From Trials to Transfiguration: Peace, Joy and Hope Often Follow Difficulties

User’s Guide to the Second Sunday of Lent

Transfiguration of Jesus
Transfiguration of Jesus (photo: Carl Bloch / Public Domain)

Sunday, Feb. 25, is the Second Sunday of Lent. Mass readings: Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Psalm 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Romans 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10.

What is it that gives hope, peace and serene joy to the Christian life? Today’s Gospel shows forth a kind of process through which the Lord lays the foundations of hope, peace and joy.

The Paradoxical Prelude: “Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.” Note that in order to get them to a place where they can see glory they had to climb a mountain almost 2,000 feet high. Tabor is a symbol of the cross and of struggle. Herein lies the paradox: Peace, joy and hope are often the products of struggles, climbs and difficulties. These things are often the prelude to seeing and experiencing glory. 

The Practices Portrayed: The text says, “And he was transfigured before them. …Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, ‘Rabbi, it is good that we are here!’” The text lays out various aspects of how Peter, James and John come to experience a joyful peace in the presence of the Lord’s glory. 

They see. There are beams from heaven! Yes, this is who Jesus really is. The magnificence of his glory so astounds them that they fall down in reverence. Have you ever seen or experienhed glory? Look for glory, and rejoice when it comes!

They are scriptural. Moses and Elipjah represent the Law and the prophets, which is a Jewish way of speaking of the Bible. Another way of having peace produced in us is to search the Scriptures. Know your Scriptures and thereby know your story, a story that ends with glory and Jesus’ victory. 

They savor. Peter wants to stay on the mountaintop, to pitch tents and stay put. We too should savor glory and store good memories and experiences deep in our soul.

The Prescription Proclaimed: The text then says, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”  The prescription couldn’t be simpler and yet how poorly we often follow it. Listen to Jesus! In other words, carefully ponder every word of his teaching and begin to base your life on what he says. How much pain, anxiety and strife come into this world and our lives simply because we do not listen to the Lord and obey his teachings. This Lent, listen to Jesus and by his grace conform your life more fully to what you hear him say. There is no greater source for joy, peace and hope.

The Persevering Purpose: The text says, “As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” There is fairly universal agreement that the purpose of this mountaintop experience of glory was to prepare the apostles for the difficult days ahead. Having seen and savored glory, having “seen what the end shall be,” having been bathed in beams of heaven, they need to keep the memory alive and remember who Jesus is as the Passion begins. Did they successfully persevere in keeping the memory alive? Only John made it to the foot of the cross. What about you? Have you seen the glory of the Lord? Have you experienced his love and glory deeply enough that, when difficulties come, you don’t allow them to overwhelm you? This is what this Gospel describes and promises.