Every second Sunday of Lent, the gospel reading tells the story of the Lord’s Transfiguration. This event happens six days after that deciding moment in Caesarea Philippi when Peter confesses his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and in turn, Jesus proclaims Peter as the “Rock” on which he will build his Church.
Having elicited the first explicit profession of faith in him as the Christ, Jesus tells his disciples for the first time of his passion and death.
Later, on two other occasions, he would reiterate the same prediction of the tragic fate awaiting him in Jerusalem. From here on, he makes it clear to his disciples that he is not only the glorious Messiah (preacher, miracle-worker, exorcist); he is also the Suffering Servant, foretold in the scriptures.
It is in this context that Jesus invites Peter, James and John to the mountain of Tabor, where he is transfigured before them. Mark’s account is terse, but the other evangelists provide further details. His face shines like the sun and his clothes become white as light. (Matthew) Elijah and Moses appear, conversing with Jesus about the “exodus” (death, resurrection and ascension) he is going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Luke) Then, a cloud overshadows the disciples from which they hear a voice saying, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Knowing that his passion and death will terribly shake the faith of his disciples, Jesus braces them for the approaching scandal by unveiling his divine identity and mission. In Jerusalem, they will witness his utter helplessness in the hands of the Jews and the Romans. The vision on Mount Tabor is meant to remind them that behind the vulnerability and mortality of the man Jesus is the power and glory of the Son of God.
The mountain is often associated with the divine experience. It is the place where one meets God and hears his call, as Moses experienced on Mt. Sinai. It is also the place where one seeks God for help, as did Elijah in his darkest hour on Mt. Horeb. Jesus himself sought his Father on the hill of Gethsemane when he was about to face his impending death.
Like the apostles, let us climb the mountain of God and find the light, regain the courage and be given the strength to follow Jesus faithfully right up to Calvary. Where is this mountain? More than a place, the holy mountain is the time and space we give to God in prayer.
Lent is a special season for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let us find more time for prayer, especially as we go through this unprecedented ordeal of the pandemic. Rightly was it said that this pandemic has brought man to his knees. More than ever we feel the need for God and prayer.
Pope Francis once lamented how much time we spend with our cell phone and the internet. Surveys show that people spend an average of 3.25 hours each day on the phone, while millennials spend up to 5.7 hours. If only we could spend even just half or a quarter of that time to communicate with God through prayer and the reading of the Word!
Prayer is not only talking to God and pouring out all our soul to him. More importantly, prayer is listening to God. On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father tells the apostles, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
True, it is hard to hear God. At times, we even feel as if God does not respond and may even be asleep.
Many of you may have heard of the man who wanted to test his wife’s hearing. Standing behind her at some distance, he shouted, “Honey, can you hear me?” Receiving no answer, he moved closer and again asked, “Honey, can you hear me?” Still hearing no response, he went straight behind her and whispered, “Honey can you hear me?” She replied, “For the third time, yes!”
St. John of the Cross speaks of God as an inflowing God who always communicates. “God who never sleeps nor slumbers… will enter the empty soul and fill her with divine blessings. God is like the sun, shining over souls, ready to communicate himself to them.”
God is neither deaf nor is he asleep. He hears and he communicates. He speaks for he is Word made flesh. But do we listen?*