March 5, 2023
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.”
On the second Sunday of Lent, we move from Jesus' retreat to the desert and temptation by the devil to the glory shown in Jesus' Transfiguration on the mountain. The mountain in the Bible represents a place close to God and an intimate encounter with Him, a place of prayer where one stands in the presence of the Lord. The Gospel tells us Jesus invites three of his apostles to undertake a pilgrimage with him to the mountain. He chooses those who are willing to climb the mountain with him. Likewise, we are chosen by Jesus to take a pilgrimage, a journey with him to the mountain in this Lent.
From the event of the Transfiguration, I would like to take two significant elements that can be summed up in two words: ascent and descent. We all need to go apart, to ascend the mountain in a space of silence, to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord. This we do in prayer. But we cannot stay there. Encounter with God in prayer inspires us anew to “descend the mountain” and return to the plain where we meet many brothers and sisters weighed down by fatigue, sickness, suffering, injustice, ignorance, and poverty. To these brothers and sisters in difficulty, we are called to bear the fruit of that experience with God, by sharing the grace we have received. It is a mission for the whole Church, for all the baptized, for us all: listen to Jesus and offer him to others.
The transfiguration not only happened on the mountain of the Gospel’s background but it also happens to each one of us day by day. Transfiguration happens to us every day through sacraments. Indeed, each time we receive one of the Sacraments, we are transfigured, we are transformed. For example, Baptism transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us temples of the Holy Spirit and warriors of God. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. In particular, the “transfiguration” in the Holy Mass is the source of our strength: In each Holy Mass, the bread and wine we offer on the altar become “transfigured” or “transformed” into the living Body and Blood of the crucified, risen and glorified Jesus. Just as Jesus' Transfiguration strengthened the apostles in their time of trial, so each Holy Mass should be our source of heavenly strength against temptations, and our renewal during Lent. In addition, our Holy Communion with the living Jesus should be the source of our daily “transfiguration,” transforming our minds and hearts so that we may do more good by humble and selfless service to others.
The transfiguration also offers us a message of encouragement and hope. Indeed, in moments of doubt, despair and hopelessness, the thought of our transfiguration in Heaven will help us to reach out to God and to listen to His words: "This is My beloved Son." Let us offer our Lenten sacrifices to our Lord, that through the practices of Lent and through the acceptance of our daily crosses, we may become closer to him in his suffering and may share in the carrying of his cross so that we may finally share the glory of his Transfiguration. The Lenten season offers us the opportunity to prepare us for the future glory through prayers, good works, reflections, and self-denials. It is a time when we grow in grace in order to advance faithfully to the mountain of God’s glory. This is our call. This is our mission. Our call is not to a new land, our call is not to be a new people. Rather, our call is to new life as God’s holy people - new life made possible by God’s gift of his Son for us, new life made possible because Jesus has conquered death, new life because Jesus continues to offer us the gift of his saving grace. The crosses of our daily lives may lead us to the glory of transfiguration and resurrection. May God bless all of our good works and our Lenten observances, that they may not be just spiritually beneficial to us, but also that they may become great inspirations for our fellow brothers and sisters, to follow us together in our journey towards God and His salvation.