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2ND SUNDAY OF LENT: TRANSFIGURATION: GOD'S VOICE OR OTHER VOICES?

The gospel of the transfiguration of Jesus is a familiar passage, perhaps having been read several times, both in school and in church. Usually, it features on the second Sunday of Lent each year. Several strange things happen in that gospel, with Jesus being at the center. Jesus takes only three of his disciples to the top of the mountain. He is transfigured and his clothes become pure white. Moses and Elijah appear. Peter requests to build three tents. The disciples become terrified. The voice speaks from heaven. They are left alone with Jesus. Then, they begin to leave and Jesus charges them not to speak about the incident until his resurrection.

 

A standout in this encounter is the voice of the Father and the invitation to listen to Jesus. It is the key to understanding Jesus’ injunction at the end, “not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mk. 9:9). In the first place, why did Jesus take his disciples to the mountain of transfiguration?


1.     Peter’s request to make three tents gives a pointer. Jesus is the Corner Stone of God’s temple. Elijah and Moses stand in for prophecy, whereas Jesus alone occupies the tabernacle. If we recall the encounter where Jesus was speaking about his resurrection,

“Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (Jn. 2:19-22)

2.     Jesus’ messianism is here foreshadowed. Christ is the incarnate law and the fulfilment of the prophets. In the Word made flesh is the revelation of the Father.

3.      Jesus instruct the disciples to keep the experience secret because it opens up the new and most important page in his mission, namely, his death and resurrection.

Hence, the meaning of this top-of-the-mountain trip is to help them see where Jesus is leading them, to reflect on the hidden mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. It prepared the disciples for the mission yet to be revealed.

 

But why would the Father ask the disciples to listen to Jesus?

To analyze this properly, let’s look at this passage in a holistic way since the events leading to the voice of the Father exposes the narrative even better. As soon as Peter speaks about building three tents, scripture captures two strong emotions that need attention, “He hardly knew what to say (confusion), they were terrified (fear).” This parallel presents itself in the encounter where Jesus walks on the sea: “When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,“ they said, and cried out in fear” (Matthew 14:25-26). At the transfiguration, the disciples once again begin to hear different voices. They become victims of their own emotions. They hear voices aside from that of Jesus. Otherwise, why would they be afraid at such a beautiful moment when the master is being transfigured? They are not ready for the mission, to embrace suffering and death as an integral part of the missionary plan.

 

This can lead us to the question of what voices we hear in today's world. What voices speak to us and how do such voices inform our actions and relationships? How can we distinguish these voices from God’s voice?

 

Internal voice: •Self

•Positive -defined by reason: esteem, valued, hope, confidence...

•Negative -defined by ego: not-good enough, no-one-cares, no need to live...


External voice:

•Social -defined by media, culture, politics, economy.

•Psychology -defined by emotion, defined by fear, anxiety...


God's voice: •defined by Faith -soft/calm -love, joy, peace, courage...


When God says, “Listen to him,” what is he telling us? That there are variety of voices out there. That these voices can either influence us positively or cause us harm. For instance, the voice of depression says “you’re not good enough. There’s not even any need trying. Others are better than you.” The voice of pride says, “No one is better than you. Why would you not be the one to have what he/she has? You need to outshine your friend.” The voice of control says, “You should be in charge. If it does not go your way, it shouldn’t happen.” The voice of greed/selfishness says, “You don’t have enough. Go for more. Don’t mind the poor. You didn’t cause him to be like that. Have it all to yourself.” The voice of laziness says, “You can do it tomorrow. It shouldn't be done now.” The voice of seduction says, “Check out that site. Look a little more. Just one more” The voice of gluttony says, "Drink a little. It won't get to your brain. Don't mind the theory about wiehgt loss." The voice of fear says, “Are you sure you can do this? The situation may be worse tomorrow. If you end it, you’ll be better.” The voice of despair says, “God doesn’t care. He is preoccupied with too many people to recognize you. No need going to church.”

 

How often do you hear such voices or let such voices dictate your actions? Saint Paul reminds us today, that no one can be against us if God be for us. That is THE VOICE. On the mountain, Jesus makes his disciples understand that his mission is not going to be easy. That does not mean they should be afraid. When James and John ask about having positions to his right and left, Jesus makes it clear that they will drink his cup and be baptized by his baptism, but not guaranteed positions as requested.


So, what happens on the mountain of transfiguration? Jesus gives a glimpse of two things:

1.     Redirect us to the voice of the Father and

2.     To help us identify what that cup would be.

The authors of Rebuilt Faith: A Handbook for Skeptical Catholics, Michael and Tom write, “The cup is a metaphor in scripture for God’s providential will, what he intends for someone. Sometimes the cup means a measure of blessing, but other times, it suggests some form of suffering that must take place before the blessing can be poured out” (p.49).

Isn’t that cup what Jesus goes up to the mount of transfiguration to reveal to his disciples?


Readings: 1st- Gen. 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18; 2nd- Rom. 8:31-34; Gospel- Mk. 9:2-10

 

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