Year B: Second Sunday of Lent
The Transfiguration of Jesus
Mark 9: 2-10
After six days 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; then 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.
- Reflect on your past and share an experience where God broke through and you experienced a deeper seeing, or life “beyond the circumstance.” How did this lead to new action (transfigured/transformed moment) in you? Tell the story.
- God’s voice breaks through and commands us, “Listen to Him”. Listening is a spiritual practice. How are you present, open and receptive to what Jesus is saying? What is he saying to you?
- As he did with Peter, James and John, Jesus is always pointing us “down the mountain” toward the realities of life and true discipleship. How do you balance the comfort of worshipping Jesus for His sacrifices, with the difficult challenge of following in his footsteps? Explain.
- Lent is a time for bringing what is hidden in us to light. What are the places of contradiction, struggle and conflict in you right now? Could they be areas for repentance?
Sr. Mary M. McGlone CSJ
Just before Jesus took his three closest disciples up the mountain, he was speaking of the time when the Son of Man would come in glory, what many refer to as the Parousia. Then, six days later, just the amount of time it took God to create the world, Jesus went up the mountain with the three disciples.
In the context of this Sunday’s readings, we can’t help but hear of the climb up the mountain in connection with Abraham’s journey to “a height” God would show him as the place where his test would come to its climax. Like Abraham and Isaac, Jesus and the three were alone on the mountain where Jesus’ identity would be revealed to them in a new way.
The images in the story of the Transfiguration refer to the history of Israel. Elijah went to a mountain, presumably expecting to meet God in overwhelming majesty only to discover that God’s self-revelation came unpretentiously in the gentle breeze. Elijah appears in the Transfiguration representing the whole prophetic tradition of Israel, including God’s surprising appearance.
Moses went to the mountain to meet God and to receive the commandments and the story of the Transfiguration abounds with images from Exodus. Jesus’ dazzling clothing recalls how Moses’ face glowed after meeting with God. The cloud is a reminder of that symbol of God’s presence that led the people through their trek in the desert. Moses’ presence with Jesus and Elijah obviously fills out the summary of Israel’s faith: the law and the prophets. This scene on the mountain is narrated carefully to illustrate how it was the climax of salvation history: All that God had done through Moses and the prophets was coming to its fulfillment in Jesus.
As the disciples watch between terror and amazement, they hear a voice come from the cloud which confirms what a similar voice had proclaimed to Jesus at his baptism. This time the disciples hear the voice say, “This is my beloved Son,” and the added command, “Listen to him.”
The first half of that communication tells the disciples who Jesus is in relation to everything they know from their religious tradition. God had sent prophets, God had given the Law, and now, as Jesus would say in so many parables, God had sent his Son. The second half of the communication is the one command God gives disciples: Listen to him.
Just as the mountain where Abraham took Isaac was the place where his faith was tested and made real, Jesus is revealed on the mountain as God’s last word to humanity. Jesus is the one who brings the new covenant, God’s offer of life to the world. All God asks is that, like Abraham, we put our lives in God’s hands by saying,
“Here I am.”
Moments of Transfiguration
Fr. Michael K. Marsh
There are times in our lives when we look around and wonder, “Is this all there is?” Sometimes it’s just a passing question, other times it’s for a season. We look at our life, our circumstances, and we want more. There is a restlessness, a searching, and longing for something else. Some call it a mid-life crisis. It can make us do crazy things – this searching and seeking. We get a new job, a new car, a new relationship. Maybe we take up a new hobby, go on a trip, or work extra hours. But not much changes.
It is not about the circumstances of life. It’s about us. The restlessness, the desire for something more, generally means that we have been living life at the shallow end of the pool. Life and relationships have become superficial. We have been skimming across the surface. In some ways life at the surface is easier, more efficient, encouraged and rewarded by much of the world today. It fails, however, to see and experience that the world is already transfigured and creation is filled with the divine light.
Life on the surface keeps us judging the circumstances. We look at our circumstances as a picture. If it is pretty, pleasing, and shows us what we want to see then God is good, and life is as it should be. When we don’t see what we want then we often look for a new picture. The restless searching, the longing for more, the desire for meaning are not, however, usually answered by changed circumstances. The answer is found in depth, intimacy, and the vulnerability of the interior journey.
We do not need to see new things. We need to see the same old things with new eyes. We do not need to hear a different voice. We need to hear the same old voice with different ears. We do not need to escape the circumstances of our life. We need to be more fully present to those circumstances. When this happens, life is no longer lived at the surface. These are the transfigured moments, moments when the picture of our life has becomes a window into a new world and we come face to face with the glory of God.
