Sunday Scripture: The triumph of the Transfiguration
March 2, 2012
By Timothy P. Schehr
Second Sunday of Easter: Genesis 22:1-18; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10
The Second Sunday of Lent takes us to the mountain of Transfiguration. From this high vantage point we see look beyond the self-denial of Lent to the great feast of Easter and its victory over death.
Jesus leads three apostles up a high mountain where they see Him enveloped in glory. With the end of His earthly ministry fast approaching, perhaps Jesus intended this experience to carry these apostles through the difficult days when He would be apart from them. The memory of His transfiguration might give them some degree of hope when all seemed lost.
Standing beside their Lord are two great spiritual heroes of the past: Elijah and Moses. However, for all their greatness, neither Moses nor Elijah could match what Jesus will accomplish. In fact, both Elijah and Moses showed signs of spiritual fatigue during their service to God.
Elijah insisted he was the only loyal person left in all Israel. God had to remind him there were still thousands of loyal Israelites in the land (1 Kings 19:14-18). Moses denounced the people as rebels when in fact God favored the people and had instructed Moses to give them water to drink (Nm 20:2-9). Mark tells us Moses and Elijah were “conversing” with Jesus. Mark does not tell us the subject of their conversation. It may very well have been how much more perfectly Jesus was going to serve His Father in heaven than they did.
Peter always seems ready to do the talking among the disciples. Already he had taken Jesus aside to rebuke Him for speaking about His eventual death (Mark 8:32). And later Peter will be the first to point out that he and his fellow apostles have given up everything to follow Jesus (Mark 10:28). Now Peter declares how fortunate it is that he and the others are there. He proposes erecting three tents, one for Jesus, one for Elijah, and one for Moses. He seems anxious to honor the three of them in some way so awestruck is he at what he was seeing.
If Peter was suggesting that Jesus and the other two should be equally honored, he was certainly mistaken. The cloud of God’s presence overshadows them and without delay they hear that Jesus is God’s beloved Son and He is the one they should be listening to. With that announcement Elijah and Moss are seen no more.
As they come down from the mountain, Jesus charges them not to speak about what they saw to anyone. They must wait until He has risen from the dead. It seems that only then will they be able to see the whole picture and understand that what they saw on the mountain was a preview of the Lord’s glorious triumph over death through His sacrifice on the cross.
Triumph over sacrifice and death is theme of the first reading too. Abraham is at last ready to demonstrate his complete trust in God’s promise that through Isaac he will become the father of many nations. Abraham is finally able to demonstrate unconditional faith. Everyone will find blessing in Abraham and the spiritual descendants who come after him.
The apostle Paul did not see the Transfiguration of the Lord but he certainly sounds like he did when he speaks with such enthusiasm about all that Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection. With Risen Lord interceding for us at the right of the Father “who can stand against us?”
Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.