Reflections on the Readings
The Second Sunday of Lent - March 4, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
A Sacred Vision
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. - Mark 9:9
Peter, James, and John come down from the mountain overflowing with what their eyes had seen. They kept the experience to themselves, but were initially bewildered and questioned what rising from the dead meant. All of that changed after Jesus rose from the dead. John muses on his witnessing the Transfiguration of Jesus later in his life saying: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands - the life that was made manifest, and we saw it! (see 1 John 1:1,2)
Exiled to the rocky island of Patmos, John sees Jesus again in all of his glory, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire. The feet of Jesus were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. His face was like the sun shining in full strength - the living one alive forevermore - the keys of Death and Hades hanging from his sash. (see Revelation 1:12-19)
Abraham embraced his test with a faith that rejoiced in the day of Christ. Jesus spoke of Abraham's great vision of faith and his joy of Christ. Speaking to the hierarchy of his day, Jesus said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad." When did this occur? Our second reading today describes Abraham in his test of faith. Offering up his only son, Abraham reached out of himself and believed that God would raise his son, his only son back from the dead. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Lent is when we ask and seek for a greater abandonment to Christ and his Kingdom. Our eyes need a fresh vision of Jesus who is human and divine. In his flesh his glory is unveiled in his Transfiguration. Both Elijah and Moses attend this unveiling. Why these two? Mountains. Desert mountains. Moses beheld the glory of God and the giving of the Decalogue on Mt. Sinai. And Elijah fled from Jezebel to a mountain where he heard the voice of the Almighty speak in a still small voice. That same voice of the Father spoke out of the cloud atop the mountain of Transfiguration as he introduced his only begotten Son saying, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him."
Only in Luke's account of the Transfiguration do we learn that Moses and Elijah were in conversation with Jesus. The inner circle, Peter, James, and John are witnesses to a conversation between the Law giver, Moses, and Elijah, the Prophet of considerable fame and of hallowed memory in Israel. Both of these Old Testament men were preeminently held in sacred honor by the Chosen People.
We learn also from Luke that Peter, James, and John were initially asleep when this event unfolded. But given their awareness of the heavenly and historical visitors, it is reasonable to concur they heard more than we are told.
Luke also explains that Jesus and his visitors are in a conversation about our Lord's impending sacrificial offering - his Paschal destiny in the Holy City of Jerusalem The impact of this vision and discussion left its imprint on Peter, James, John, and as I noted, John alludes to this event in his first Epistle. And Peter explicitly relates this event in a contemplative and hallowed tone many years later. For Peter, this vision gave him a sacred memory concerning the very depths of the holy humanity of Jesus that he would draw on in his apostolic ministry. Writing years later with an impregnable faith, Peter declares the veracity of what he knows and believes: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (see 2 Peter 1:16)
After twenty centuries, along with Paul in our second reading, we remain amazed at the generosity of the Father's love for us. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all - will he not freely give us all things with him? Will he not bless us with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus? It is this great kindness of God we are seeking in our Lenten observance. It is the great gift of God to give us a sure and true vision - to see for ourselves the love of Christ - to be filled with all the fulness of God. (Romans 8:31ff; see Eph 3:19)
Reflecting on the great and sacred hour of the Transfiguration, Peter remembers the honor and the glory emanating from the only Son of the Father. Peter speaks of the Majestic Glory and Invocation: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Peter exclaims, "We heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain." (2 Peter 1:17 &18)
May the Lord give us a sacred encounter with Jesus. May he give us that sacred taste of the love of Christ; to find ourselves lost in the breadth and length and height and depth of that love that is immeasurable and go forward in our Lenten journey to see ––––
the sacred hearts of those filled with despair;
the sacred faces of those filled with hunger;
to hear the sacred voices of those crying for justice.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com