Chapter Talk – Second Sunday of Lent – February 28, 2021, cycle-B
In today’s gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent what is moving to note is that this is the second and last time we hear God speaking directly and verbally to Jesus in the gospels. The first time is at Jesus’ baptism: “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on you’” (Mk 1:11). And then the last time at Jesus’ Transfiguration: “There came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him’” (Mk 9:8). What is striking from both events is the love bestowed, and then a love that becomes the bond, that seals the relationship: Father to Son, Son to Father. From this it becomes clear that God’s gift to us is his beloved Son. These two encounters with God in Jesus’ life are events where the voice of God is saying and confirming to Jesus, ‘You are my beloved Son’. In today’s gospel God adds: ‘Listen to him’, listen to my beloved Son. We are thus being invited into relationship with Jesus and through him to God…and we are asked to ‘listen’, to listen to Jesus.
Thomas Merton wrote: “Christ without the cross is not Christ” (Bread in the Wilderness, p.90). We see the reality of this statement of Merton clearly in Jesus’ life and teaching. This statement of Merton’s involves the nature of God, meaning unconditional love is at the center of the cross, Jesus’ cross. In all three synoptic gospels we have the Transfiguration account. Also, it is important to note what, in all three gospels, comes just before the event of the Transfiguration. It is this teaching of Jesus: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mk 8:34-35). And just before this teaching is Jesus’ is the first prediction of his passion. What is this telling us?
Pope Benedict XVI from his book Jesus of Nazareth, which was written before he became Pope, compares the encounter of Moses and God on the mountain of Sinai (Ex 34:29-35) with Jesus’ encounter with God at the Transfiguration. He writes: “Because Moses has been talking with God, God’s light streams upon him and makes him radiant. But the light that causes him to shine comes upon him from the outside, so to speak. Jesus, however, shines from within; he does not simply receive light, but he himself is light from light” (p.310). Juxtaposing these two encounters with God I was moved by the shift in the closeness and intimacy of God, from Moses to Jesus. And further, the love bond between Father and Son is now extended to include us. The Transfiguration event was for Jesus’ disciples and as well for us. For now, in and through Christ, God has become ‘flesh of our flesh’.
Pope Benedict further states: “It is only as they go down from the mountain that Peter has to learn once again that the messianic age is first and foremost the age of the Cross and that the Transfiguration—the experience of becoming light from and with the Lord—requires us to be burned by the light of the Passion and so transformed” (p.315). To follow Jesus will always include the ‘cross’, our own personal cross that life bestows upon us and the cross of living the gospel way, both of which bring us into the heart of Christ and ultimately into God. This cross that we are to carry daily is never separated from the love of God in his Son, and it always holds the power of God’s transforming grace.
Pope Benedict adds: “The disciples must accompany Jesus back down the mountain and learn ever anew to ‘listen to him’” (p.316). This message is for us as well: we descend into our everyday lives striving to listen to the Divine Word, often we need to strain to listen because our fears and anxieties are so strong…but listen we must, to the voice of God’s beloved Son.
“On the mountain they learn that Jesus himself is the living Torah, the complete Word of God”, writes Pope Benedict (p.317). Listening, the cross, transformation: these summarize our journey as we follow the transfigured One whose Cross has opened up the Way where Love overcomes all darkness and evil…and where we, as we follow, will find our deepest joy and freedom.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess