Second Sunday of Lent Year C
One of the types of places I love visiting for a holiday are mountains. I love driving up mountains (not climbing them!), firstly because I love cold temperatures. The other reason I love being on mountains is that the sheer height gives me a sense of transcendence. Whatever the stress I may be experiencing at a particular point of my life journey, being on a mountain gives me a sense that I am able to transcend all these stresses life has brought me.
The transfiguration event seems to point to a similar kind of experience that the disciples went through when they ascended the mountain with Jesus.
In the past week, they had most likely been experiencing a season of desolation because Jesus had just predicted his death. What were they to do without Him? They had after all left their jobs, their families and everything they were familiar with in order to build a life with Him. And now, He had alerted them that He would not remain with them much longer. And more than that, He had even told them that they too would have to suffer like Him if they wanted to follow Him - to take up their own crosses of humiliation and shame. He had effectively killed their ambitions and told them that their future with Him was not socially, politically and economically promising. Imagine how they must have felt all week and what they must have discussed among themselves all week.
On this occasion, Jesus took them up to the mountain and their spirits were abruptly and unexpectedly lifted by a vision of grandeur. After a week of desolation, they suddenly caught a glimpse of heaven! It is no wonder that they wanted this vision to remain because they were so consoled by it. Peter wanted to linger there indefinitely just to continue experiencing that surge of happiness and comfort he so longed for.
But Jesus would not permit that. He insisted they had to go down the mountain and return to the daily grind of their apostolic life with Him. He would not allow for them to cling on to this momentary consolation. There was a mission to fulfil in Jerusalem in accordance with the will of God, and He was not about to allow anything to impede the fulfillment of that mission. The worst was yet to be, and He was resolute about making His way to Jerusalem so that what had been written might take place: He had to go there to get murdered.
To each one of us is given the mandate to fulfil the will of God in our lives, for the salvation of the world. Together with this mandate, we are each given a cross, a cup of suffering that accompanies the intention to fulfil God's will. No one who truly intends to fulfil God's will is accompanied by the luxury of non-suffering. But in these sufferings, we are called to identify with the life and suffering of Christ, to participate in His own suffering experience for the life of the world.
The call for all who follow Christ is to enjoin ourselves to His sufferings, and in so doing, participate in the redemption of the world. Occasionally, God does give us experiences of consolation that grant us respite. And yet, we are not to cling on to those momentary consolations as a way of escape. We are to descend the mountain of respite to once again face the grueling realities of life.
Lent is a reminder that Jesus went ahead with great courage to suffer what was in store for Him, and so must we, so that God is glorified in our suffering and weakness. It is a time for confronting our sufferings head on, for embracing pain rather than avoiding it. It is a season that reminds us to journey with Christ to the cross, to suffer with Him and to die with Him, so that we can rise with Him.
This call comes with a promise of eternal respite, to be sure. But not yet.