Second Sunday of Lent
Reflection by Dr Maria Heath, Director of Mission Northampton. (Bishops Conference of England and Wales website).
In the Gospel today, we are invited into a personal moment that Peter, James and John are experiencing.
Just ahead of preparing this reflection I had been reading the book of Daniel and his vision of the Son of Man (Dan 10). It struck me that there are distinct similarities between the events. It reminded me that as Jews, the disciples would have been familiar with the vision of Daniel, and this would have helped them to understand the significance of what they were experiencing on that mountain. The Father was revealing Jesus to them as someone greater than Moses or Elijah, that he is in fact the Son of Man as revealed in the book of Daniel, the Messiah who they had been waiting for their entire lives.
The disciples have this encounter up a mountain – mountains are the place of meeting between God and his people in the Old Testament, there are so many examples of this and of course, both Elijah and Moses meet with God up a mountain. Jesus tells them not to tell anyone until after ‘the Son of Man has been raised from the dead’. So they are now under no illusion that Jesus is talking about himself because they understand now that Jesus is in fact this mysterious figure described in the Book of Daniel.
The Transfiguration then points towards the coming salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. As we noted earlier, mountains are the meeting place between God and his people. Jesus dies on Golgotha, a hill outside of Jerusalem. In fact, some scholars think that Golgotha is also Mount Moriah where Abraham takes Isaac to be sacrificed. This mountain, where Jesus dies is the ultimate meeting between God and humanity; the place where heaven touches earth, the place of encounter where Jesus dies so that we can live. Or as St. Paul puts it in our second reading where ‘…the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light…’ occurs.
This moment, as Jesus dies on the cross, is the moment that the transfiguration is pointing us towards. As Jesus dies on the cross, there is darkness, yet at the moment when Jesus dies, light breaks through: ‘…and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour…’ (Luke 23:44).
So, light has in fact overcome darkness, life has overcome death, for three days later Jesus rises to new life. That glimpse of the Jesus transfigured on the mountain is now a reality – he is the true light that has overcome the darkness, the Lord of light. He calls us to come to him, to give him our sin and brokenness and to receive his new life. We too are also called, like Abraham in the first reading, to be a blessing to others, to draw all people to His life, because He loves each one of us and wants every person to know His love, glory and plan for their life.