Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - February 28, 2021
Every year, on the Second Sunday of Lent, the Church proclaims the Transfiguration of Jesus. Peter, James, and John witness the transfigured Jesus, whose dazzling white clothes describe the radiance of divine presence and glory. Two distinguished figures of the First Covenant, Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the great prophet, meet and converse with Jesus. The law and prophecies of the old are coming to fulfillment in the new covenant brought about by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. The cloud’s overshadowing them and voice from the cloud declaring, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him,” is a sign of God’s presence in a theophany.
Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that "the scene repeats that of Jesus’ Baptism (celebrated last month), in which the Father himself, speaking out of the cloud, had proclaimed Jesus as Son: 'You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased'… [Now, however] the solemn proclamation of Sonship… is followed by the command, 'Listen to him.' Jesus himself has become the divine Word of revelation. The Gospels could not illustrate it any more clearly or powerfully: Jesus himself is the Torah. This one command brings the theophany to its conclusion and sums up its deepest meaning. The disciples must accompany Jesus back down the mountain and learn ever anew to 'listen to him.'" (Jesus of Nazareth, 316)
Significantly, the Gospel of Mark tells us that the Transfiguration immediately followed Jesus’ first prediction of his passion, his rejection of Peter’s misguided efforts to resist and protect Jesus from suffering, and Jesus’ description of discipleship in terms of embracing suffering, denying themselves, taking up their crosses to follow after him, and losing their lives for his sake.
While the disciples in Mark’s Gospel will continue to display confusion and fear about Jesus’ identity and mission, the evangelist presents the Transfiguration as God’s way of offering hope to Jesus’ followers as they experience opposition and Jesus’ passion and death. Like Abraham, in the First Reading, they will need to be steadfast in their faith, boldly believing and trusting in God’s promise even in the most threatening of moments.
Disciples need to keep their focus on Jesus, the beloved Son of God. They need to “listen to him” and, in this way, discern God’s direction and purpose in their lives, even in the face of struggle, persecution, and death. Saint Paul confirms this today when he tells the Romans that God is on our side. Not only did God not hesitate to put everything on the line for us by sending his own Son, but also God will give us everything else along with him. In the face of any charge or condemnation against God’s chosen ones, we are to rely on Christ Jesus, who died, who was raised, and who is at the right hand of God interceding for us.
The account of the transfiguration coupled with the other readings this Sunday leads us to our course of action as disciples of Jesus Christ. We will want to continue to trustingly place our lives and our future in the hands of a God who reveals his presence and glory in the person of his Son. When we struggle to accept or understand the challenges of following our Lord, may he help us to persevere in trust, hope, and courage. May our focus on His beloved Son strengthen our openness to listening to him and following him in these coming days of Lent.