March 24, 2017, 12:16 pm
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Rise, and do not be afraid

JESUS took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

***

The gospel for the second Sunday of Lent always relates the Transfiguration of Jesus. The account of Jesus’ transfiguration is found in the synoptic gospels (Mt 17:1-9//Mk 9:2-8//Lk 9:28-36). But there is one significant difference among them: In Mark, Jesus is addressed by Peter as “Rabbi”; in Luke as “Master”; in Matthew as “Lord.” “Lord” is a postresurrectional title.

However, the immediate literary context in the three gospels is similar: the transfiguration is preceded by the first prediction of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus (Mt 16:21//Mk 8:31-33//Lk 9:22), followed by a saying on the coming of Elijah (Mt 17:9-13//Mk 9:9-13) and the healing of a boy with a demon (Mt 17:14-21//Mk 9:14-29//Lk 9:37-43). The immediate literary context highlights the message of the transfiguration of Jesus.

In the first prediction of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the disciples’ hope and expectation on Jesus as the one who can save them from Roman domination must have been shattered. How can Jesus save them when he has to undergo suffering? The transfiguration, in which Peter, James, and John witnessed the glory of Jesus (“his face shone like the sun and his clothes became dazzling white” (Mt 17:2)), gives the three apostles a foretaste of Jesus’ glorious resurrection. The experience must have been so “heavenly” that Peter said, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter’s use of the title “Lord” implies his experience of the risen Christ.

The voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him,” confirms the divinity of Jesus. However, “with whom I am well pleased,” which echoes the four servant songs in Isaiah (42:1-7; 49:1-6; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12), signifies that Jesus will fulfill his mission through suffering. Yet, they are to listen to him.

The ability to listen is an important attitude a disciple of the Lord must possess. We have an example of this in the person of Abram (later changed to Abraham in Gn 17:5), as narrated in the First Reading. The Lord commanded him to leave his land, relatives, and his father’s family and go to an unknown land. Abram listened to the voice and went as the Lord directed him (Gn 12:4a).

After the transfiguration, Jesus–with Peter, James, and John–comes down from the mountain. On the way, a man approaches Jesus and pleads to have pity on his son who suffers severely. They are back to the reality of suffering in the world. In the Second Reading, Paul advises Timothy to bear his share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God (2 Tm 1:8b). To be a disciple of Jesus makes us a sharer both of the privilege to be a herald of the Gospel as well as of the hardship that comes in carrying out the task. But Paul gives the assurance that God will give the strength to overcome the hardship.

With the psalmist let us pray, “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.”

***

– Sr. Miriam R. Alejandrino, OSB

– (March 12, 2017)
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