16 March - Lent as recognising the true identity of Jesus
To understand the meaning of this Sunday’s gospel, it is necessary to read the Gcripture passage before and after this Gospel (Matt 17:1-9). Earlier Jesus has informed his disciples that he is the suffering Messiah (Matt 16:21-28), who will be put to death and be raised on the third day. Peter speaks up for the disciples but it is he who is reprimanded. To be a true disciple of Jesus involves taking up his cross and following him; that is the way to his kingdom.
A few days later Jesus takes his close disciples, Peter, James and John and leads them up a mountain where they a glimpse of his glory. Jesus is transformed before them. His face and clothes radiates his true identity. Moses and Elijah make an appearance and converse with him. Both had led God’s people and experienced suffering and glory. They talk with Jesus, who fulfils the law and the prophets. Peter tries to be helpful and makes a suggestion, the building of three tents to extend the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus would have been familiar with this feast from his youth. However the Transfiguration is not about going back to the security of the past and suddenly a bright cloud changes the scenario. God the Father announces the identity of Jesus. This is my Son, the Beloved: with him I am well pleased: listen to him. The disciples are told to listen to what Jesus has to say, about suffering, death and resurrection. The Good News will transform the lives of many; many will be healed, forgiven and transformed by the message of Christ and his disciples. The disciples will see Jesus tortured and crucified on a hill but later he will be raised in glory. Jesus reminds his disciples that they must say nothing about this experience until they will see that suffering and glory belong to Jesus. Soon after this wonderful experience we see Jesus healing and changing forever the lives of an epileptic boy and his father.
Lent for us is a season that will help transform us into the likeness of Christ as we journey towards the celebration of his Easter glory. We must focus on the three pillars of Lent - prayer, fasting and charity. As we continue on our Lenten journey our readings offer support to our faith through the example of key biblical figures. Jesus had the support of Elijah and Moses and he will support us too with our Lenten observances. Through the Eucharist Christ nourishes us for the pilgrimage of life. With Peter we rejoice “ Lord it is good for us to be here”. Let us respond this week with enthusiasm and joy. In the words of Pope Francis “Prayer should not be merely an act, but an attitude of life.”