HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
TOPIC: RENEWAL AND CONVERSION
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mk 9:2-10
Message # 329: “Climb the Mountain”
1. The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother invites us all to “Climb the Mountain,” obviously referring to Mount Tabor where Jesus had his Transfiguration. But she is not talking about a physical mountain, but “the mountain of my peace”, the “mountain of salvation and of prayer, of purity and of holiness, of docility and of meekness, of humility, of littleness and of your ever more perfect charity” (letter a). These are the virtues necessary for genuine holiness of life. It is like climbing a mountain because these are not easy to practice and live, and this is a ceaseless lifelong endeavor.
b) Putting into practice all these virtues will surely lead to our “personal transfiguration” as we conform ourselves to the “divine humanity of my Son, Jesus” (letter b). It is not impossible to follow and imitate Jesus because he is also human like us in all things, except sin. And this has been proven time and again in the example of the saints. If they were able to do it, so also we can. Our transfiguration should be towards an ever-increasing likeness of Jesus.
c) In this struggle for our personal transfiguration , we “will also feel the extraordinary presence and action” of the Blessed Mother (letter c). Indeed, we should always remember the motto: “Ad Jesum per Mariam” (To Jesus through Mary.) She will always lead us to her Son Jesus. She will help us transform ourselves into his likeness.
d) But she also reminds us of the necessity of suffering “the painful moments of the cross and of martyrdom” (letter d). The final stage of our conformity to Jesus is our total self-sacrifice. Then we will truly become witnesses of Jesus, the powerful “rays of light…to reach every part of the world, in order to cast light upon the dark moments through which you are already about to live.”
2. The Sunday Gospel
a) The Gospel for this 2nd Sunday of Lent is about the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor. With him were Peter, James and John. These three were also his companions on the Mount of Olives during his agony in the garden (Mk 14:33). We will notice in all the Gospels that these three are the usual companions of Jesus in the major events in his ministry. Evidently, among the Twelve, they are the leaders. So they have to be prepared well. The Transfiguration event prepared them for the scandal of the cross. They were allowed a glimpse of the glory of Jesus so that when the ignominy of the cross comes, they will be ready to face it.
b) Mount Tabor – this is not a very high mountain, but has played a very significant role in the life of Israel. It looks very lofty, but this is because its surrounding environs are vast plains. And the Israelites have used it as a formidable fortress and strategic watchtower. They have easily repelled all enemy attacks, because atop this mountain, they could see the advancing enemy troops from far distances and fight against them from a position of advantage. Many important events in the life of Jesus took place on the mountain: the mountain of the temptation; the mountain of his great preaching (Sermon on the Mount); the mountain of his prayer; the mountain of the Transfiguration; the mountain of his agony; the mountain of the cross; and the mountain of the Risen Lord before he ascended into heaven where he declared: “All power in heaven and on earth is given to me” (Mt 28:18). The mountain has been a symbol of man’s desire to encounter God. In biblical tradition, it acquired the connotation of being the presence of God. Even our spiritual life is likened to an ascent of a mountain. Our growth in holiness is like climbing a mountain: a difficult and arduous struggle, and it has to be continuous; stopping in the middle of the ascent will surely lead to downward slide. That is why Jesus said: “Be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.” It is a lifetime struggle and endeavor to reach the peak, that is, perfect union with God.
c) Jesus went up the mountain to pray. It was in this context and environment that the Transfiguration took place. In prayer, one becomes united with God. That is precisely what happened to Jesus. Pope Benedict XVI said: “The transfiguration is a prayer event; it displays visibly what happens when Jesus talks with his Father: the profound interpenetration of his being with God, which then becomes pure light. In his oneness with the Father, Jesus is himself “light from light” (“Jesus of Nazareth” p. 310). At this point, we may cite the experience of Moses and compare it to the Transfiguration event. “Because Moses has been talking with God, God’s light streams upon him and makes him radiant. But the light that causes him to shine comes upon him from the outside, so to speak. Jesus, however, shines from within; he does not simply receive light, but he himself is light from light” (“Jesus of Nazareth” p. 310).
d) The garment of Jesus also changed in appearance: “his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” Again, the Pope adds: “In apocalyptic literature, white garments are an expression of heavenly beings – the garment of the angels and of the elect. In this vein the Apocalypse of John – the Book of Revelation – speaks of the white garments that are worn by those who have been saved (Rev 7:9, 13; 19:14). But it also tells us something new: The garments of the elect are white because they have washed them in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14); this means that through Baptism they have been united with Jesus’ Passion, and his Passion is the purification that restores to us the original garment lost through our sin (Lk 15:22). Through Baptism we are clothed with Jesus in light and we ourselves become light” (“Jesus of Nazareth” pp. 310-311).
