Jesus went up on the mountain to pray and was transfigured.
Who is Jesus Christ for us today? That was the question asked by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor who was executed for his resistance to Hitler just weeks before the war ended. It is the same question that Jesus asked Peter: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Peter’s answer was spontaneous: “You are the Messiah” (Luke 9: 18, 20).
Today’s Gospel locates Jesus at the centre of salvation history, between Moses who was and Elijah who was to come. A voice from the cloud says: “This is my beloved Son, my Chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9:35). It is a crucial moment for Jesus and his followers. They had expected a powerful Messiah who would bring liberation to the people of Israel. Instead, just prior to the transfiguration, Jesus foretold his death and resurrection: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, be rejected….and killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:21).
Lent is a time when we willingly allow ourselves to be stripped of what is routine and familiar: we fast, and search for ways that our sacrifice may bring nourishment to others; we pray, and await God’s word in the silence of our hearts; we give alms, and begin to understand that our possessions and our very selves belong to others. We are called to bear one another’s burdens.
“Stand firm in God in this way, my Beloved,” Paul writes from prison to his “brothers and sisters whom I love and long for, my joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1)
Lent is a time when we are invited, like Abraham and Sarah, to hope against hope. We had expected our lives to turn out one way; it didn’t happen. We had hoped for a powerful Messiah who would bring liberation to the people of Israel; instead, we are presented with a suffering servant who bears our iniquity and is acquainted with our grief. We thought we were prepared for the journey and could see the end; instead, we are told: “When the days draw near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)
But we are not alone, even when we are alone. From his prison cell Bonhoeffer writes: “Who am I?” and after reviewing many answers to his question, he says, “You know, Lord, I am yours.”
On the mountain, Peter forgot what being a disciple really meant. Earlier, after the Caesarea Phiippi experience, Jesus told him “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt 26:24) However, Peter wasn’t buying into this. Later, when he found himself in this awesome experience, with a radiant, transfigured Christ, Peter’s reaction to this new revelation was, “Let’s stay in this experience – ‘I will make three tents’…” (Matt 17:4). Peter was doing the talking and planning again.
And then God’s voice was heard. “This is my beloved Son … listen to him”. (Matt.17:5)
As we listen to Jesus this Lent, let us remember that each encounter with the Lord calls us to a new relationship and renewed discipleship. Our Provident God gives us what we need, then sends us out on our journey, down the mountain to feed others.
This Lent, which we observe admist blood and sorrow, ought to presage a transfiguration of our people, a resurrection of our nation….. For those who eat well, Lent is a call to austerity, a call to give away in order to share with those in need. But in poor lands, in homes where there is hunger, Lent should be observed in order to give to the sacrifice that is everyday life the meaning of the cross. But it should not be out of a mistaken sense of resignation. God does not wnt that. Rather, feeling in one’s own flesh the consequence of sin and injustiice, one is stimulated to work for social justice and a genuine love for the poor. Our Lent should awaken a sense of social justice.” – Archbishop Oscar Romero
1. Recall a “mountaintop experience of the Lord” from your own life.
2. Do I give myself the space and time to listen to God’s voice?
3. Who is Jesus Christ for me?