Homily for the second Sunday of Lent - Year A - Mt. 17:1-9
Father Daniel Meynen
"Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.'He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.' When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Rise, and have no fear.' And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, 'Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.' "
"Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart."
Each year, on the second Sunday of Lent, we read the passage of the Gospel in which Jesus is transfigured before his disciples: Peter, James, and John. The first question that comes to mind is: why did Jesus want only Peter, James, and John to be allowed to contemplate the Glory of God shining on the face of his Son Jesus? The first answer would be to say that God does as he wills, whether or not we find that just. God does not owe us an explanation of what he does. In short, it is a Mystery!
Nevertheless, this question is an important one. For, a few days earlier, Simon had been definitively called "Peter" by Jesus and had been established as the rock and the foundation of his Church (cf. Mt. 16:18). Thus, the choice of Peter to go with Jesus up the mount of the Transfiguration follows the logic of his election to the head of the Church. Moreover, Peter was very strongly marked by this event; he spoke of it at length in his second epistle (cf. 2 P. 1:16). Why all this? Because the Mystery of the Transfiguration is the very Mystery of the Church...
"And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light."
Christ is the Head of the Church, as Saint Paul says (cf. Eph. 5:23). And the Church is the Body of Christ (ibidem). So we have a Head, and we have a Body. A Head and a Body that form but a single Mystery: that of the Total Christ, as Saint Augustine calls it. Now, in the Mystery of the Transfiguration, it is this Mystery of the Total Christ that appears! Thus, when Jesus is transfigured, both Christ and the Church become light in the Lord: Christ as Head shines "like the sun", and the Church as Body becomes "white as light"!
Like the clothing of Christ, the Church is worn by Christ: supported through the grace of God received in Christ, the Church becomes luminous with whiteness, participating in the Glory of the Son of God. Already, well before the hour of the Passion, the Church shines with the splendor of the grace of God! As if the Church had never sinned... As if the Church were already holy and immaculate (cf. Eph. 1:4)! In short, as if the Church were nothing other than the Virgin Mary in person, since, at that time, before the Passion of Jesus, only the Virgin Mary was free from every sin...
"And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him."
Why do Moses and Elijah appear? For several reasons. But the principal one is that both of them, as representatives of the Jurists and the Prophets respectively, saw God face to face and spoke to him without dying... When Moses himself spoke with God, he dared not look at him, for fear of dying (cf. Ex. 3:6 - Gn. 32:31) When Elijah had completed his mission on earth, he was taken into Heaven, to see God, without undergoing death. In short, these two personages, each a representative of one of the two modes by which the Lord teaches his ways, invite us to think that this Mystery of the Transfiguration absolutely escapes death, and thus also sin, since death is the first consequence of sin... Thus, Moses and Elijah also invite us to think that this Mystery is that of Mary Immaculate!
"And Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.'He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.' "
Peter is truly the principal witness of this Mystery. It is he who speaks during the appearance of Moses and Elijah. But, in fact, he does not really know what he is saying: he is a little perturbed by this unusual atmosphere (cf. Lk. 9:33). He is a little like us... Or rather, we are a little like him... For we are poor sinners, and this Mystery of purity and grace, in which even death does not have its place, disconcerts us and leaves us pensive. How many times did Peter, and we with him, say to Jesus: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Lk. 5:8)?
However, Peter is indeed there! He does not believe his eyes! Moses and Elijah! With Jesus! So Peter does not hesitate, and he declares: "Lord, it is well that we are here!" When the marvelous enters into our life, are we not amazed and surprised? But are we still aware of the marvelous in our life? Perhaps you will ask me what I am referring to... Quite simply, the very fact of participating in this Sunday Eucharist: what a marvelous moment it is when Jesus offers himself in sacrifice to his Father under the species of bread and wine, in order that we too might offer ourselves as pure and spotless victims!
"... a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.' "
Today, these words of the Father still resound in the Church each time the priest presents the consecrated host while saying: "This is the Lamb of God!" So here is the Son of God, here is the Head of the Church! Now the moment has come when the Body of Christ will receive its Head in order to form but a single Mystery, a Mystery of Life, a Mystery in which sin and death are no more! "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." (Rev. 21:3-4)