Second Sunday of Lent | Jesus Isn’t Alone on the Mountain
BY KRISANNE VAILLANCOURT MURPHY | March 17, 2019
Second Sunday of Lent
Reflexión en Español
The story of the Transfiguration is often noted as the “mountaintop” experience: Jesus needs rest, retreats to a lofty place and finds divine affirmation and encouragement. Emboldened, Jesus then goes down the mountain returning to those he serves. Surely, there is much to reflect on in this passage.
But Jesus isn’t alone on the mountain and I find myself paying close attention to those who accompanied him there. Peter, John, and James are in the presence of the Divine. How they respond challenges me to examine how I respond when encountering the face of God that exists before me.
In Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, the disciples immediately fall asleep. Whether the disciples were snoozing or in an oblivious fog, Luke wants us to know that they failed to grasp the importance of what was happening—they just didn’t get it. I too can miss meaningful stuff. Important points cease to enter my consciousness and I miss it.
Then Luke says the disciples become “fully awake.” They see Jesus’ “dazzling” glory and notice that Moses and Elijah are there. But are Jesus’ companions watching closely enough to understand the magnitude of the scene? For me, what does my “fully awake” look like? Am I ready to receive God’s gifts and to see God’s creation revealed before me?
Next, Peter affirms “it is good we are here.” It’s a clumsy and inappropriate big idea to “make three tents.” Peter’s over-eager response reminds me of how often I want to please and rush to action before listening well and responding in a fitting way.
The cloud thickens on the mountain top and visibility becomes obscure. Jesus’ companions become frightened and silent. How do I respond to God in the messiness, murkiness of the world and of our Church these days? Scared and unsure, am I silent in order to better listen? Or am I silent because speaking up means sacrificing comfort or maybe my privilege?
The Transfiguration reminds me that our responses matter, and that we are accountable for them. It also reminds me that despite my flawed reactions and missteps, Jesus’ invitation remains: Jesus wants us to be with him on this journey.
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy serves as the executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, the national Catholic organization dedicated to ending the death penalty and promoting restorative justice. Krisanne is co-author of Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures, published by Baker Academic. She holds a masters in theology degree from Boston College (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts).
You gave me a lot to think about here. I, too, like to rush in with a solution before listening and thinking things through. Being present in the moment is a little more complicated! Thanks for this!
My favorite scripture passage comes at the end of the story, “but Jesus came and touched them, and said, Rise and do not be afraid.” How tender and merciful our Lord is.
Moses represents the Mosaic Law and Elijah the Jewish Prophets, and together the three show the glorious fulfillment in Christ of God’s promised love for the Jewish people. Our mystical identification with Christ shows the wonderful life we live now, to be divinized as we are graced to grow in holiness.
Who wouldn’t want to stay on the mountain?
Safe enough to sleep.
Plus, the “Light” show and special relationship with the “Boss”
Above the fray and mess and problems.
Instead, Jesus calls us to be disciples and go back down the mountain to serve and minister and confront hate and violence and suffering; to comfort those in need and challenge the status quo. Not much fun
Who wouldn’t want to stay where it’s safe and comfortable and entertaining?
Our faith calls us to rejoin humanity with all of its warts and problems and act as healers and servants.
Peter affirms “it is good we are here.” Those are blessed moments when i can realize it’s good that we’re here. I’ve experienced it is major liturgies, as the Eucharistic liturgy celebrated by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States last weekend, and often at daily Mass with a handful of folks in our little parish chapel. Those moments are so affirming and encouraging – help to deal with all the foolishness going on in our country and church.
Today I spent the afternoon, after my own Episcopal Church service, at a mosque attending a service of sorrow and solidarity — Muslims, Jews and Christians — following the massacre in New Zealand. I am grateful for the impulse which brought me there. It was a moment.
Being on the journey is far more satisfying than remaining static in thought, word and deed.