2nd Sunday of Lent (Ages 9-12): A Moment For Them
Listen to the Gospel and Reflection
The Gospel for the second Sunday of Lent always features the Transfiguration. This strange event occurs in Jesus' life not long before he leaves Galilee, turning his face toward Jerusalem—toward the cross, toward his death and resurrection.
Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.
St. Matthew makes a point of telling us that the four of them go away "by themselves." We know right away that this is a private moment for the four of them. It is a moment particularly for them, otherwise everyone else would be there, too.
So how is this moment for them? What does God do?
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.
They see Jesus as they have never seen him before, so full of the light and life of God that it shines out of him. The brightness dazzles their eyes. We might say that they see his true self in all its glory.
But does this mean that Jesus is not really human like us? Is he simply God in disguise? That would make him more of a superhero, not human. With superpowers, of course he can conquer death on the cross.
It would feel good to have a superhero who can do anything. But we have to consider: is it not even better to have a human—one of us—conquer death?
Without being undefeatable, but in fact, weak to the point of death—
without the ability to fly, but in fact, held in place by nails on the cross—
without superpowers at all, but in fact completely devoted to the will of God,
Jesus conquers death.
That is impressive.
That is something to follow.
So maybe what Peter and James and his brother John see is Jesus when he conquers death. Maybe they see him full of the Risen life—so full of the life of God that he can never die again. Maybe they see dazzlingly bright Life shining out of him, beginning to spread to all people.
Remember, this is a moment for them. Peter and James and his brother John will need to recall this moment in the days and weeks to come, when Jesus is taken away from them by the soldiers—when he dies on the cross. Before this happens, God gives them a vision of what can be.
What else does God do?
Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
Moses—the one who was given the law, the Torah.
Elijah—the prophet who was to come back again before the Messiah.
The Law and the Prophets. We have heard of this before!
Jesus—the fulfilment and fullness of both.
Peter and James and his brother John can be sure of Jesus' words, then. They can trust him. They can,
listen to him!
God gives them this, too. A clear command!
The word "listen" comes from the same word as "obey." This moment tells Peter and James and his brother John that Jesus can be absolutely trusted,
Anything else God does?
When the disciples hear God's voice, they are overcome with fear. This is too much. The glory of God—the Jewish people call this the "Shekinah"—overwhelms them. They crumple in fear.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”
In their fear, Jesus comes.
They look up and see not Moses and Elijah, but only Jesus, the fullness of both.
They listen and hear, not the voice of the Shekinah, but only Jesus, the Word of God. They do not need to be afraid.
This is something else they will need in the days to come, when Jesus is taken from them and it seems like their whole world is crumbling. They will need to get up, and be not afraid.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
On the way down the mountain, Jesus makes it clear again that, for now, this moment is a private moment just for them. We can imagine Peter and James and his brother John getting together on their own, discussing what this all means. ("That word 'until,'--does Jesus really think he will rise from the dead?? Does that mean he thinks he is about to die???") We can think of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain as a moment that prepares them for the trouble ahead.
And for us?
God gives us the same vision of the dazzlingly bright Risen Life beginning to spread to all people. God gives us the same command to listen to Jesus, so we do. We listen to him each time we listen to the Word of God. Through the Word and the Holy Spirit, God gives us courage so that we are not afraid. And God gives us Lent, this time of preparation. We do not know what is going to happen tomorrow or next week, or next year, but we prepare. This is a moment for us.
Peter and James and his brother John have each other—a safe, small group to discuss what they have heard and seen. As we grow through life, it helps to find safe, small groups of people with whom we can discuss the Word of God. It is good to think about the Word of God. It is even better when we can think about it together.