Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lent and Transfiguration

                                    2nd Sunday of Lent
                                    

Transfiguration
Stained Glass Window
Assumption Church
Fairfield, CT*


At one point in the gospels our Lord refers to someone, I believe it was Nicodemus, as a "true son of Abraham." It was probably the highest compliment our Lord ever gave to anyone for Abraham was the father of Israel, the people of God.

Later in the story, however, the Lord asks Abraham as a sign of faith to sacrifice his only son in much the same way as he had previously offered animals. Abraham obeyed but  just as his knife was set to strike, the Lord intervened and stopped him. Thank goodness! What would we think of a God who could allow a man to kill his own son?

Instead, we see in today's gospel that the Lord is going to sacrifice His own Son so that our sons and daughters might live. In todays’s gospel St. Mark gives us his account of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Just as the Temptation in the Desert has always been the subject of the first Sunday in Lent, the Transfiguration of our Lord has always been the subject of the second Sunday in Lent.
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Jesus is far along in His mission when the Transfiguration occurs. He has given the Sermon on the Mount, healed the sick, driven out devils, and raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. In Mark’s previous chapter Jesus had fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes. After this incredible miracle, He asks the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answers, "Thou art the Christ," after which our Lord reveals the mission of the Christ:

            The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief
            priests and Scribes, and be put to death, and after three days rise again."

After this startling announcement Mark records the Jesus led Peter, James and John up a high mountainoff by themselves. He was transfigured before them.

And his garments became shining, exceedingly white as snow, as no fuller on earth can whiten. And there appeared to them Elias with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.

Elias and Moses were two of the greatest figures in Jewish history.
                
Our reading says that Jesus was speaking with them of his "exodus" that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. The word "exodus" is full of meaning. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery to the promised land--Jesus was about to do the same for us. Older translations say that Jesus was speaking of "his death, which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem." 

Finally, a cloud envelops them and they hear a voice just as they did at the Baptism of the Lord  saying, "This is my beloved Son; hear Him." The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus are linked to the covenant that the Lord made with Abraham and his spiritual descendants. We are the true sons and daughters of Abraham when we hear the Word of the Lord and believe.

In today's second reading from the letter to the Philippians, Paul is telling us to be true to the covenant and conduct ourselves "according to the model you have in us." He knew that in his time as well as in ours, many "conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ."

            Their end is destruction.
            Their God is their stomach;
            their glory is in their "shame."
            Their minds are occupied with earthly things.

But for those who "stand firm in the Lord," they will receive a promise similar to the one made to Abraham:

            He will change our lowly body
            to conform with His glorified body...

When Jesus spoke of  his own crucifixion, he also told his disciples and us that we must also bear our cross.

            If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross         daily, and follow me. For he who would save his life will lose it; but he who loses          his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole   world, but ruin or lose himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of      him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory..."


This is why our little sacrifices during the forty days of Lent are so meaningful. They are a reminder that it is impossible to stand firm in the Lord without sacrifice of some kind.

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Reading 1. Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Reading II. Philippians 3:17-4:1
Gospel. Luke 9: 28b-36 (Transfiguration)

*Image by Melissa DeStefano

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