Into the Second Week
Last week we were in the wilderness, this week we are up on a high mountain – what a contrast. I’m not very good at heights myself, prefer- ring to keep my feet well and truly on the ground. Not for me the feeling of exhilaration and freedom that some people say they experience from climbing a high peak. But the contrast between the desert and the moun- tain top is one we can easily understand and that is perhaps worthy of some consideration as we move into the second week of Lent.
The feast of the Transfiguration is in August when the summer sun is shining at its brilliant best and the warmth of its rays lull us into sleep and drowsiness. But the glory of summer days are a way off yet, something else is a foot which demands that we stay awake. What we have here is a marker, a signpost if you like which will direct our minds towards a new destination. If we are alert we can grasp what Matthew our evangelist is telling us. The presence of the desert last week reminded us of the time spent by the Israelites in the wilderness and of how, lead by Moses, they were eventually guided to the Promised Land. Moses himself climbed Mount Sinai where the Law was given and a cloud covered the mountain and the glory of God rested thereon. Moses’ face reflected the radiance of the Lord so that people were afraid to go near him. If we listen closely to the gospel we can pick up the echoes of this in what happens to Jesus.
Jesus, the giver of the new covenant, climbs the mountain and is joined by Moses and Elijah and there his whole essence is transfigured. Peter James and John, representing the disciples, are covered by a cloud wherein they hear the Father’s voice and they are filled with fear. The voice tells them: This is my Son the beloved. Listen to him. Clearly Mat- thew is alluding to the understanding that Jesus is embarking upon a new exodus, an exodus which will lead not just the people of Israel, but all humanity into a new freedom, a freedom which breaks the shackles of sin that ties us down and prevents us from experiencing the liberating power of God’s love. So what is our pathway to the heart of this liberating love? Well of course we know, and the next weeks will take us deeper and deeper into that mystery, our exodus if you like.
The transfiguration was a moment, a blinding flash which lit up the minds of those three apostles and filled them with awe as they glimpsed for an instant the reality of the future which awaits us all. But because we are human we hesitate and recoil at the prospect. We remain unsure, weary and uncertain of how to proceed, and we literally come ’back down to earth’ to find things much as they have always been. Yet we know that this cannot be so. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is the exodus path along and through which we must all travel, and even though we may, like some in the gospel, ’hesitate’ our trust and faith in Jesus brings us to the threshold of the Father, whose words to us all today speak clearly and loudly. Let us listen indeed.