2ND SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A 2020 (R. 1: Genesis 12: 1- 4a; Psalm 33: 4- 5, 18- 20, 22; R. 2: 2Timothy 1: 8b- 10; Gospel: Matthew 17: 1- 10)
– REVD FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
LISTEN TO HIM!
The doctor decided to tell the patient the truth about the results of his test. “Sir, at this point, I need to tell you the truth about your diagnosis and prognosis. Your results came out very bad, and I don’t think you have much time left. Now that you have just a short time to live, is there anyone you would like to talk to before you die?” The patient replied, “Yes, another doctor.”
The event in today’s Gospel passage is the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the fourth of the five luminous mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Christians have continued to reflect on the significance of this mystery. In a sermon he delivered on the Transfiguration of the Lord, St. John Chrysostom gave reasons for the appearance of Moses and Elijah to Jesus on the mountain. One reason he gave is that Moses and Elijah appeared to clear Jesus of the allegations of blasphemy and the transgression of the Law. Moses was the giver of the Law, and Elijah was zealous for the glory of the Lord to the extent that he murdered the four hundred fifty prophets of Baal. Since both of them appeared to Jesus without condemning him, it means that Jesus was on the right track. In case you are here, and you are a victim of false allegation, you are not alone, talk to Jesus about it, he has been there, and his Father who vindicated him through the presence of Moses and Elijah is watching.
Another reason for the Transfiguration is to show that Jesus has power over life and death. He showed his power over life and death by producing Moses, who had died and Elijah, who did not die but was taken up to heaven alive in a chariot of fire.
We can also have a better understanding of the Transfiguration by continuing our conversation from last Sunday. We said last Sunday that Jesus, like every human being, faced the questions of his identity and what to do with it. He got the answer from the voice that came from heaven at his baptism, identifying him as the beloved Son of God. In his search for the answer to what he was expected to do with his identity, he went into the wilderness to fast and pray, and the devil tempted him. Halfway into his public ministry, in the chapter before today’s Gospel passage, Jesus decided to check the pulse of his followers, to see how knowledgeable they were about his identity. In answer to the question, “Who do people say that I am?” his apostles answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist… Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” It was to clear this confusion of identity that Jesus summoned Moses along with Elijah, the chief of the prophets. He did this so that at least three of his followers (Peter, James, and John) may spot the difference between the servants (prophets) and their Lord.
Jesus then turned to the Apostles and asked, “But what about you, who do you say I am?” Peter got the perfect answer regarding the identity of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Even though Peter got the right answer regarding the identity of Jesus, shortly afterward, he showed that he did not know the implication of that identity. After commending Peter for the correct answer, Jesus then explained that he was going to Jerusalem, where he would suffer and die. Peter rebuked Jesus for bringing up such a “crazy” idea. Jesus, who had earlier praised Peter, said, “Get behind me, Satan!” Since Peter only knew part of the answer, Jesus decided in the next chapter to take Peter along with James and John to the mountain to assure them that his journey to Jerusalem was part of the implication of his identity as the beloved son of God and as the Messiah. Moses and Elijah were present to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets. So Moses and Elijah disappeared, and Jesus, who is their fulfillment, was left.
The voice came from heaven, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him, I am well pleased.” This voice came as a repeat of what happened at his Baptism at River Jordan. But there is a significant addition here, “Listen to him!” This addition is a special message to the apostles, especially to Peter, who was discouraging Jesus from the Cross. Jesus is more than the lawgiver and the prophet; Peter must take seriously all that Jesus is telling him. It is just like a teacher before exams telling her students, “Even if you forget every other thing I have taught you this semester, you must remember the following if you must pass your exams…” So, the voice warns the apostles to be attentive to whatever comes from Jesus.
The Transfiguration came as one last significant encouragement for Jesus and his apostles before Jesus entered Jerusalem for his passion. Two chapters ahead, Peter will ask Jesus, “What about those of us who have left everything and followed you?” Jesus will reply, “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age… and in the age to come.” The Transfiguration was meant to prepare Peter for this answer. When Peter saw a glimpse of the reward on the mountain, he forgot all he left behind, and he was not ready to go back. But he had to descend the mountain because the cross was the way to the full reward.
In our journey through life, we are called by God to give up something less noble for something nobler, something less important for something more important. In the first reading, God called Abraham to leave his land and kindred for a greater future. At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus also called the apostles to do the same. The season of Lent teaches us to do the same; to let go of our pride, our ego, our grudges, etc. and trust in the better replacement from God.
Like Jesus and the apostles, we might face discouragement along the way. I don’t know the aspect of despair you are facing now: maybe a voice suggesting that you are too old or too young to make it in life, or that you have tried more than enough. Do not give up! Remember that “It is never over until it is over,” and “Success is often closest when discouragement is greatest.” Above all, the Lord is your strength!