Most of us, I think, seek God in the circumstances of life. We want God to show up, be present, and do something. This is the God who does. This is the God described in Mark’s gospel up to the point of today’s reading. We might think about this as the first part of the spiritual journey. It is the journey of discovering God in the circumstances. This is what the disciples have been doing.
They have seen Jesus cast out our demons, heal Peter’s mother-in-law and cure the sick of Capernaum. He’s cleansed the leper and made a withered hand new and strong. Paralytics now walk, the blind see, and thousands are fed. This is the God about whom people talk, the God that gets “likes” and “shares” on Facebook.
At some point we must, however, begin to discover the God who is beyond the circumstances. This is the God who is. This is the second part of the spiritual journey. Jesus is leading Peter, James and John, up the mountain to discover the God who is beyond circumstances. Here their pictures of life’s circumstances will become windows by which they move into the depths of God’s life, God’s light, and God’s love.
There on the mountain they saw Jesus “transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.” The cloud overshadowed them and the Father’s voice spoke of his beloved son. Peter wants to build dwelling places. He wants to frame Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. “It is good for us to be here,” he says. He wants to preserve it. He wants to take a picture.
Pictures, however, are static. On the Mount of Transfiguration our pictures of life’s circumstances become windows through which we step into a new world, a new way of seeing, a new way of hearing, and new way of being. That’s what happened for Peter, James, and John. Jesus did not suddenly light up and become something he was not. No, their eyes were healed and opened so they could see Jesus as he had always been. The voice in the cloud was not new. Their ears were opened and they heard the voice that has never ceased speaking from the beginning. The transfiguration is as much about them as it is Jesus. Whenever our picture of life’s circumstances becomes a window into new life we stand in a transfigured moment. Circumstances haven’t changed. We have changed and that seems to change everything.
Those transfigured moments are all around. Every one of us could tell a story about stepping back from the picture of our life, seeing with new eyes, listening with different ears, and discovering a window that opened into another world and another way of being.
Maybe it was the day you revealed to another person the secret you had carried for years. In telling the secret the picture of your life as one of guilt and shame became an open window through which you stepped. The darkness gave way to light, the chains fell off, and forgiveness overcame sin. I will never forget the day we buried our older son. We came home from the cemetery and I was lying on the bed. I could not see him, but he was present – a little boy being given a piggyback ride. I could not touch him, but I felt the warmth of his life, his weight on my back, and his right knee gouging my ribs as he bounced up and down. The picture of death and loss had become a window through I stepped into the mystery of life, hope, and resurrection. Think about the day you held your child for the very first time. Yes, it was a picture of a newborn, but it was also a window through which you stepped and were forever changed. You experienced a new vocation as a parent. You became a part of the mystery of creation. The Lord’s glory surely shone as much in your hands that day as it did on the mount of transfiguration 2000 years ago.
I remember speaking with a woman who was dying. Together we talked, laughed, cried, and sat in silence. She said she had had some “experiences.” She had visions and heard voices. “Is that real? Is it normal?” “Yes, absolutely.” The picture of her life as one of cancer, pain, and suffering had become an open window through which she stepped. She began to understand that in the midst of her cancer she was already being healed. “There is so much more going on than we usually see or know,” she said. The tears and fear are real but just as real is the voice that says to her, “Oh my daughter, my beloved, you are already ok.” Those windows are everywhere if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.
We often want to go back to those transfigured moments. We are tempted to build dwellings places for those moments. Booths, dwelling places, will only keep us in the past. To the extent we cling to the past we close ourselves to the future God offers. So, Jesus, Peter, James, and John came back down the mountain. They could not stay there but neither did they leave the mountain. They took it with them. It is what would carry them through the passion and crucifixion to the resurrection.
Transfigured moments change us, sustain us, prepare us, encourage us, and guide us into the future regardless of the circumstances we face. They show us who we are. We are the transfigured people of God. Open your eyes and see a transfigured world. Open your ears and hear the transfiguring voice. Open your heart and become a transfigured life.
Every picture of life is an open window that says, “No, this is not all there is.”
Fr. Michael K. Marsh
Interrupting the Silence
Icon of The Transfiguration, by Alexander Ainetdinov
The word “transfiguration,” translated from the Greek, μεταμορφοϖ, has both an exterior and an interior meaning. It suggests a change that is visible to others as well as an inward change of a fundamental character or condition. Both meanings are important to our understanding of theosis. You cannot have one without the other. Our exterior life manifests our interior condition and our interior condition orients and guides our exterior behavior. As one moves further along the journey toward theosis the interior change and growth should be manifest and visible to others by how we live, behave, and relate. If it is not one has to wonder whether growth and movement in the direction of theosis has really taken place.