2nd Sunday of Lent, March 17, 2019
Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27 1-14; Philippians 3: 17-4:1; Luke 9: 28-36
Our Gospel today is one of those passages that you need a key to open. By that, I mean that it is written in symbols, a kind of Biblical code. Let’s go thru it, piece by piece.
“They went up the mountain to pray” –In the Old Testament, if God is in the sky (the “heavens”), then the higher you go up, the closer you are to God. In the scriptures, people often receive revelations from God on mountains. Moses was given the Ten Commandments on a mountain; Elijah talked with God on a mountain.
“Jesus face changed and his clothing became dazzling white” – Jesus is portrayed in Luke as the New Moses. Remember that Moses’ face glowed after he came down the mountain with the tablets. Now Jesus is radiant. But, Moses just reflected God’s glory/light. But Jesus actually radiates light; not reflecting God but he himself was the source of the light, just as God is. Also, remember that people with nothing but candles for light treasured light beyond our imagination.
“Moses and Elijah…appear.”- Moses represents the Law, while Elijah was a prophet who brought God’s words to the people- together they brought what was know about God. They “spoke of the exodus Jesus would accomplish in Jerusalem.”- It is important to know that the transfiguration occurred immediately after Jesus’ 1st prediction of his death and rising to the apostles. Moses and Elijah discuss it as a planned event. It is an “exodus” in the sense that Jesus leads us, just as Moses led the Israelites from “slavery and bondage” to “newness of freedom”. Only we experience slavery as things like addictions and materialism.
“Peter, James & John had been overcome by sleep.” – I have a granddaughter who, when she was little, would fall sleep whenever curtain girl and her mother would visit. The girl was loud and rough and having her visit totally overwhelmed my shy, gentle granddaughter. The apostles were overwhelmed, understandably unable to make sense of the scene in front of them. Is it a dream? A hallucination? Had they lost their minds?mountai What is happening; what’s it mean?
“Peter suggests making tents and staying here” – but he misses the point; he’s so like…us. Later, after the resurrection, he will grasp the meaning of this experience and understand who Jesus is and what he has done. Also, later Peter will have the Words that Jesus spoke and find that the Word is the same as the Jesus’ presence in a body or in a cloud. He will always have Jesus with him.
“A cloud came and cast a shadow” – another reference to Moses. A cloud covered tabernacle tent of the Israelites and filled it, and it was the presence of God.
“This is my chosen Son, listen to him.” – God is telling the apostles to listen to what? To the prediction of the crucifixion and resurrection. Now it has been spoken by Jesus & witnessed by Moses, Elijah, and God. The apostles have seen the Godly radiance of Jesus, and entered the cloud that was God. Hearing, sight and touch have declared the truth of Jesus to them. Their silence will end when they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and they will spend the rest of their lives teaching and testifying about Jesus to the ends of the earth. Luke writes this to teach us what the apostles learned, and wants our reaction to be the same as theirs.
This passage is read during Lent to remind us of some things. While we don’t need to climb a mountain to pray, we do need space and time set aside for prayer. Prayer is often when God reveals things to us. We need to pray every bit as much as to sleep or to eat. God gives us to revelations as we read scripture or hear things as we listen to religious programs, movies or lectures. We can touch rosary beads or a pocket cross, or other religious articles. But Jesus is always with us, and learning to see or hear or touch him is necessary. We must take the time to open ourselves to him.
I would like to hold up for you today St. Patrick, for today is his memorial. We have a short spiritual autobiography he wrote, the Confessio. From this we have some facts, while many of the popular traditions about the snakes and the shamrocks may be legend.
St. Patrick was kidnapped as a slave by Irish raiders in Britain when he was 16, and held as a slave for 6 long, hard years. He chose to rely on his faith to get him through that. By a dream, he was shown the way to escape, nearly starving to death before getting back to his family.
He then studied under St. Germanus, who consecrated him later as a Bishop. Again he had a dream, and was literally called to return to Ireland. For a long time, he struggled with that call. He felt he was not up to the task, not worthy and certainly scared. But once he went, he was very successful teaching the faith, baptizing and confirming the native Picts of Ireland as well as the Anglo-Saxons.
Which is not to say that he was safe all the time. He wrote that he lived in constant danger of martyrdom. Daily he expected to be violently killed or enslaved by the non-Christian Irish. He had to endure charges by British Clergy who claimed he wanted to be a Bishop only to inflate his pride. In fact, his writings prove him to be a most humble-minded man, continuously giving thanks to God for sending him to the same people who had enslaved him as a boy.
His Latin was poor, and it took much effort to translate his book and to align what he wrote with known history. But his writing shows a man of truth and simplicity of the rarest quality. He bared his soul in an unusually frank and honest way. Even D.A. Binchy, a scholar who is one of Patrick’s most severe critics, wrote, “The moral and spiritual greatness of the man shines through every stumbling sentence.”
So we come full circle to a Saint who also “shines” with the glory of God. He, like the apostles, after a period of fear and reluctance, took the Word of God to people, exposing themselves to harm and violence. They all cultivated their deep relationship with God and clung to their faith as a way to sustain their lives, and changed the history of the world as a result. When they might have slept safely at home, they awoke and followed God’s call.
We tell the stories of transfiguration and of Saints not only to learn how to follow Jesus, but to question our own lives. Are our lives a time of sleep to avoid the truth and trials we are meant to face? Do we miss the meaning of what we see? Do we focus on our troubles or do we focus on God when we are troubled? Do we really listen to God? Do we love our enemies? God “frees” us in the most unusual ways to do things we would have never considered otherwise. Peter had one thing right – “It is good that we are here.” Where you are supposed to be?