Gospel reflection for the second Sunday in Lent, 2021.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark. 9:2-10.
We live in a time of preparation during Lent, a time characterized by fasting and prayer and almsgiving. Today’s Gospel message gives us a glimpse into the period after the resurrection, when all will be united with God, and we, as children of light, will be bathed in that light.
Today’s Gospel story is many things: a great miracle; a deep encounter between God and man; a mystery that we still cannot completely grasp. It is a window into the glory of God. Yet, it is also a window into ourselves, into our own transfiguration. Jesus did indeed encounter God and the prophets on the mount, but, in that moment, he brought ‘us’ with him. Our humanity and our desires to follow Christ are encapsulated in those disciples, who went with Jesus up the mount, and who saw this marvel.
And what was the disciples’ first thought? It was to make a tent and stay there. They are even bold enough to verbalize the suggestion in front of the heavenly spectacle. Why would they do that? The answer is simple: they wanted to remain there, they wanted to continue the encounter for as long as they could. Do not we, when we taste just a morsel of the heavenly fruits, not wish we could live inside that moment forever? It could be a beautiful moment of prayer, a loving embrace, a sudden sense of proximity to God through nature, the wonder of an encounter with someone we love. Yes, all of these moments are in some way meeting places between us and our creator. We want to live inside them forever, just as the disciples wanted to pitch their tents on the mount.
The centre of today’s Gospel story is this dazzling encounter. But we have our parts to play in such an encounter. We are being called to our own transfiguration on a daily basis. How so? Well, Christ asks that we live in him. This isn’t some poetic line, but a sharp and urgent invitation to be as him, to live him, in this world, despite our selfish desires. Much of it doesn’t feel like a transfiguration: it is hardship, tumult, sometimes quite real pain. Yes, even forgiveness, or the thought of it, can be painful. But it is those moments between the paving stones of life, when we glimpse the extraordinary beauty of Who we are called towards, that we are able to see, just for a second, our real selves.
The booming voice of God said to the disciples: ‘This is my son, the beloved. Listen to him.’ It cut through their suggestion to pitch their tents and remain there. It almost cut them off, you might say. WE can draw our own inspiration from this. We can, if we want to, try to live in those fleeting gaps in the pavement, those brief moments of transfiguration. We can try and delete the rest of life – the pain, the trials, the diurnal round of living – in favour of those fleeting moments of fulfilment. But through all of this, God cuts in and reminds us to follow his Son. Yes, follow his Son who died on the cross for love of us. God is reminding us where our priorities are. He doesn’t want us to miss out on our own transfiguration, our development into people of light.