Theme – Transfiguration of Jesus Christ
The first Reading, (Gen 22: 22:1-2. 9-13. 15-18), presented us with a demonstration of Abraham’s faith in God during his trial. Abraham and his wife Sarah after several years of their marriage had no children because Sarah was barren. After God had called Abraham to leave his Chaldean City of Ur, in modern day Iraq, to a land he was to show him, God entered into a covenant with Abraham. In that covenant, God promised Abraham that his generations will be as numerous as the stars in the sky.
To bring God’s promise to fruition, Abraham, with the consent of his wife Sarah, had a child with Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar. This child was called Ishmael; however, Ishmael was not to be the child of promise – the child Sarah miraculously gave birth to when all hope was gone, Isaac by name, was the child of promise. Abraham’s heart was broken when Ishmael and his mother Hagar was forced out of the house at the request of Sarah, (Gen 21:8-20). Now Abraham is to have his heart because a second time because his only remaining child was to be sacrificed.
We know that eventually a ram was sacrificed instead of Isaac, but Abraham, because of his faith and trust in God, was willing to let go of his son if that was what God wanted. It was a difficult choice. Abraham believed that God would always provide, and indeed, God did provide for him. God would later provide for us too, by sending his only Son to live and die for our justification. Isaac then, prefigured Christ who died on the cross to redeem us. We have been washed clean by the blood of Christ. Only our deep-seated faith will see us through in our challenging moments.
The Transfiguration of Jesus, (Mark 9:2-10), which took place after Peter had confessed him as the Messiah, and he had foretold his passion, was a faith experience for Jesus’ disciples. Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain where they could be alone. Luke 9:28 informed us that they went up the mountain to pray. Mountains or hills have been places of prayer. When the people of Israel left Egypt after their enslavement, it was at Mount Sinai that they experienced theophany and God made a covenant with them to make them his chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a consecrated nation, if they kept God’s commandments, (Ex 19).
It was at Mount Sinai that God gave Moses the ten commandments; Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, (1Kg 18). The temple of the Lord in Jerusalem was built on a mountain. We read from Isaiah 56:7 that, “I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Jesus also gave his sermon in Matthew’s Gospel from the mountain, (Matt 5:1).
During Jesus’ prayer with his disciple on the mountain, Jesus allowed his divinity to become manifest. Suddenly, the disciples felt the glory Jesus had with the Father before the foundation of the world, (Jn 17:5). Jesus’ face became dazzling white as Moses’ face shone when he communed with God on the mountain, (Ex 34:29-30, 35). It was an awe-inspiring experience which translated to paradise on earth. It was an experience that anyone who had had it would not want to let go of it. The disciples of Jesus did not want to let go. They wanted to build tents so that they could dwell in that experience forever. The psalmist captured this intensity of experience when it stated that, “one thing I ask of the Lord and this I long, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life….” (Ps 27:4). But the disciples had to let go at this moment until they had gone through the Triduum, (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter), experiences to arrive at glory.
Within this theophany, the disciples of Jesus also witnessed the apparition of the two pillars of the Old Testament: Moses and Elijah. The two major parts of the Old Testament were the Law which Moses represented and the Prophets represented by Elijah. These two icons of the Old Testament appearing in glory and speaking with Jesus were symbolic of a handover ceremony. Now the one to lead us to the Father is Jesus; for he is our way, our truth, and our life, (Jn 14:6). God the Father confirmed his when he said, “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.”
The Transfiguration of Jesus which was to prepare his disciples for the scandal of his passion, was a deep prayer experience for them. At times, after spending considerable period in prayer, we may wonder what we had been doing because our minds had wandered far and near. At other times, we might feel an inner peace that we have communed with God. Prayer should permeate our lives, not only when we stop for an intense prayer to God.
Through prayer, we get the strength to bear hardships when they come our way. For Jesus, to live was to pray. Let us pray earnestly during this Lent so that we too, like Jesus, will radiate the glory of God in us.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp