happy Peter say: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” (Matthew 17:4) And it seemed he wanted to prolong the good moment when he suggested building tents for Jesus and for Moses and Elijah who suddenly appeared with Jesus.
The mountain in the Bible represents a place of intimate encounter with God and a place to pray. In his narrative of the transfiguration, Luke says Jesus went to the mountain with his disciples to pray. (Luke 9:28). It was while he was praying that his appearance changed.
Moreover, the high mountain evokes Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Moses and Elijah, who were seen by the disciples talking to Jesus, are two of the most important figures in the Hebrew Scriptures. Elijah is considered the father of the prophets while Moses is guardian of the law. Together, they symbolize the revelation in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The expression “Beloved son” evokes the person of the Messiah Servant (Isa 42:1). “Listen to Him” echoes the Shema – “Hear, O Israel” (Dt 6:4).
Jesus tells his disciples not to fear and to also keep secret for a while what they had seen: “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” I see this to mean that the complete narrative of the glory of Jesus includes the cross and his passion, death and resurrection.
In the Second Reading, after Jesus has risen from the dead, Timothy and the believers were told to suffer for the gospel for through the gospel we can be led from death to light and immortality. We may have to take up our own cross for our faith. In the First Reading, we are told of the story of Abram who after hearing God’s call to lekh l’kha (go forth in Hebrew) made his journey of faith. He was transformed into Abraham, the father of many nations and receiver of God’s abundant blessings.
In turn, to hear God through Jesus means graces upon graces on earth and in life after life.
Pope Francis in 2014 said Jesus’ transfiguration tells us to “ascend” and to “descend”. From our busy day-to-day lives, we need to go apart, to “ascend” to our own high mountain, that is, to find a space of silence and for prayer to hear the voice of God. But we need to “descend the mountain” and return to the plain to meet others and help especially those in need. He also said that to hear the words of Christ, we have to read and study the Bible, even just a verse, each day.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. How have you experienced your own moment of transfiguration? 2. What are ways you can transfigure your personal and family life, and the community life?
Bibliography: Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew (Michigan, 2007); Hagner, Word Biblical Commentary Matthew 14-28 (Texas, 1993). Pope Francis’ homilies in https://www.vatican.va/
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna July 2014