What a change of sight! Last Sunday, we saw Jesus being led by the Holy Spirit to the desert and was tempted by the devil. Today, we see Him going up Mt. Tabor with His close friends, Peter, James and John. Last Sunday, we heard Satan’s persuasive voice, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into bread!” Today, we hear the Father’s confirmation: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him!” Last Sunday, we learned how to be strong in facing our own temptations. Today, what is stored for us in Jesus’ Transfiguration?
The Transfiguration of the Lord is the culminating event of His public ministry, as His Baptism is the starting point, and His Ascension, its end. When Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah showed up. Of all the great figures of the Old Testament, why these two? Like all Asians, the Jews were concrete rather than abstract thinkers. When they think of the “Torah”, (the first five books of the Bible), or “the Law,” they think of a person – Moses. When they ponder on the Scriptures’ prophetic writings, what comes to mind is the greatest prophet – Elijah. When the Jews say “the Sacred Scriptures”, what they have in mind is “The Law and the Prophets”. In the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah witness to Jesus because all of the Sacred Scripture witnesses to him. The commandments and the promises are all accomplished in the person of our Lord. The love of the Law now becomes the law of Love. The promised salvation becomes a reality.
In the First Reading, the covenant that God established with Abraham was a very significant move in the implementation of God’s plan of salvation. It was the first in the series of covenants that God would make with the Patriarchs – a series of covenants that would culminate in “the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant”, the Holy Eucharist. In what is called in Hebrew: ברית בין הבתרים (Brit bein HaBetarim), or “the Covenant of the Parts”, God promised Abraham numerous descendants that would inherit the land of Israel. We see in this promise God’s eternal intention to save mankind through the establishment of a community, the people of God –Israel. Today, the new Israel is the Church, founded by Christ and which subsists in the Catholic Church. Hence, an authentic relationship with God is not only personal but should be communitarian. Those who would like to live their faith only on the individualistic note are in error: God saves within and through His Church!
By this glorious manifestation of His divinity, Jesus, the Divine Master, who had just foretold His Passion to the Apostles (Matthew 16:21), and who spoke with Moses and Elijah of the trials which awaited Him at Jerusalem, strengthened the faith of his three friends and prepared them to face the terrible struggle which they would witness in the Garden of Gethsemane. By giving them a foretaste of the glory of the Resurrection, our Lord has prepared them to face the “scandal of the Cross”. In this, Jesus teaches us that beyond the sufferings and the crosses of life is the promise of glory: that “there is no glory without sacrifices”.
Today, our Lord is also warning us against what St. Paul calls “the enemies of the Cross of Christ”. Who are these enemies of the Cross? Those who are contented with mediocrity; those who love and seek only for what is easy and comfortable; those who think that suffering and sickness has no salvific value; those who neglect and reject God’s law and follow, instead, the human law; those who seek only for quick solutions to problems. Enemies of the Cross of Christ are also those who would say: “Condom is easier to use than self-control”. St. Paul adds: “they are heading for ruin; their belly (meaning, their lower appetite) is their god and they feel proud of what should be their shame. They only think of earthly things”.
St. Paul, in the Second Reading, exhorts us to “be steadfast in the Lord”. He assures us, citizenship of heaven, when Jesus Christ “will transfigure our lowly body, making it like His own body, radiant in glory, through the power which is His to submit everything to Himself”. But our own transfiguration, like that of Jesus, also passes through the Cross. Today, we need to remind ourselves of this truth as we are always tempted to believe that Christian life is a bed of roses – and roses without thorns. Even the first Pope, Peter, thought of staying permanently on Mt. Tabor. He said, “Master, how good it is for us to be here for we can make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah”. The delights of Jesus’ glorious manifestation of His divinity can also pose a temptation to escape from the normal context of our encounter with the Lord: the ordinary life. We tend to look only for the ecstatic religious experience, for a spiritual consolation, or for a pleasant feeling in the exercise of our devotions. We forget in that the ordinary and even in difficult situations, Christ is also present.
Jesus brought His closest disciples to Mt. Tabor just when He was approaching the Calvary of His life. If we are intimately close to Jesus, our “Calvaries” of life may also be preceded with “Taboric” experiences – if the Lord wills it. In view of Calvary, God may bring us to Mt. Tabor. St. Augustine says that in view of our desolations, God may let us experience spiritual consolations. If we come closer to Jesus, spiritual consolations and desolations, as described by St. Ignatius of Loyola, are common experiences. But whether in Calvary or in Mt. Tabor, what is important is the presence of Jesus. That’s the only thing that matters!
As we continue to climb up the “mountain” of our Lenten observance, this Second Sunday of Lent, let us ask the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us ask Her to intercede for us before Her Son, so that Jesus Christ may grant us our own transfiguration. May Jesus transform our “Calvary” into “Mt. Tabor”!