Second Sunday of Lent, Cycle A – Modern
Matthew 17 1 – 9
Mountains play a significant part in the Bible. Noah’s Ark on Mount Arafat, Moses on Mount Sinai, and Jerusalem is on Mount Zion. Matthew has numerous references to Mountains, from the devil tempting Jesus atop a mountain for the last of the temptations in the desert, to the Risen Lord summoning the apostles to a mountain in Galilee where commissions them to go out to all nations and Baptize.
The Transfiguration takes place on a mountaintop where Jesus takes Peter (the Rock), John (the Beloved), and James (the brother of John). Jesus is transfigured before them and his face “shone like the Sun.” He is joined by Moses and Elijah. We are not privy to the conversation that the Lawgiver, the Prophet and the Redeemer had, but we can speculate that the long awaited time of redemption and the establishment of a new covenant were part of the conversation.
Next we are told a cloud appears casting a shadow on them, and they hear the voice of the Father, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” This is almost the same message the Father spoke at the time of Jesus’ Baptism by John, except this time the Father not only confirms that Jesus is His beloved Son, but instructs the three apostles to “listen to him.”
What would it have been like to be with Jesus on the mountain that day? The three apostles were present for this experience and they all shared in the same reactions. First, when they saw the Transfigured Lord meeting with Moses and Elijah, they were in awe. There are times in our lives when we are in awe of what we are experiencing. Whether it be a deep mystical moment during prayer, or the deep inexplicable joy of hold a new born baby, or maybe we hear something in the Scriptures, or conversation, or a favorite song, and we sense that God is present in a special way to us. These are experiences we embrace and cherish as though the Lord, if just for a brief moment, has invited us away from our regular world to a deeper experience of his presence within us.
The apostle’s experience of changed from awe to fear when a bright cloud overshadowed them and they heard the voice of the Father. Maybe the presence of the Father was more than they thought they could deal with, especially when the voice says to them, “listen to him.” Are there times when we look at God and become overwhelmed? Afraid of what will come next we ask the questions, “Why,” and “How much more can I take?.” We seem to be entering into a fear that can paralyze our relationship with the Lord, and we don’t know how to move out of it.
“Rise, and do not be afraid.” These words of Jesus to the apostles was all they needed to rise from the ground and to rise from their fear, and to walk with Jesus down the mountain filled with peace. In the midst of our deepest and darkest moments of fear, Jesus is with us. He calls us with the refrains that he repeats throughout the Gospels, “Do not be afraid,” and, “Peace be with you.” For Jesus, these are not just nice words, for he is, the Prince of Peace. He desires his peace enter into us to take away fear and to give us comfort.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.