Cycle (B) 2nd Sunday in Lent

Gen 22: 1-18; Romans 8: 31-34; Mk 9: 2-10

A man and a woman had a little daughter. They lived for her. They were shocked when they discovered that she became chronically ill and her illness resisted the efforts of the best doctors, they became totally discouraged and inconsolable.

Soon she passed away. The parents were completely distressed, and they shut themselves off from their family and friends. But, one night the woman had a dream that she was in heaven. There she saw a long procession of little children processing like little angels before the throne of God. Every child was dressed in a dazzling white robe and they each held a lit candle. However, when the woman saw her daughter, she noticed that her candle was not lit.

The mother ran up to her, embraced her in her, and then asked her how it was that her candle was the only one that was not lit. She said, “Mother, they often relight it, but your tears always put it out.”

Just at that moment the woman woke from her dream. They decided to embrace their loss with Christian hope and that they would no longer extinguish their daughter’s little candle with their useless tears.

The gospel account of the transfiguration of Jesus tells us that our sufferings will lead to the transformation of our lives.

Transfiguration established Jesus’ glorious identity as the beloved Son of God, and placed his divine Son-ship in the context of Jewish expectations about the kingdom and the resurrection. While praying, Jesus was transfigured into a shining figure, full of heavenly glory. This reminds us of Moses and Elijah who also experienced the Lord in all His glory. Moses had met the Lord in the burning bush at Mount Horeb (Exodus 3:1-4). After his encounter with God, Moses' face shone so brightly that the people were frightened, and Moses had to wear a veil over his face (Exodus 34:29-35). The Jews believed that Moses was taken up in a cloud at end of his earthly life (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 4. 326). Elijah travelled for forty days to Mt. Horeb on the strength of the food brought by an angel (1 Kings 19:8). At Mt. Horeb, Elijah sought refuge in a cave as the glory of the Lord passed over him (1 Kings 19:9-18).

Moses and Elijah had met the Lord in all his glory, because they were champions of suffering for the Lord.

Moses showed courageous faith in God by his willingness to forsake his life in Egypt and suffer affliction with the people of God instead. Moses began to take a personal interest in the suffering of his brethren. Moses had to escape and flee to the land of Cush, after slaying the Egyptian taskmaster. There he stayed for many years. A conspiracy and upheaval in the government of Cush forced Moses to flee again, and he went to Midian. Then Moses was sent back to the Land Egypt.  Moses voluntarily accepted the suffering in the desert. All these led him to great glory.

The same was the case with Prophet Elijah. Elijah actually enters the scriptural scenery rather abruptly. Nothing of his genealogical record is known other than he was a. Ahab, the king of Israel, and Jezebel become Elijah’s enemies. So, Jezebel wanted him dead and Baal worship established in Israel. God calls the prophet to speak against Ahab and Jezebel’s idolatry insisting the nation repent and return to Yahweh the true God of Israel. The battle commences as the Lord commissions Elijah to declare to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, I stand before Him, and there will be no dew or rain during these years except by my command!” Elijah is now on the run at the Lord’s command and hides at the brook Kerith. However, on the side of encouragement, it is a testimony to God’s humour. God feeds Elijah by using a scavenger bird. This is an unexpected means of God’s provision. Elijah’s faith is further challenged as he discovered that the widow at Zarephath was essentially out of food. As Elijah and Moses accepted their sufferings God assured them of his complete assistance and glorified them

At transfiguration, Jesus was reassured of his Father’s love. Mark tells us that Moses and Elijah were seen on the mountain talking with Jesus. Luke mentions the topic of their conversation: they talked about the suffering Jesus was about to undergo in Jerusalem. Then   the voice of the father was heard “This is my beloved son. Listen to him”. Assured of his Father’s love, Jesus was determined to carry out his Father’s plans to save the world.

Like Jesus, we are also assured of the Father’s love in our sufferings. Our sufferings are designed to strengthen us. “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” says Helen Keller.

Once, an elderly Doctor consulted Viktor Franklin because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else.

He refrained from telling him anything but instead confronted him with the question, "What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?"

"Oh," he said, "for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!" Whereupon he replied, "You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering - to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her." He said no word but calmly left the office. In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning. “
We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.” That is the message that Winston Churchill gave us.

Secondly, The Transfiguration of Jesus teaches us that a great good derives from our suffering patiently borne. The great philosopher Aristotle taught, “Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.” Jesus’ real transfiguration took place on His resurrection after his passion and death. When we suffer by standing with the underprivileged; when we accept suffering for the sake of justice; when we accept suffering for the sake of a  co-worker who is not able to defend himself; or when we accept suffering to build a strong family, we are preparing our way for our final glorification.

The transfiguration of Jesus gives us the message of encouragement and hope. In moments of doubt’ despair and hopelessness, the thought of our transfiguration in will help us to reach out to God and to listen to His consoling words: "This is my beloved son."  Amen.