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The Second Sunday of Lent: the Mystery of Glory on the Far Side of Suffering

Today, high on a mountain, Jesus briefly draws back the veil of His humanity to reveal His bright glory to three of His amazed disciples.  Why did He think they needed this?

Gospel (Read Mk 9:2-10)

Today’s reading really requires attention to the context in which it appears (read Mk 8:31-9:1) to best understand it.  We see that when Jesus “began to teach [the apostles] that the Son of man must suffer many things” (8:31a), Peter rebuked Him.  Peter did not want to hear anything about a fate like this for Jesus, because suffering seemed to admit defeat and failure.  This brought forth a stern rebuke from Jesus:  “Get behind Me, Satan!  For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”  Jesus made it clear that Peter’s reaction to the fate that lay ahead for Him was earthbound.  Satan always seeks to convince us we can have what we want without suffering the pain of self-denial.  This kind of thinking presented such a threat to followers of Jesus that He turned to the whole multitude gathered there and said to them, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (8:34).  Sobering!  However, Jesus also gave His followers great hope.  He plainly told them, as St. Mark emphasizes, that in addition to His suffering and death, “after three days [He would] rise again” (see 8:31b).  He spoke of His life beyond death, “when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (see 8:38).  Finally, He made an astounding promise:  “Truly, truly I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (see 9:1).

Six days after this remarkable conversation, Jesus took three of His disciples, who would later become the pillars of His Church, “up a high mountain, apart by themselves.”  This meant His words had time to sink in. When Peter objected to the idea of Jesus suffering, He was rebuked for thinking as men do.  Now, Jesus led Peter, James, and John up, away from the world, for a spell.   He was going to show them an alternative to the earthbound way of thinking.

On top of the mountain, the disciples saw an extraordinary sight:  “[Jesus] was transfigured before them…His garments became glistening, intensely white.”  St. Matthew says in his Gospel that “His face shone like the sun” (see Mt 17:2).  The disciples had never seen Jesus like this!  In this dazzling moment, they had a glimpse of the glory that was His before He set it aside to do the Father’s will and become a man.  So, this was the kind of glory to which Jesus had alluded when He spoke of His death and resurrection.  His promise, that some listening to Him that day would live to see it, was already being fulfilled.

Jesus was not alone in glory.  Moses, the great law-giver, and Elijah, the fiery prophet, represented Israel’s covenant with God.  They were the only two men who had ever spoken with God on top of a mountain.  Jesus’ visit with them reveals something of great importance to us:  the glory He had from the beginning, which He would have again in the “hour” of His Passion, to be fully revealed in His Resurrection, is shared with men.   For us, of course, that requires transformation, not transfiguration.  Jesus wasn’t transformed when He shone like the sun; He was simply making visible what had been invisible behind the veil of His flesh.  For sinners, a transformation is necessary, and that is exactly why God sent His Son into the world on our behalf.  As St. Paul wrote, “you have received the spirit of sonship…we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom 8:15b, 16b, 17).

Read more at Catholic Exchange 

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