The Grace of the Transfiguration in a Time of Trouble
Second Sunday of Lent
March 8, 2020
In difficult times such as the present moment,
it is consoling that we hear in today’s gospel from St. Matthew
a description of an arduous journey up a mountain
by Jesus and three of his disciples.
The mountain referred to here is most likely Mt. Tabor.
Although Mt. Tabor rises to only about 2,000 feet,
compared with Mt. Rainier’s summit of 14,409 feet,
we should remember that Jesus and his disciples were making the journey
without modern footwear or sunglasses.
No arch support for tired feet,
no darkened lens to protect eyes from the sun!
Even a recent American tourist traveling in the Holy Land
described her journey up Mt. Tabor as arduous:
“You could walk up,
but we were all ferried up the winding twisty roads by taxi minibuses for a small charge,
which I think is the best way to get up this mountain unless
you are super-fit and up for a mountain climb.”
I do not know if Jesus was “up for a mountain climb”
but he clearly had an important reason
to take three of his closest disciples away from the others
to scale Mt. Tabor.
You and I can take two major consolations from this journey.
First, the disciples have a powerful vision
of Jesus speaking with Elijah and Moses.
Moses was the great lawgiver and Elijah was a great prophet.
You can picture Moses holding the stone tablets of the ten commandments,
and he brought them down the mountain heights to the Jewish people.
You can picture Elijah standing tall on his prophet’s soapbox,
speaking fiery words calling for conversion by the Jewish people.
In this vision of Jesus’ transfiguration, then,
the disciples perceive Jesus as a great synthesizer,
who can bring together “The Law and the Prophets,”
who can make sure we don’t go too far toward one or the other extreme.
His ministry will call people not to be overly legalistic,
but to follow the law of love and service.
His ministry will call people to have prophetic eyes and heart,
to perceive and to respond to social injustices whether small or large.
You and I certainly have our own mountaintops today,
that can seem formidable and daunting.
Lent itself might be described as a spiritual climb.
This year I’m thinking about the Lenten journey
in images that were used by Martin Luther King Jr.
in a speech he gave the day before he was assassinated.
See if you too might find inspiration for yourself
and for your own Lenten journey this year.
Dr. King proclaimed,
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead
and I really don’t know what will happen
but it really doesn’t matter now,
because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
Like anybody I’d like to live a long life,
but I’m not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God’s will
and he has allowed me to go up the mountain
and I have looked over, and I have seen the promised land
I may not get there with you,
but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.
I’m not worrying about anything tonight.”
During Lent you and I are invited to go apart for prayer and fasting.
But we cannot stay there. We must come down from the mountain
where we will find people whom we are called to love and serve.
The spiritual geography of our lives
will always have highs and lows,
mountains of exhilaration and valleys of fatigue and discouragement.
We have Jesus’ word and his companionship on this journey,
and we trust him that it will truly be a journey of Lenten Transfiguration.
Fr. Jerry Cobb, S.J.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”