As we step toward the Second Sunday of Lent, please find a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM for your prayer. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection March 8 2020. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photos: St. John Catholic Church, Little Chute, WI
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The gospel text for the First Sunday of Lent is always one of the accounts of Jesus in the desert being tempted. In similar fashion, the gospel text for the Second Sunday in Lent is always one of the accounts of Jesus being transfigured on the mountain with his three closest companion apostles, Peter, James, and John.
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptations ends with Satan taking Jesus “up to a very high mountain” (Matt 4:8). Once again, for the transfiguration, Jesus and the disciples have climbed up a very high mountain. This time Jesus is not in the company of Satan but rather with Moses and Elijah. At the end of the vision, the voice of God affirms their experience, and affirms that Jesus is one who has rightly represented the will of God and to whom they should listen.
Matthew has structured his descriptions of the temptation and of Jesus’ transfiguration so that there are some parallels between the role that Moses and the events of the exodus played in shaping God’s relationship with the people and the role that Jesus is now playing. But he also makes it clear that Jesus is more significant. While the faces of both Moses and Jesus became radiant from their encounter with God, it is only Jesus’ garments that also “became white as light.” Matthew also links the Transfiguration to his Passion and Resurrection. When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to the tomb, they encounter an angel who is described as appearing like lightning, with clothing as white as snow. (Matt 28:3)
The response of the disciples at the Transfiguration is a desire to stay in this moment, and then they are fearful when God speaks from the cloud. The disciples, Peter, James, and John, are privileged to experience their own “mountaintop encounter” with God. They see Jesus transfigured before them alongside the greatest prophet (Elijah) and the greatest lawgiver (Moses) of their tradition. For these three disciples who had left their livelihoods to become disciples of Jesus in some hope that Jesus might be the one to usher in the reign of God, what could have been a more fulfilling experience? But this experience does not end there. There is a cloud, the voice of God, fear, a reassuring hand, and an invitation to join Jesus as he goes down the mountain and begins the slow journey to Jerusalem.
1. What is your experience of climbing mountains?
2. Have you ever experienced the light of the sun that was so bright that it was blinding?
3. Have you ever felt like you had arrived at a place in your life that was so good that you thought to yourself in some way that it would be OK if the rest of your life stayed like this?
4. Can you imagine an experience of God that is so powerful, so personal, so real that you become afraid?
5. What have been your most personal experiences of God’s presence? Is there always fading of the experience, and an invitation to come down the mountain?
6. Can you take some time now to talk with God about your experience of God’s presence in your life, your desire for a mountaintop experience, or your thoughts and experiences of coming down the mountain?