Lent, Week 2

Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His face. It is Your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not Your face from me. (Psalm 27:8-9).

O God, who have commanded us
to listen to Your beloved Son,
be pleased, we pray,
to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that, with spiritual sight made pure,
we may rejoice to behold Your glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.

I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living. (Psalm 116:9).

“Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured (μετεμορφώθη, metemorphothe) before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” (Mark 9:2-3)”

As with many episodes of Jesus’ Public Ministry that are proclaimed each Sunday, it helps to know what preceded a particular event to provide a context. Such is the case in Seasons such as Lent when the Gospel proclamation is not sequential from week to week.

Many scholars note Mark 8:22 through 10:52 is a particular unit within this Gospel. It opens in 8:22 with the healing of a blind man and closes in 10:52 with sight restored to another blind man, suggesting a lesson about disciples learning to see properly. Many key and challenging teachings of Jesus regarding Kingdom living are sounded in this part of the Gospel according to Mark, not the least of which are three specific teachings on Jesus’ impending passion, death and resurrection that elicits various responses from disciples who, at this point in their lives, are apparently blind to Kingdom living. Just before the transfiguring events atop a high mountain, Jesus taught his disciples at Caesarea Philippi: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” After this, 3 of the 12: Peter, James and John are led apart to follow Jesus up a high mountain.

One might consider that the events atop the high mountain were an extension of Jesus’ words and teaching at Caesarea Philippi. His disciples, especially in Mark, rarely if ever ‘get it.’ The disciples, at least at this point in their lives, have senses that are still rather dull to the demands of Jesus and the demands of Kingdom living. Many events in Jesus’ Public Ministry are punctuated by the disciples’ lack of understanding. Since they apparently did not ‘get it’ with His words, perhaps a visual coupled with His words would help.
Against this backdrop, Jesus’ Transfiguration is a glimpse of glory. Jesus’ “changed form (μεταμορφόω, meta [change, go beyond] and morphe [form, shape])” gave Peter, James and John a foretaste or a preview of the Cross’ purpose. The Cross is the necessary path to Kingdom glory. Why? For one reason, the Cross is the definitive antidote to selfishness that lies at the heart of all sin. “Missing the mark (the literal meaning of the Hebrew hatta which eventually is translated into English as sin)” is all about the 3 most disordered persons in the universe: me, myself and I. The addiction to the self is powerful and goes back to the Garden when we were bold enough to attempt grasping at being God.

This is one reason why today’s celebration of the Penitential Rite for those entering the Church this Easter is so appropriate. In the Rite, we pray that the Candidates (and all of us!) may come to know those areas of life that need to be transfigured by the Lord’s grace. It is not easy. We like the attachment to ourselves yet when we get of glimpse of the glory that lies ahead, the penitential work of Lent takes on a whole new meaning.

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