SUNDAY, SECOND WEEK OF LENT
Gn 12: 1-4; Ps 33:4-5,18-22; 2 Tm 1: 8-10; Mt 17: 1-9
ENCOUNTERING THE FACE OF GOD
Today’s first reading involves the Divine calling of Abraham to become the spiritual father of the people of God. The appearance of Abraham in history marked a new era. He was asked to sacrifice all familiar places and move to a new place shown by God himself. His trust in God will lead to his blessings. Abraham did not take the initiative to communicate with God or to seek his blessings. Rather, it was Yahweh who made the first move. Abraham accepts this call in faith and with him, a new nation is formed. However, God makes it clear that this gift he receives is gratuitous.
It is amazing to encounter the face of God. We are privileged to gaze at Him in the Blessed Sacrament and receive Him at Holy Communion. The Old Testament Israelites did not have such a privilege. Moses and Elijah, both of whom are mentioned in the Gospel, never saw God’s face. Interestingly Jesus, Moses and Elijah all walked up the same mountain; Mt Horeb or Sinai as it is called. Jesus seemed to like mountains. The second temptation was on the mountain, so was His place of prayer. The Sermon on the Mount was given on a mountain and so too, the transfiguration of today’s gospel. To a Jew of the first century, this imagery would not require an interpreter, even more, if you mentioned Elijah and Moses in the same breath. Theophanies or God’s manifestation always took place on a mountain.
The Gospel of today gives us the beautiful story of the Transfiguration. For Jesus, this was a special moment. He was now close to Jerusalem and hence close to his passion and death. This was the important moment when he had to strengthen his disciples, particularly the ones who had been chosen to be close to him during his ministry. Jesus wanted his sonship to be revealed to them with the voice of the Father. These were the same words used by the Father at Jordan during his Baptism as he began his ministry. Secondly, when his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white, the event may have testified to the fact that Jesus was the true Light which enlightened everyone. Thirdly, the transfiguration foreshadowed the eternal reign of Jesus as God and King in Heaven. The Book of Revelation tells us that there will be no more night and they is no need for the light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light (cf. Rev 22:5). For Jesus this was the confirmation of his mission given by his Father and the confidence that he has been faithful to him to the end.
Also, the presence of Elijah and Moses was more than just representational. Elijah represented the prophets and Moses the law and no Jew would deny the importance of the law and the prophets. Like Jesus, both Moses and Elijah go up a mountain; in fact, the same mountain (cf. Ex 24:12-16, 33:17-23 and 1 Kgs 11:13. Moses and Elijah desired to see God’s face but were denied. They both saw His glory but not His face for they were told, that they would die if they saw God’s face. Both of them had their faces covered by God’s hand or His mantle. God who never showed His face to Moses and Elijah in the Old Testament, does so in the New Testament. Jesus reveals His transfigured state to Moses, Elijah and the disciples. Moses and Elijah are finally able to see the face of God because ‘That God’ has become man.
Peter, James and John who saw God’s face experienced a change in their lives. Peter calls Jesus, “Lord”. He becomes aware of Jesus’ divinity and addresses Him with a title of faith. But even more, the change is seen in Peter’s leadership. He who, was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven and soon after denounced for his inability to grasp the new role laid on his shoulders, takes on the leadership, but now in humbler tones. “If you wish, I will make three dwellings.” No more arrogance, no more leaning on the disciples for support. This is the Peter who has seen the face of God and lived. Does my encounter with the Lord also bring change in my life? Today like Elijah, we can hear Him in a still small voice, in our chapel, home or workplace. May we also experience God’s Mercy and Love.
Response: May your merciful love be upon us, as we hope in you, O Lord.
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