The Transfiguration of Jesus was a short, glorious moment of ecstasy, of witnessing the divinity of Jesus. It was like seeing God face-to-face, an experience feared by the Jewish people for they believe that the joy of seeing God can be so powerful that it can kill them. Alas, that momentary glimpse of Jesus’ glory did not wipe out Peter, James, and John. In fact, it was so exhilarating that Peter wanted to extend it by wishing to remain on the mountain of the Transfiguration permanently. He wanted to build three tents there, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah (cf. Mk 9:5). Peter wished to build eternity on the mountain, an idea repulsed by the evangelists because in God’s mysterious plan, the mountain of the Transfiguration was only meant for the Apostles, and us, to have a glimpse of the eternity that we could hope for amidst the stinging pains of life’s travails.
That short experience of Jesus’ glorious appearance is necessary to sustain the Apostles during moments of extreme grief and confusion. About a week before this event, Jesus predicted his passion and death, and shortly after, he again predicted his being “handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death, he will rise” (Mk 9:31). These predictions of Jesus’ passion and death, were eventually fulfilled. The Apostles were caught in a situation which overwhelmed them with fear of being subjected to the same torments, with grief at seeing the Sacrifice: The Only Path To Lasting Glory person who taught them love by loving them suffer immensely, with confusion as their faith was torn by the tug-of-war taking place in their consciousness between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. They were faced with the question: Can God die so helplessly on the Cross? They needed the Transfiguration so that in the midst of all these turbulent moments they would continue to believe, to hope, and to love, because God, whom they saw vividly on the mountain with dazzling white clothes, but who is now naked on the Cross is more powerful than all the lies, the plotting, the jeers, and all the pains that Jesus had to go through.
This is wonderfully expressed in Paul’s letter to the Romans where he said, “If God is for us, who can be against us? What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?” (Rm 8:31-34). The Transfiguration gave the Apostles—and us—assurance that Jesus’ Passion and Death will ultimately lead to his glorification. In the dynamics of the Passion and the Transfiguration, there is one more thing that the Apostles—and we—need to realize: sacrifice is the only path to lasting glory. Hard work is the only way to enduring success.
Abraham became aware of this in the First Reading. He was ready to sacrifice, to kill his own son. He trusted in the powerful but loving God who can generate something euphoric, something beautiful from his demand for a father to murder his own son. However, having ascertained Abraham’s willingness to let go of his self-centeredness, God did not only spare Abraham’s son but also made promises of an abundant life for him (cf. Gn 22:1-18). We all experience moments of extreme grief and confusion, pain and suffering. During those moments, we just have to climb our own mountain of Transfiguration and realize that all our trials will eventually lead to glory if we embrace them with the selflessness of Abraham and with the faith that God is one with us in all our struggles. And if we are blessed with a good life, we still need to voluntarily sacrifice for our needy brothers and sisters, fully aware that sacrifice is a way of conquering our selfishness, a means of becoming close to God and is the only path to lasting glory.
Author: Fr. Virgilio Ojoy, OP
Adapted from Sambuhay Online (published with permission)
More Lenten Reflections
Gospel Readings Second Sunday of Lent – Cycle B
First Reading [Gn 22:1-2, 9a,10-13, 15-18]
A reading from the Book of Genesis.
GOD put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” he replied. Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.” When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the Lord’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son. Again the Lord’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing— all this because you obeyed my command.”
Second Reading (Rom 8:31b-34)
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans
BROTHERS AND SISTERS: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised—who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
Gospel (Mk 9:2-10)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
JESUS took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.