Homily for the second Sunday of Lent
Year B - Mk. 9:2-10


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.' For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is my beloved Son; listen to him.' And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant."





Homily:


"After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them."


Jesus takes with him three of his disciples: Peter, James, and John. They go up a high mountain, probably Mount Tabor in Galilee. Peter, as we know, is the model for all of Christ's faithful: we are all, like him, "living stones" (1 Pet. 2:5). Peter was a sinner like other men, going so far as to deny his Master on the evening of Holy Thursday, but, faithful to the grace of his mission as head of the Church of Christ, he did not hesitate to follow his Savior even in the sacrifice of his own life, dying crucified upside-down (by his own request) because he considered himself to be unworthy to die in the same way as his Master.


So, taking Peter along with him, Jesus wants to lead him higher, up a mountain, in order to train the mind and soul of the one he had chosen to be the foundation of his spiritual Kingdom: the Church. The relation between body and soul, matter and spirit, is very closely linked to the Mystery of the Transfiguration. If Jesus goes up a mountain with his disciples, it is so that, through the elevation of their bodies, their souls would also be invited to rise up towards the dwelling of the Father in heaven.


Although both Saint Matthew (17:1-13) and Saint Luke (9:28-36) speak of light shining from the face of Christ, Saint Mark mentions only the clothing of the Lord: "His garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them." The clothes we wear reflect the form of our body. However, our clothes are not our body. For Christ, too, there exists a reality which has the form of his body, but which, however, is not his own physical body: it is the Church, his Mystical Body. So one can see, in the clothing of the transfigured Christ, an image of the Church, the beloved Wife whom the Lord wants to present to himself "in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Ep. 5:27)


Saint Augustine, commenting on the following passage from the Scriptures: "Thou art clothed with honor and majesty, who coverest thyself with light as with a garment!" (Ps 103:2), teaches us that Christ "took the Church for his garment ; because in him she became light, she who before was darkness in herself, as the Apostle teaches: "For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord." (Ep. 5:8)" (Saint Augustine - PL 37, 1352)


Without doubt, the Savior's clothes were only ordinary clothes: nothing more. It was only in the Mystery of the Transfiguration that they took on such significance. Nevertheless, we who believe in this Mystery must see in this an invitation to innocence and purity, a call to conversion and to the change of one's life: with Christ, who wears us as his clothing, we must climb the mountain of perfection in order to be transfigured like Christ, living a new spiritual life, having been turned towards the realities of heaven.


"And Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.' For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is my beloved Son; listen to him.' And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant."


In the dialogue which took place at the Transfiguration, as well as in that which followed this Mystery, there are two related facts upon which we must shine some light: the fact that Peter and the two others did not know what to say, and the fact that Jesus prohibited them from speaking about this event. The disciples Peter, James and John are overwhelmed by what happened: they don't know what to say. This is due to the fact that, even though they retained very well, in their memory, everything that took place - Peter recounted these events in his second epistle (2 Pet. 1:16-18) - they nonetheless failed to understand at the time any of what they had experienced: neither their natural intelligence nor their intelligence of faith enabled them to penetrate such a phenomenon. In addition, the disciples could understand nothing of the Mystery of the Transfiguration before the Resurrection of their Master, and this is why the Lord had forbidden them to speak of it, for, had they tried to do so, they would have badly explained to others something that they had very badly understood themselves.


Indeed, the Mystery of the Transfiguration is indissociable from that of the Resurrection of the Lord: one does not go without the other. For the Transfiguration manifests the very Mystery of the Church, signified in the clothing of Christ. Now, in the Church, although the very large majority of the elect of God will know death, there will nonetheless be a certain number of the faithful who will enter the Glory of the Lord without having undergone the trial of death (cf 1 Th. 4:17), though they will have known other trials: the trials that will be undergone by the elect of God at the time of the second coming of Christ. For this reason, the Mystery of the Transfiguration is indissociable from the Resurrection of Christ, the prelude to and the first fruits of the final Resurrection. Also, the Transfiguration had to take place while Christ was alive, in order to join to himself each and every member of his Mystical Body.


"This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die." (Jn. 6:50) By this characteristic of the Eucharistic bread, communion with the Bread of Life is linked to the Mystery of the Transfiguration. And, in fact, we are truly transfigured when we unite ourselves to Jesus in his Eucharist. For, in the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates, in a way, his return at the end of time. So let us follow Jesus on the mountain, let us change our life and become his true followers, spiritual ones, when we receive within us the Bread which comes from Heaven! After having received communion, let us remain in contemplation and prolong our thanksgiving, because that is the most important moment of our day: that of our transfiguration in the Lord, through Mary!