Last Sunday, we heard the trial of Jesus in the desert. In this week’s First Reading, we hear of how Abraham was put to the test. The Church has always read this story as a sign of God’s love for the world in giving His only begotten son.
In today’s Epistle, Paul uses exact words drawn from this story to describe how God, like Abraham, did not withhold His Only Son, but handed Him over for us on the Cross. The Gospel reading proclaims the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. This event is reported in each of the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This year, we hear Mark’s report of this event.
The Transfiguration occurs after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ prediction about his passion. In each case, Jesus takes three of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—to a high mountain. While they are there, Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus. Elijah and Moses are significant figures in the history of Israel. Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and received the Ten Commandments. In appearing with Jesus at his Transfiguration, Moses represents the Law that guides the lives of the Jewish people. Elijah is remembered as one of the most important prophets of Israel who helped the Israelites stay faithful to God. Some Jews believed that Elijah’s return would signal the coming of the Messiah for the Jewish people. The appearance of these two important figures from Israel’s history with Jesus signifies Jesus’ continuity with the Law and with the prophets and that Jesus is the fulfillment of all that was promised to the people of Israel.
On seeing Jesus with Elijah and Moses and having witnessed his Transfiguration, Peter offers to construct three tents for them. Mark reports that the disciples are terrified by what they have witnessed, and that Peter’s offer is made out of confusion. As if in reply to Peter’s confusion, a voice from heaven speaks, affirming Jesus as God’s Son and commanding the disciples to obey him. This voice from heaven recalls the voice that was heard at Jesus’ baptism.
This is who God is. We might balk at the word “consubstantial” in the translation of the Nicene Creed in the 2010 liturgical translation, but what it means is that when we listen to Jesus we listen to the very voice of God. There is no other voice of God but the voice of Jesus.
“Listening to Jesus” offers us a valuable practice as we enter this second week of Lent this year. As we listen carefully to his voice in the daily reading of the gospel we will come to know a God who calls us to deeper relationship with God’s self. As we listen carefully to his voice in the daily events of our lives we will come to know a God who is present during our lives as we go about our work, celebrate or struggle in our relationships with parents, children, spouse or friends, or as we fall and pick ourselves up repeatedly. As we listen carefully to his voice in the events of our world we come to know a God who suffers with victims of violence and injustice, who longs for a world where people treat each other as sisters and brothers, who longs for the repair of our “common home.” As we listen to Jesus we are drawn more and more into his own life.
Listening to Jesus is not a test. It is a challenge, a challenge to believe that Jesus is the sacrament of the Love and Mercy that is at the centre of Reality. But as we answer his challenge, Jesus—the true face of God—will be with us all the way. We hear the Father speak of Jesus as God’s beloved son. In the same way, in our own time of testing, God assures us that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters. Because God is for us, as Paul says in our second reading, nothing can really prevail against us. This was the promise of Jesus’ transfiguration. This is God’s promise to us.