Gospel Lectio Divina for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.
He didn’t take all 12 apostles with him to the mountain to see the Transfiguration. He took only his inner circle: Peter, James, and John. This itself is a mystery. Jesus didn’t do anything arbitrarily, so there must have been a reason for why he chose these three to go up the mountain with him. Peter was the first pope and author of two letters in Scripture that bear his name, John would receive the revelation that would become the last book of the Bible and is the author of four other books in the Bible, and James was the brother of John as well as the author of the biblical letter that bears his name. They each played a special role in evangelization in the first century. Did Jesus likewise have some special purpose for bringing them up the mountain? This is a mystery to which perhaps only they, Jesus, Elijah and Moses know the answer. But since they experienced the Transfiguration firsthand, their written words in the Bible should take on a different light. They saw Jesus in his glory before he was resurrected. What this means is beyond our comprehension. I think this was Jesus’ way of showing them God’s vision for humanity if we would just believe in him. So the words of Peter, John, and Peter should be read with the understanding that these apostles were truly enlightened by God’s plan for us.
Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory
For anyone who thought Jesus’ glory was meant only for himself, the Bible shows Moses and Elijah who also appeared in glory. Of course, the glory of Jesus is greater since he is the son of God, but I honestly believe the Transfiguration is a foretelling of the glory that awaits us if we follow Jesus. The glory of Moses and Elijah also supports the Church’s teaching about Mary and the Immaculate Conception. The Angel Gabriel addresses her as “full of grace”, which implies that she was already saved through a special grace God bestowed on her since she was to be the mother of his son. The glory of Moses and Elijah shows that God did indeed save a select few before the death and resurrection of his son. After all, God is outside of time and he can do that. The salvation of Moses and Elijah is possible through a grace similar to that which God showed in Mary’s immaculate conception. It is all possible through the righteousness and sacrifice of Jesus, not any merit of Mary, Moses or Elijah.
Who … spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem
His exodus must refer to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Why does Luke refer to it as his exodus, though? The enslavement of the Jews in Egypt was an allegory for humanity’s enslavement to sin, and their exodus from Egypt was an allegory for humanity’s escape from sin. The Exodus is also allegorical of the season of Lent, where we are called to leave behind our sin and head to the Promised Land–which is, in our case, the kingdom of God. We are led by Jesus just as the Israelites were led by Moses. Just as God accomplished the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt through a series of miracles, the 10 Plagues, Jesus accomplishes his exodus through supernatural means as well–the Resurrection. This is to show that we cannot be free from sin through any means of our own. I need God’s help to break the bonds that sin has on me. That bond is death, which Jesus conquered in Jerusalem.
“Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
It’s natural for us to want to build something to commemorate great occurrences, and the Transfiguration certainly was that. So why did Luke write that Peter did not know what he was saying when he suggested tents be built for this occasion? Perhaps it was because it wasn’t about Moses and Elijah; it was all about Jesus.Luke recalls that they were talking about Jesus’ exodus in Jerusalem. It seems as if Peter was equating Moses and Elijah with Jesus, when they only appeared to give glory and testimony to Jesus. In this respect, Peter did not know what he was saying when he said tents should be built for Moses and Elijah. A structure would later be built on Mount Tabor, the Church of the Transfiguration, but it memorializes Jesus, not so much Moses and Elijah. It’s also important to note that, despite how Peter was missing the point–and this wasn’t the first or last time–Jesus still made him the first pope. One can argue that he was not yet pope, so he didn’t yet have the grace of infallibility. But he said some wrong things after Jesus said to him, “You are Peter and upon this rock I build my church” (Matthew 16:18). In fact, his very denial of Jesus happened after Jesus had said these words to him. So any Catholic who thinks we have to agree with whatever the pope says should go back to the example of Peter, because if we agree with everything he said we would end up denying Jesus. And anyone who thinks a pope is no longer a pope for saying or doing wrong things can look at Peter’s example as well, because he said and did many wrong things after he was called “rock” and Christ still entrusted the Church to him. When Peter spoke at Pentecost and at the Council of Jerusalem, at these times he spoke with papal authority and–dare I say–infallibility.
They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
Why such secrecy? It’s fair to infer that Jesus told them to not tell anyone what happened. And yet, we are reading it in the Gospel so he did not mean to keep it a secret forever. The timing of events in the Gospel is a mystery all unto itself. Jesus revealed certain things to certain people, but not all things to everyone. There was a pedagogy to God’s plan of salvation that began right after the Fall. During Jesus’ ministry, he had to balance proclaiming the kingdom of God with timing his own death just right. After all, the heavens themselves would align with the very hour of Jesus’ death. It was all planned ahead of time, so Jesus’ timing had to be perfect. If the wrong people learned about the Transfiguration at the wrong time, it could have easily made the hour of his death come sooner or maybe even later than it had to be. Just the realization that Jesus had our salvation planned down to the most minute detail is mind-blowing.
You showed us your glory and the glory that awaits us if we would simply follow you. It’s simple but not easy. I pray that you give me the faith to see how great your promises are, and to remember them in the moment of temptation and the hour of death. I want to be part of your inner circle like Peter, James, and John. I’m not even sure if this is possible, but I do know that the holier I become the closer I will be to you. So, teach me how and help me to be holy. In the holy name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
The Father’s words are clear: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” With all the voices vying for our attention, it could be difficult to hear him. Let the story of the Transfiguration help us distinguish God’s voice from the others. Sometimes his voice is the quiet whisper in the wind, sometimes it comes in a cloud that surrounds us. The telling sign is what the voice does to our hearts. Sometimes he wants us to be quiet to hear him. Sometimes he reveals his power. The common effect his voice has though, is the way it goes directly to our hearts like nothing else. His voice has a distinct effect there, and we know it when we feel it. It’s like a homing beacon; it’s the most familiar, deepest, and all-encompassing feeling our hearts can experience. A loud noise may startle us, but the voice of God encompasses, consumes, and overwhelms us so that there is no mistake that it is God speaking. We cannot put God to the test; we can’t expect him to reveal his glory everytime we want to hear him. But if we follow him closely as Peter, James, and John did, every now and then he will reveal his glory in his own time as he did on Mount Tabor during the Transfiguration.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.