March 12, 2017
Second Sunday of Lent, Year A
We left Jesus in the desert, where He dealt with illusions and ideas that inhabit the life of every person, and He left it victorious.
From there He embarked on His mission, a mission that sees Him committed simply to giving His life and, in this way, attesting the immense love of His Father.
Today, the Gospel tells us that a life like this is of an extraordinary beauty.
The man who gives into the temptations of selfishness, the man who makes himself a god, paradoxically, disfigures and loses himself: we see him in the garden naked and ashamed (Genesis 3).
The man who enters the way of trusting obedience, shines light: today’s Gospel says that even His clothes shine with a flash of glory. But Jesus knows this well.
The Transfiguration, in fact, is not for Him.
The Gospel points out that this episode in the life of Jesus, this glorious experience, is not addressed to Him, but to his disciples: they are the protagonists.
Matthew says that Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him and led them aside (Mt 17:1); he says He was transfigured before them (Mt 17:2); that Moses and Elijah appeared to them (Mt 17:3); and the voice that asks to listen to the beloved Son is for them (Mt 17:5); it is again them that Jesus, drawing nearer, touches, so that they will not be afraid (Mt 17:7); and it is them who, finally, see Jesus, alone (Mt 17:8).
Why do the disciples need this experience? What must they understand?
One clue comes from the context. The Gospel tells us that this incident happened “after six days” (Mt 17:1). Six days after what? In the preceding verses we find Jesus with them in Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:13-28); He talks with them about His identity and begins to announce that His mission will soon undergo the experience of failure, defeat, rejection, and violent death. And it’s there that Peter takes Him aside and would like to convince Him that it is not even possible to imagine this end: “God forbid, Lord!” (Mt 16:22). He did not understand anything.
Then Jesus takes him aside, not to deny what he had just said, but to show them that the way of suffering and death is actually a way of glory. To reveal to his intimate friends that the two cannot be separated and that every mystery of love lived till the total gift of self is already in itself an amazing experience of light and life. For a moment, the disciples catch a glimpse of this.
They still do not understand everything: as six days earlier, Peter had only seen the mystery of suffering and was scandalized, here he risks only seeing the mystery of glory and wants to stop here, to make three tents and not descend to the valley (Mt 17: 4), to go no further.
The difficulty, for Peter, for the disciples, for us, is precisely holding together the two aspects of this mystery. It is to believe, by faith, that in reality it is a single, inseparable event, in which the most profound lowering opens the door to the highest exaltation. This is the mystery of Jesus, but this is also the truth about man.
Still they do not understand all, actually; but they will have something to remember when Lord will be raised; they will be able to recall having already seen how much beauty that life set towards Jerusalem contained.
The Passion will strip bear their poor faith and will reveal the frailty of their friendship with the Lord.
And it is for this reason that the Father’s voice says only one thing to them: “Listen to Him” (Mt 17:5).
Listen to Him while he speaks with Moses and Elijah (Mt 17:3), that is, look at the entire Law and the Prophets in the light of this Beloved Son, in which history is centered and the entire story of the Covenant is recounted.
And listen to Him when you will experience all your frailty, your betrayal: then you will understand that this Son gave His life for you, just to make you sharers of the same destiny of glory, the same light, the same fullness of life.
The Transfiguration, then, is nothing other than a window that, for a moment, opens to the disciples, on the way to Jerusalem, a window that allows them to see the entire Pasch “complete”.
This window shows us the perspective of faith, without which the mystery of God and man remains veiled.
If we look through it, we will see the fulfillment of human destiny uncovered in the Beloved Son’s face disfigured for love.
Original version in italian