2nd Sunday of Lent: Transfiguration
When Pope Francis was asked by that crying little girl in UST (Philippines): “Why does God allow bad things to happen to children?” the Pope noted that the little girl made a question that is very difficult to answer. Indeed, whenever we are confronted with any form of evil in the society or in our personal experience, we ask the same or similar question: “Why do evil things happen to good people?”
During his homily in Tacloban airport, after knowing the extent of the catastrophe that the people of Tacloban and Leyte experienced, the Pope said: “So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. But the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you have lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silence and walk with you all with my silent heart. Many of you have asked the Lord – why lord? And to each of you, to your heart, Christ responds with his heart from the cross. I have no more words for you. Let us look to Christ. He is the lord. He understands us because he underwent all the trials that we, that you, have experienced.”
It is not easy to understand this. Oftentimes, we are scandalized by evil. But the Pope is telling us that whenever we are confronted with evil, let us look to Christ. Whenever we experience pain, suffering and trials, let us let Christ speak to us. In our readings today, the 2nd Sunday of Lent, commemorating the Transfiguration of the Lord, Christ does not want us to be scandalized by the existence of pain, suffering and all forms of evil. He assures us that through His cross He has already conquered evil. Thus, we must also conquer evil by doing good.
Very gently, Jesus introduces His disciples, represented in the Gospel today by Peter, James and John, to the reality of the cross. He brought them to a high mountain (Mt. Tabor according to tradition), and He was transfigured in front of them. He gives them in advance a vision of His glory, His future resurrection, in order to strengthen them in the face of the coming trials, so that they would not be scandalized by the cross, His passion and death.
Oftentimes, Jesus also lets you experience His glory, through what I call “Taboric experiences” – experiences of your own “Transfiguration” – in order to keep you from the scandal of the crosses that will surely come your way. This is a proof of Jesus’ concern and love for you. He loves you so much that He doesn’t want to lose you. He dreads the thought of you losing faith in Him because of pain and suffering. He is afraid that you would desert Him once you encounter your crosses. So, He advances His consolation. He wants you to carry your cross and follow Him. But He assures you also that beyond the cross, there is resurrection and glory. He assures you that, if you remain faithful, through your cross you will also conquer evil.
Your cross can be big or small, light or heavy. But rest assured: no cross of yours is bigger than the Cross of Jesus. In His cross, you are included. As the song goes, “He carries the weight of the world upon His shoulder”. If He did that, I know He also carries you and your crosses.
Sometimes, the Lord allows you to carry a portion of His cross, just to see if you are really His true disciple. He did that with Abraham in the First Reading. He asked Abraham to sacrifice His own son, Isaac. This was to test Abraham’s faith and trust in God’s promise. This was Abraham’s heavy cross. Isn’t it true that when we are asked to sacrifice the things or relationships that we find so precious, it is as if a portion of us also dies? This is precisely what Calvary means: to sacrifice that which is most important to us.
Tradition says Mt. Moria was the Calvary in Jesus’ time. Hence, the sacrifice that God asked Abraham to make in Mt. Moria (and later, did not push through) was exactly the sacrifice that God the Father did when He sacrificed His Son on the cross at Mt. Calvary. If God sacrificed His Son for you, what can you sacrifice for God? Are you willing to sacrifice your time, talent and treasure for God’s project? Are you willing to sacrifice and offer your freedom to God? Are you willing to forego with your favorite food, or favorite pastime, your internet or DOTA this Lenten season, for God?
To the question: Why do evil things happen to good people? God did not give a rational explanation. Instead, He sacrificed His only Son, Jesus Christ. He allowed evil thing to happen to His perfect Son so that whenever you ask God, “Why the suffering and evil, Lord?” He will tell you: “Look at my Son.” God’s answer to the question is not theoretical but practical. He did not explain the existence of evil; He conquered it through the cross.
Are you still going to complain when you encounter pain, trials, problems, sickness or any form of evil? Will you still insist with the question: why the evil in the world? That should be God’s question to us, instead. We should be the ones looking for a rational explanation. God created the world good, but why the evil? Clearly, evil comes when man abuses his freedom. Evil takes place when man disobeys God’s will and follows instead his own will.
So, whenever you are confronted with evil in the world, don’t ask God why. Instead, strive to conquer it. But ask yourself: Am I an accomplice of evil? Have I contributed to the evil in the world because of my sins? If you think you do, then come back to God. Trust in His mercy and compassion. St. Paul assured us that God will forgive us. In the Second Reading he said: “If God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not give us all things with Him?” How can God not forgive us if He Himself sacrificed His own Son so that we may receive forgiveness of our sins?
Through His Transfiguration, the Lord keeps His apostles from the scandal of the cross. Let us also ask the Lord now to keep us from the scandal of our own crosses by giving us the hope of our own Transfiguration. Through the sacrifice of His own Son, God showed us how much He loves us and how His love conquers any form of evil that threatens us. Let us also ask Him to conquer evil by showing love and by doing good this Lenten season.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for us. Amen.