One of the metaphors often used for Lent is journey. It is used for life as well. It is a popular way of looking at a passage of time in which some sort of movement is involved, going from one place to another. Our Lenten journey does not involve physical movement but a movement of the soul. The journey is inward. We journey in to our hearts, being led along the way by the Spirit, to encounter anew the Lord and to hear His call to life.
When Jesus began His ministry, he called disciples to himself – “follow me” or “come after me” He said to them. They followed and their lives were changed forever. Along the way they began to know the God who created them, who loves them and who forgives them. On their part, they had to put their faith in Jesus; they had to trust Him. And they did.
God speaks to us today while we are on this Lenten journey. The first reading recalls God’s invitation to Abram to follow Him. God promises great things for Abram is he will only trust. When we reflect on God’s invitation to Abram we realize He, God, is asking for a great leap of faith. Abram is to leave everything, his land, his home, his community and travel to an uknown land, of unknown people and language. The call for trust is a deep one. In this sense, it is the same as the call Jesus makes to Peter, Andrew, James and John, His first disciples when he invites them to follow him. And it is similar to the call he offers to each of us.
The Gospel passage today recalls the Transfiguration of Jesus before his disciples. It is a very important event in the life of Christ and those disciples. Moses and Elijah appearing represent the law and the prophets. Their presence points to the significance of Jesus’ life and ministry as the culmination of God’s revelation with His people. All that went before prepares for Christ. In this short passage there are three divine pronouncements or statements. One from the Father, two from Jesus. Perhaps reflection on these will help us on our Lenten Journey.
The first pronouncement is: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” God the Father speaks to Peter, James and John as Jesus is transfigured and they become afraid. The experience is overwhelming. They have been following Jesus and getting to know Him. The development of this relationship and their understanding of who Jesus is takes another step today. He is the Father’s “beloved Son.” It will take sometime for the disciples to process this statement but they will and in doing so be drawn into a further communion with the Son – and through Him, with the Father. As we travel our inward journey, we hear the Father say these words to us today. He is pointing us toward Jesus. He is inviting us to know Him through Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus can always grow and develop for He and we are alive. The Father’s instruction gives us the way to grow in this relationship. He says: “Listen to Him.”
The second statement is a command: “Rise and do not be afraid.” Jesus says these words to the disciples after the Transfiguration. Naturally they are afraid as the witness of this divine manifestation. They fall to the ground. The words they hear, they’ve heard before. Jesus reminds them that with Him there is no need to fear. He will protect them. He will feed them. He will dispel any darkness. He will forgive. He will give them courage, strength, peace, hope and joy. There is no need for fear for nothing is greater than His love. As he said to them, He says to us: “Do not be afraid.”
The third statement is also a command: “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Jesus’ instruction to the disciples then points ahead to his passion. It is essential for them to understand, which will only happen after the fact, that this Jesus who they are following, whose divine life they have just witnessed in the Transfiguration, is the same Jesus who is arrested, tried, tortured, executed, who has died and is now risen. They will remain silent now but once all has taken place they will witness to the world through mission. They will go out and invite. Jesus’ words speak to us on this Lenten journey as we head toward Holy Week we realize in new ways the significance and impact of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection on my life. We experience His love and mercy, indeed the divine life he has share with us, in a renewed and profound way. The renewal propels us to share, to share the good news, to proclaim Jesus as risen.
Our journey through Lent has begun. On this journey we will venture deeper and deeper into our experience of God’s love and mercy. We will encounter Christ Jesus in new ways. Renewed in His love, our celebration of Easter will enliven us to proclaim that love and to invite others to share in this life so that together we may continue our journey through life, together, as we head to our eternal home.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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