This truth is being expressed during the baptismal ceremony. After anointing with Chrism, the newly baptized person is clothed with a white garment. Unfortunately, the symbolism and meaning of this ceremony are oftentimes obscured by the fact that the parents bring in the child already dressed in white. What is done usually is just the putting on of a white cap or white handkerchief, which the irritated baby would soon grab and throw away. But the meaning is profound: in Baptism, we are made clean, and we are transfigured into the likeness of Jesus.
e) The appearance of Moses and Elijah confirms the truth about Jesus as the Messiah. Moses represents the Law (Torah), and Elijah represents the Prophets. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. St. Luke mentioned about the topic of their conversation with Jesus: They “appeared in glory and spoke of his departure (his exodus), which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Lk 9:31). And Pope Benedict XVI said: “This is a clear statement that the Law and the Prophets are fundamentally about the ‘hope of Israel’, the Exodus that brings definitive liberation; but the content of this hope is the suffering Son of Man and Servant of God, who by his suffering opens the door into freedom and renewal” (p. 311).
f) “Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice: ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’” The holy cloud (shekinah) is the sign of the presence of God Himself. This has been repeatedly illustrated in the journey of the Israelites in the desert to the Promised Land. The cloud hovering over the Tent of Meeting indicated that God is present. The voice of the Father was heard from the cloud. The first sentence is declarative: “This is my beloved Son.” These are exactly the same words heard during the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. The second is imperative: “Listen to him.” It has two purposes. First, it categorically reveals that Jesus himself is the Torah, “the divine Word of revelation.” He is the Word-made-flesh. God now speaks, not anymore through other human instruments, but through His own Son Jesus. This has been attested to by the appearance of both Moses and Elijah. Second, this is a command by God to the disciples. They have to listen to Jesus. There have been many teachings by Jesus that were very difficult to believe, mostly due to their lack of faith, but principally because they have not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, whether they understand or not, they have to listen to Jesus. That is the command of the heavenly Father.
During these times when we hear so many voices and teachings, mostly from false prophets, these words should shake us and move us to renew our fidelity and commitment to the words of Jesus. If a teaching is not according to the teaching of Jesus, we should reject it right away, even if the one teaching is a priest or a bishop. What truly matters is the teaching of Jesus, and no one else. It is, therefore, necessary for us to study the teachings of Jesus in order for us to recognize and reject erroneous teachings.
g) Peter was in a mixed state of fear and ecstatic joy, simply because of this experience of being so close to God. It is the belief of the Jews that anyone who sees God will surely die. That is the fear of Peter and the other disciples. But he just cannot resist the overwhelming joy. And he said: “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” The mention of the tents is understandable since the Transfiguration took place on the last day of the week-long celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (the feast which recalls the presence of God among His people in the Meeting Tent). Peter and the disciples desired that the experience would last long. But they had to go down the mountain. Jesus still had to undergo his passion and death before he wins the crown of eternal glory. His followers must also realize that the only way to victory and glory is the way of cross.
Pope John Paul II said: “The transfiguration is not only the revelation of Christ’s glory, but also a preparation for facing Christ’s cross. It involves both ‘going up the mountain’ and ‘coming down the mountain.’ The disciples who have enjoyed this intimacy with the Master, surrounded for a moment by the splendor of the Trinitarian life… are invited to return to the valley, to share with Jesus the toil of God’s plan and to set off courageously on the way of the cross” (Vita Consecrata, no. 14).
h) The Transfiguration should give us inspiration and hope. Everyday we encounter problems, difficulties and trials in life. But in the midst of all these, we are reminded that the Lord we are following is a victorious Lord, the beloved Son of the Father. All our troubles in this world are transitory. Our final destiny is glory, victory and eternal happiness. It is like reading a novel in which the happy ending is already known to us. No matter how difficult are the problems that the main characters in the novel encounter, we are not discouraged because we know the story will have a happy ending. As we always say, “All is well that ends well!” The same is true with our life as Christians. We know that with Jesus our happy ending is certain. So, St. Paul said: “The sufferings of the present are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). Sufferings are part of our life, especially as we closely follow the Crucified Lord. But these are the key to our final victory and glory.
Song: “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
1. Sa loob ng 24-oras, ilang minuto ang iyong inilalaan para sa pananalangin? Ikumpara mo ito sa oras ng panonood ng telebisyon. Alin, samakatuwid, ang mas mahalaga sa buhay mo: ang Diyos o ang telebisyon?
2. Sa pagpasok ng panahon ng Kuwaresma, ano ang iyong mga gagawin na makakatulong sa iyong pagtulad kay Kristo? Paano mong mahihikayat ang iyong mga kapitbahay na dumulog sa sakramento ng Kumpisal ngayong Panahon ng Kuwaresma?