2nd Sunday of Lent
For me, two lines stand out in St Luke’s account of the Transfiguration. The first is ‘Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep’. This instantly reminds me of another time, following this event, when Peter, James and John are found sleeping by Jesus; in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Transfiguration and Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane are very much linked and not just because Peter, James and John were found to be sleeping during both events. For Peter, James and John, Jesus’ closest disciples, the glory of the Transfiguration is to be a time of preparation for the horror of the garden. Archbishop Fulton Sheen puts it very well: ‘To believe in his Calvary, they must see the glory that shone beyond the scandal of the Cross’.
In the Transfiguration scene, the disciples waken to see the brilliant glory of Jesus, as the Son of God, manifested before them and the Old Testament figures of Moses, representing the law, and Eli’jah, representing the prophets, speaking with the Son of God who gave the law and sent the prophets. When the disciples waken in the garden, the same Jesus who now stands before them is completely stripped of the light of glory and instead is suffering immensely under the weight of the sins of humanity. I can only imagine what a shock it must have been for the disciples to see Jesus so disfigured by suffering after previously seeing him so radiant in glory during the Transfiguration. But it was precisely this suffering, Christ’s passion and death, that Moses and Eli’jah were speaking to Jesus about during the Transfiguration. Luke refers to this as Jesus’ ‘departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem’. During the Transfiguration, both Jesus and his closest disciples are being prepared for the impending horror of Christ’s passion and death.
The second line which stands out for me, and again reminds me of an earlier scene at the start of Jesus’ ministry, is ‘And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”‘ This is very reminiscent of God the Father’s earlier confirmation of the divinity of Jesus during his baptism when ‘a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”‘. (Lk 3:22) Once again God the Father has directly intervened to reaffirm the divinity of Jesus, confirm his Heavenly mission, and to strengthen the faith of the disciples, which was to be sorely tested during Jesus’ passion.
Faith is first and foremost a gift from God but it is also something which has to be constantly nourished by prayer. Jesus was very conscious of this and He showed the importance of prayer by spending so much time in prayer to his heavenly Father. The Transfiguration scene happened precisely while he was praying and because of it, his disciples came to know Jesus better through this amazing encounter with him. This is the power that prayer has. It helps us to come closer to Jesus and to know and love him more. In every moment of prayer, God has something to say to us. He wants us to learn more and more about him but if we refuse to go up the mountain to pray, we won’t be able to hear him. May this time of Lent be a time where we make more time each day for prayer, for a heartfelt conversation with Christ, so that our faith is strengthened and we can come to know and love Jesus more and hear what He wishes to say to us.
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white.
And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli’jah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli’jah” — not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
-Luke 9: 28-36