40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Second Sunday in Lent-A, 05 March 2023 Genesis 12:1-4 >+< 2 Timothy 1:8-10 >+< Matthew 17:1-9
Something so personal has happened with me this past week. It is something that is still unfolding, making me realize so many things in my life and ministry that as I continue to reflect on the death last Sunday of our elderly priest, Msgr. Vicente Manlapig, at the Fatima University Medical Center where I serve as its chaplain.
I was out when told about Msgr. Manlapig’s passing shortly before 3PM. It was the First Sunday of Lent. After saying a prayer for him, it suddenly dawned upon me that he was the second elderly priest I had taken cared of who also died in this blessed Season of Lent. The first was Msgr. Macario Manahan who died 16 March 2014, the Second Sunday of Lent at that time. I was with him when he died that afternoon as he lived very near my former parish assignment.
What a tremendous blessing God has given me to have attended to their spiritual needs preparing them for their deaths, of how life indeed is a daily Lent preparing for Easter when we have to go through many difficult series of temptations and sufferings that lead us to our transfiguration (https://lordmychef.com/2023/02/27/deaths-in-lent/).
It is the very path of life and death of every disciple of Jesus, from temptations in the wilderness to transfiguration on the high mountain. It is something we all have to go through in Christ, with Christ and through Christ.
Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here…” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”Matthew 17:1-4, 5-9
Unlike Luke’s account that was set in the context of a prayer, Matthew’s version of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ illuminates the Lenten pilgrimage of the Church that is the tragedy of the Cross being seen always in the perspective of the Easter radiance. It is the oneness and inseparability of Christ’s divinity and glory with the Cross through which we get to know Jesus correctly.
Recall that the transfiguration happened after Peter’s confession of Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” at Caesarea Philippi (Mt.16:16) where Jesus also made the first prediction of his passion, death and resurrection. From that day on, Jesus began instilling into the Twelve his conditions of discipleship, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). It was a very difficult lesson for them to learn and accept that triggered Judas to betray Jesus. The remaining disciples would only fully appreciate it after the Easter event with the help of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
That is why the transfiguration was actually some sort of a “teaching aid” for this most difficult lesson of his disciples when Jesus gave Peter, James and John a glimpse of his coming glory after his pasch. See that very clearly, Matthew recorded Christ’s instruction not to tell the “vision” to anyone until Easter; the transfiguration did happen and was seen by everyone there as Matthew used the word vision to describe it.
Like the three disciples, many of us are given with this unique privilege by Jesus to have a glimpse and vision of Easter, of glory when we join him on the Cross with our own sufferings and trials and when we accompany those in severe tests in life like the sick and dying.
Amid the pain and hurts we go through or see in others, we “see” Jesus, we feel Jesus, we experience Jesus.
Many times like Peter we speak and do things without really thinking well about them because we are overwhelmed by the experience as well as the vision and sight.
And most of the time, the sight and experiences are very frightening when God speaks to us, telling us to listen to Jesus his Son, to simply obey him and trust him.
Here we have a deepening of our reflection last Sunday of the need to fix our eyes on Jesus son that we may not fall into temptations and sin. Many times we do not see everything clearly but if we close our eyes and have faith in Christ, things get clearer until it is him alone do we see with us especially after passing over a turmoil or a test in life. Like the first man and woman, our eyes are misled by so many things that look so good but not good at all. In fact, there are things that look bad that could really be good after all like pains and sufferings in life!
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us through St. Timothy to “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Tim. 1:8) which matches directly the instruction in the voice heard during the transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt. 17:5). After the transfiguration, everything that Jesus would tell his disciples and everyone that include us today is his coming passion, death and resurrection as well as the conditions of discipleship we mentioned earlier. God wants us to listen and follow his Son Jesus Christ to the Cross in order to join him in the glory of Easter.
We are transfigured and transformed into better persons by our pains and sufferings. That is the irony and tragedy of this age: we have everything like gadgets and money and other resources to make lives easier and comfortable but we have become more lost and alienated, empty and no direction in life. There cannot be all glory without sorrow; no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.
Lent is a journey back home to God who wants us all to share in his glory through Jesus Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. It is a blessed season we are reminded to always arise in Christ, to have courage and be not fearful of failures because right now, we are already assured of victory and glory in Jesus. Let us ascend with him the high mountain of sacrifices and hard work, of prayers and patience, mercy and forgiveness to be transfigured and glorified like him. Let us imitate Abraham in the first reading to respond to this call by God with faith and hope, obedience and perseverance. Amen. Have blessed and transformative week ahead.