We are in a period where there are so many uncertainties. Even though the vaccines for Covid-19 have arrived, yet there is a cloud of unknowing that envelopes us. The primary question in the minds of people are, how long will it take for us to be able to go out without masks and be able to visit out loved ones, near or far, and not having the fear of infecting a loved one or of being infected ourselves. If only we could have a glimpse of what is around the corner for us, life could certainly be more hopeful because it would tell us how to better prepare ourselves for that which is coming. None of us had a glimpse of this pandemic and when it hit us, we certainly were not prepared for the consequences.
In today’s Gospel, the apostles of Jesus, Peter, James, and John, have a momentary glimpse of what is “around the corner” – the glory of God the Father made manifest through Jesus Christ. In that theophany, they hear these words, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to Him” – similar words heard at the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan. Though just a brief sentence, these words express two important truths that will help direct us in this season of Lent. Firstly, God is now accessible though Jesus. At a time when God was considered distant and inaccessible to the ordinary person, in Jesus we see the concrete, human expression of the real person of God the Father. The more we know Jesus, the more we know the Father.
The Transfiguration in Mark’s Gospel is presented just after Jesus having told His disciples that “the Son of Man must suffer greatly… and be killed (Mark 8:31)”. Herein lies the second truth – the glory of God is going to be made manifest not through pomp and splendour, but through compassion and love demonstrated by offering His only Son on the cross that will save us all from sin and death. This will be the mystery of our faith, the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
All three synoptic gospels tell the story of the transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:3-13; Luke 9:28-36) – frequently a sign of the importance of an event from Jesus’ life for the early Christian community. Even though for the apostles and the early Christians the Transfiguration “revealed” to them who Jesus is, as we read this passage years later, this passage also reveals to us who God is – the God of Glory made visible to us through Jesus, His Son.
In His Transfiguration, we see an anticipation also of the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection. In all three accounts of the Transfiguration, Jesus instructed the disciples to keep secret what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Through His resurrection, the early Church understood the glimpse that had been given to the apostles on that high mountain.
Reading this gospel narrative in the season of Lent offers us an opportunity to look towards Christ as the beloved manifestation of the Father who calls us to conversion (metanoia) – to relinquish the darkness of sin and to embrace the bright light of glory that transfigures us into the image and likeness of God. Just as the event of the transfiguration was the “turning point” for the apostles to gradually understand that what awaits Jesus in Jerusalem is the passion, every season of Lent offers us a time to ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel’ – words that accompany the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday.
Change or conversion can be daunting and fearful because it involves a change of will and change of direction – an intentional turning away from sin and a turning to God through Christ. The very purpose that the Church calls us to conversion in this holy season is to bring us back into the right relationship with God. Whether we are good or bad, we need this reminder from time to time.
This is the very reason why Jesus came into our world, and it is the reason for which He died on the cross. Conversion is a process and until our lives are turned from sin to Christ, nothing else matters. As one spiritual author puts it, “conversion is the crying need of the soul”. May the transfigured Christ not only inspire us but grant us the grace this Lent to ‘turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel’.
Second Sunday of Lent (28 Feb 2021)