SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
In the midst of the Lenten journey this Sunday’s biblical readings invite us to contemplate the faithful and saving God that revealed himself in the obscurity of faith to Abraham and in the culminating moment of history has revealed himself to all men and women in Christ his Son. All of today’s liturgy is centered in three great “revelations”: the revelation of the faithful God that makes a covenant with man and woman (first reading), the revelation of the glorious destiny of the believer (second reading) and the revelation of Christ’s glory, “the beloved Son”, on the mountain of the Transfiguration (gospel). Lent is a proper time to renew our faith and orient our life toward the great revelation of Easter, the supreme event through which God “transfigures” the universe and history in Christ.
The first reading (Gen 15,5-12. 17-18) narrates the covenant between God and Abraham through which God renews to the patriarch the promise of descendants. The ancient promise of a son seemed more and more a dream or an illusion in which one’s desires were projected. Abraham is enveloped in the densest obscurity: he is elderly, Sarah is sterile, time passes, everything seems to indicate that there will not be descendents and a servant of their house will inherit Abraham’s goods (Gen 15,2). The anterior night of Abraham is seen illuminated with another night, a star filled night during which the Lord, taking him outside, renews his promise to him: “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them, then he said to him, so shall your descendants be” (v. 5). God breaks the obscure night of Abraham and reveals to him his word full of hope. And Abraham, full of enthusiasm, turns to affirm his unbreakable amen in God. In the 6th verse, in effect, we find the Hebrew verb amán, the verb of faith, that indications the action of supporting oneself only on God and where our term amen comes from: “And he believed (he’ emín) the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15,6; cf. Rom 4,18-25). The verb “to accredit, to keep in mind” (Hebrew hashab) is the technical verb with which the validity of the sacrifices is affirmed (cf. Lev 7,18). The sacrifice, which pleases God and that, justifies man and woman is the daily adhesion of faith.
Afterwards, God confirms solemnly his compromise with Abraham in the mysterious sunset and through an ancient gesture of “covenant”. The rite evokes the pacts that were made in the ancient Middle East between a lord and vassal: the contractors of the covenant pass in the middle of the slain animals, that represent the destiny that will have to happen with whoever may not complete the pact. In Hebrew “to realize” a covenant is said to “cut a pact”. So then, one night, when the son had already set, “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between the pieces” (v. 17). It was the Lord committing himself to fulfill his word in favor of the patriarch: “To your descendants I give this land” (V. 18). God reveals himself as the great ally of man and woman, a faithful and beneficent ally through an indestructible covenant. That fire that illuminated the night of Abraham was the loving presence of God that man and woman have to know how to welcome day after day in the obscurity of faith.
The second reading (Phil 3,17-4,1) presents two alternative destines that are presented to each man and woman. A destiny of perdition, for the “enemies of the cross of Christ”, whose God is “the stomach” (Phil 3,18.19), those that have oriented their life according to egoism and immortality, and a destiny of glory, for the believers in Christ Jesus, who will “change our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3,21). The journey of faith concludes with the marvelous “transfiguration” of the true believer. For this reason, Paul exhorts Christians to live coherently with the faith that they profess, inviting them to “stand firm thus in the Lord” (Phil 4,1), behaving like “citizens of heaven that await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3,20).
The gospel (Lk 9,28b-36) of the Transfiguration, constructed in the light of the theophanies of the Old Testament, is a true anticipated proclamation of the glory of Easter. Everything happens on “the mountain” (v. 28b), symbolic space of the divine world’s transcendence. In the same way that God “is wrapped in light as in a robe” (Ps 104,2), the clothing of Jesus becomes transfigured full of resplendent light, letting be seen the divine glory present in his person. Luke, differing from the other synoptic gospels, brings out that the Transfiguration happens while Jesus was in prayer (v. 29). Only in the dialogue of faith and love of prayer is the revelation of the true face of Jesus is produced and the transfiguration of the believer.
The presence of Moses, who symbolizes the word of the Law, and of Elijah, that symbolizes the word of prophecy, indicates that with Jesus salvation history has reached its culmination. Luke describes Jesus speaking with them of “his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”. The Greek text says exactly the éxodo of Jesus, that is to say, the culmination of his earthly journey that passing through death and resurrection reaches its ultimate goal in the Ascension, where Jesus reveals fully his divine filiation. On the mountain, in effect, we hear the voice of the Father: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (v. 35). To the disciples, is revealed in this way, the mystery of Jesus: he is the Son. In the humiliation of the flesh is hidden the saving presence of God that liberates men and women through his suffering Son-Servant. The Transfiguration is, therefore, the great revelation of the mystery of Jesus that will illuminate the journey of the disciples through the ages. Precisely when he follows them to the cross, they experience the divine glory and listen to the voice of the Father. So it will always be from no on: the glory of God and his word will reveal themselves where men and women follow Jesus in the journey or brotherly and suffering love for others unto the cross.
For the three disciples the experience was unique. Peter rightly exclaims: “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths…” (v. 33). They have contemplated for a moment the unique beauty worthy of being loved itself, the only one that it is necessary to desire and cultivate because it will be eternal; they have lived in history a moment of eternity, have tasked the joy of communion and love with God. But history hast to continue, it has not arrived at its end. Peter’s petition is an illusion. Time cannot stop, that which is transitory cannot be made permanent. It is necessary to come down from the mountain. The three disciples descend, but also are transfigured, with the certainty that the Master’s journey is the only one that carries to life. At the end, Jesus appears alone (v. 36), because it is only he who is journey and meaning of everything. The voice that they have heard is that of God inviting them to listen to him and follow him to the cross. Only then, will they be able to enter definitively in that glory and in that beauty that they had contemplated and enjoyed in an anticipated way.
The living experience on the mountain reveals the glory of Jesus. The glorious Christ of Easter, the beloved Son of the Father, is the same Jesus of Nazareth that journeys toward death and announces his sorrowful passion. The transfiguration does not negate the cross, but rather is the revelation of its saving significance as journey to leads to life. Through this experience, Jesus strengthens the faith of his disciples and introduces them into the paradox of Easter: a life that comes through the death and a glory that is not an evasion nor indifference before the pain of history, but rather goal and culminating point of the faithful and crucified love. At the same time, the feast of today is a hymn of hope. The kingdoms of the world (the beasts of the book of Daniel) will not conquer the Kingdom of god. Christ Jesus, “the Son of Man”, incarnates in himself all of the journey of faith and of hope of his people and realizes all their expectations of salvation for he present and the future. The Transfiguration reveals that Chris is the conqueror and that the victory over sin and death has been rooted in the history of humanity. In an epoch dominated by the search for ethereal and deceiving transfigurations, the Christian strengthens him or herself to live as a new man and woman and take on the edification of the new world of the Kingdom of God.