Second Sunday of Lent
Mark 9: 2-10
Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Members remain standing while the Gospel is read. After the Gospel is read, members kiss the Gospel and are seated. After an appropriate period of reflection, members are invited to share their own lights from the Holy Spirit in relation to this Gospel passage. The secretary synthesizes reflections into a brief summary for the team.
(30 minutes) See monthly schedule
The Better Part
Consider privately reflecting on the corresponding chapter from The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek, LC, ThD during the week.
Unit #121 – “Listening Up” – Mark 9: 1-13
“Therefore if you want to begin and to receive this divine light, pray. If you have begun to make progress, pray., And if you have reached the summit of perfection, and want to be super-illumined so as to remain in that state, pray. If you want faith, pray. If you want hope, pray. If you want charity, pray. If you want poverty, pray. If you want obedience, pray. If you want chastity, pray. If you want humility, pray. If you want meekness, pray. If you want fortitude, pray. If you want any virtue, pray. And pray in this fashion: always reading the Book of Life, that is, the life of the God-man, Jesus Christ, whose life consisted of poverty, pain, contempt, and true obedience.”
“Realize that in this life we are travelers on a journey: our true home is in heaven.” St Cajetan
Christ as Lord
We glimpse, through the eyes of his three closest disciples, the true glory of this humble carpenter from the small town of Nazareth. The transfiguration of Christ on Mt Tabor unveils for a shining moment Christ’s divinity, so subtly disguised during the rest of his earthly days. In Jesus Christ heaven and earth meet, time and eternity mingle. St Mark points out that the brilliance of Christ’s countenance, and even of his clothes, surpassed the brightest imaginable experience of earthly light. He conversed with God’s closest Old Testament collaborators, Moses and Elijah, whose law and prophecies had prefigured him. The entire scene culminates in the descent of a cloud (the Holy Spirit) and the voice of God the Father” Jesus Christ is more than just another rabbi; in him we behold the “fullness of grace and truth,” the “glory of the father,” and the face of everlasting love. (cf. John 1, 3:16) And yet, at the same time, he is just plain Jesus, the rabbi from Galilee. Christ indeed is a Lord unlike any other, full of divine power but gentle as the humblest friend, as the Sacrament of the Eucharist so eloquently bears witness.
Christ as Teacher
When God the Father speaks from heaven, we ought to listen. No doubt he chooses his words carefully: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Throughout all of human history, mankind has sought answers to the pressing questions that simmer deep within his heart: why are we here? How can we find the happiness we long for so desperately? Why is there suffering and evil? What is the ultimate meaning of existence? Often, as attested by the great literature of human history, man has addressed these questions directly to God. God has responded. But his response is a surprising one: it is a living person, not a formulaic philosophy – the person of his “beloved Son,” Jesus Christ. Through Christ’s life, teachings, death, and resurrection God has answered all our questions more thoroughly than we could ever have imagined. Christ himself is the answer. As Pope John Paul II put it in his first encyclical letter, “The Redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history” (Redemptor hominis, 1).
By enjoining the three Apostles to “listen to him,” the Father seems to imply that even though Christ is his beloved Son, not everyone will easily accept him. We hear a kind of plea in that command, a plea that should give us pause. Christ is the answer, but is he my answer? Do I listen to him? Do I follow him? He is the center of the universe, but is he the center of my life? The Father wants him to be, that’s why he sent him in the first place, but he leaves us free to make the choice.
The Apostles’ question to Jesus about Elijah exemplifies our tendency to misinterpret God’s action in our lives. They are finally convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, after years of following him, listening to him, seeing his miracles, and now witnessing the Transfiguration. But a question lingers in their minds. The ancient prophesies said that Elijah would return to announce the Messiah’s arrival. So, if Jesus is the Messiah, where is Elijah? Jesus reaffirms the prophecy (we know from other Gospel passages that St John the Baptist, who had come in the spirit of Elijah, fulfilled that prophesy), but then he turns his companions’ minds once again to his coming Passion. He asks them a rhetorical question, as if to say, true, the prophesy about Elijah was not so easy to understand, but if you didn’t grasp the meaning of that one, how will you grasp the meaning of my coming Passion, which is also prophesied in the Old Testament? Jesus tells them repeatedly about his coming passion and resurrection, but they are unable to understand; they simply don’t listen – the idea of suffering turns them off. How like us they are!
Christ as Friend
At times, God grants us exceptional clarity, joy, and satisfaction along our path of Christian discipleship. He does so because he knows that we need foretastes of the happiness he has in store for us if we are to endure the crosses that mark our way. But sometimes, like spoiled children, we hold on to those good feelings as if they were God himself. We echo Peter’s petition: “Lord it is good for us to be here! Let’s just put up some tents and never leave!” But earth is not heaven, and God loves us too much to let us settle for anything less than the fullness of his friendship. And so, he leads us down from our high mountains and walks with us to Calvary, where he teaches us to love him and not just his gifts, to give of ourselves, and to store up our treasure in heaven.
Christ in my Life
Why do I take you for granted? You are too patient with me. Maybe I need a dramatic, Transfiguration experience to wake me up. I believe in you, Lord. I believe that you are the Eternal King, the Lord, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. And I believe that you – the same Lord, God and Savior – are really and truly present in the Eucharist…
I have listened to you, Lord. I want to keep listening. Please speak to my heart. Help me to know what you would have me say and do in each moment, in each relationship of my life. Make me like you, so that the right thing, the true thing, the fruitful thing is my natural preference in every situation. Thy will be done, Lord, in every corner of my life…
You promise crosses, but you also promise resurrection. Get me ready for my crosses, because I want to experience the new life you won for me through your Resurrection. Teach me to die to everything that is selfish and petty, so that your grace and your life can flow through me and spread your Kingdom among everyone around me…
Questions for Discussion
1. What struck you most about this passage? What did you notice that you hadn’t noticed before?
2. What are some of the most powerful mountaintop experiences (times when you have experienced God’s presence and love in a dramatic way) you have had? How can you make sure that their influence continues to encourage you and doesn’t just disappear?
3. What can we do concretely to improve our “listening to Christ” this week?
4. How can we know if we have truly accepted the necessity of sharing in Christ’s cross (difficulties, persecution, suffering) in order to share in his resurrection?