2nd Sunday of Lent

In today’s Gospel, we hear about the Lord’s Transfiguration.  It might seem like a strange Gospel to have on the Second Sunday of Lent, but the Church gives us this reading at this time for a purpose.  In the Gospel we hear that Our Lord took three of His disciples (Peter, James and John) with Him up a mountain and there He was miraculously transformed before them and His glory was revealed to them.  What in the world does that have to do with our forty days of fasting in preparation for Easter?

It often helps to know the larger context that surrounds a Gospel passage: immediately preceding this event, the Lord had just begun to predict that He would be put to a shameful and cruel death.  The Transfiguration is meant to reassure His disciples and strengthen their faith.  The very same disciples who were with Jesus on the Mountain during the Transfiguration (Peter, James and John) were the same disciples that would be with the Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, as He prayed in agony shortly before His crucifixion and death.  These disciples were prepared and strengthened by this vision of the Lord’s glory and their faith was re-affirmed by the Father’s voice.

While Our Lord was transfigured before them, they also saw Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus.  Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets, or in other words: the Old Covenant.  The fact that Moses and Elijah appeared and were conversing with Jesus shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises of redemption contained within the Old Testament.  All of the Old Testament pointed forward to the coming of the Savior: Jesus Christ.

The Gospel then tells us that Moses and Elijah were speaking with Jesus about His approaching “exodus” at Jerusalem.  The exodus in the Old Testament was when God miraculously freed the people from their slavery in Egypt and we now know that it foreshadowed what Jesus would do for the entire human race.  When the Gospel says that Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about His “exodus” they were talking about the accomplishment of a new freedom miraculously won for the people by God.  Through His death and Resurrection, Jesus freed the entire human race from slavery to sin.  All of the Old Testament was looking forward toward a Savior who would come and redeem the world.  Jesus is that Redeemer: He conquered sin and death: He has won the victory for us; we only have to accept that gift and faithfully follow Him.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord also teaches us something about our own personal spiritual lives.  I am sure that we have all had some experience in which we were particularly aware of God’s hand at work in our lives.  God is always at work, if we have eyes that are open to see.  Whenever we have those experiences of God’s grace at work in our lives, those moments are meant to encourage us both at the time of the experience and in the struggles and difficulties in the future.  We should thank God for experiences of His grace and we should call them to mind, especially when we are experiencing difficulties and struggles.  Those experiences of God’s grace can help carry us through the difficult times in our lives.  Whenever we are feeling disconnected from God or whenever we are struggling and finding life burdensome, it is good to call to mind those times when we have experienced God’s love and His mercy and His grace.  Those experiences can reaffirm our faith and can give us the strength that we need to bear our daily crosses.

The reason that the Gospel passage about the Transfiguration is given to us in this second week of Lent is precisely to encourage us and fortify us to continue our Lenten journey toward Easter.  The Transfiguration is a small reminder of what awaits us: the joy of the Resurrection that we celebrate at Easter, but also the glory that awaits us in Heaven.

The Transfiguration is a reminder that there is more than this life.  Our eternal destiny is to be forever with God in Heaven.  God wants us to enter into His glory and His joy.  But we have to be faithful to Him and carry our cross daily in imitation of Our Lord in order to attain to that joy and glory.  Saint Paul said it well in our second reading today: our citizenship is in Heaven.  We can so easily become preoccupied with the things of this earth and forget that we are not made to live in this world forever: we have a Heavenly homeland and we have to keep constant guard over our hearts lest we become too attached to this world.  We can live very well in this world, and yet we are only passing guests in this life.  This life is a testing ground: this life is a preparation for the next life.  This life is passing away; the next life will last forever.  Let us prepare ourselves well for the next life.  Let us bear our crosses patiently and stand firm in the Lord with our eyes fixed on the goal: Heaven.

Lord Jesus, may meditating upon Your Transfiguration fortify us to persevere in our Lenten practices.  May our self-denial and penance help us to detach our hearts from the things of this world and prepare us for the everlasting joy and glory of Heaven.  Amen.