Saturday, February 23, 2019
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
when Your Son was transfigured
You gave eyes of faith to the apostles
to see beyond appearances
and to recognize Jesus as Your beloved Son.
This vision gave them courage for the hour of trial.
When our faith and trust
seem to desert us in dark moments,
let Your Son take us up to the mountain
and give us a glimpse of His light,
that with fresh courage and generosity
we may see where He wants us to go.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 9:2-13
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; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, the disciples 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. Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things, yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
• Today’s Gospel speaks about two facts linked together: the Transfiguration of Jesus and the question regarding the return of the prophet Elijah. At that time people were waiting for the return of the prophet Elijah. Today many people are waiting for the return of Jesus and write on the walls of the city: Jesus will return! They are not aware that Jesus has already returned and is present in our life. Some times, like a sudden lightening, this presence of Jesus bursts into our life and enlightens it, transfiguring it.
• The Transfiguration of Jesus takes place after the first announcement of the death of Jesus (Mk 8:27-30). This announcement had disturbed or upset the minds of the disciples, especially Peter’s (Mk 8:31-33). They were among the poor, but their mind was lost in the ideology of the government and the religion of the time (Mk 8:15). The cross was an obstacle to belief in Jesus. The Transfiguration of Jesus will help the disciples to overcome the trauma of the cross.
• In the year 70 when Mark was writing, the cross continued to be a great impediment for the Jews to accept Jesus as Messiah. They said, “The cross is a scandal!” (1 Cor 1:23). One of the greatest efforts of the first Christians consisted in helping people perceive that the cross was neither a scandal, nor madness, but rather the expression of the power and the wisdom of God (1Cor 1:22-31). Mark contributes to this. He uses the texts and the figure of the Old Testament to describe the Transfiguration. In this way he indicates that Jesus sees the realization of the prophecies, and the cross was a way toward glory.
• Mark 9:2-4: Jesus changes appearance. Jesus goes up a high mountain. Luke says that He goes up to pray (Lk 9:28). Up there, Jesus appears in glory before Peter, James and John. Together with Him appear Moses and Elijah. The high mountain evokes Mount Sinai, where in the past, God had manifested His will to the people, handing them the Law. The white clothes remind us of Moses with a radiant face when he spoke with God on the mountain and received the law (cf. Ex 43:29-35) Elijah and Moses, the two greatest authorities of the Old Testament, speak with Jesus. Moses represents the law, Elijah, prophecy. Luke mentions the conversation concerning the “exodus of Jesus”, that is, the death of Jesus in Jerusalem (Lk 9:31). It is then clear that the Old Testament, both the law as well as prophecy, already taught that for the Messiah Servant the way to glory had to go through the cross!
• Mark 9:5-6: Peter is pleased, but he does not understand. Peter wants to keep this pleasant moment on the mountain. He offers to build three tents. Mark says that Peter was afraid, without knowing what he was saying, and Luke adds that the disciples were sleepy (Lk 9:32). They were like us: they had difficulty understanding the cross!
• Mark 9:7-9: The voice from Heaven clarifies the facts. When Jesus was covered by glory, a voice came from the cloud and said, “This is My Beloved Son! Listen to Him!” The expression “Beloved Son” reminds us of the figure of the Messiah Servant, announced by the prophet Isaiah (cf. Isa 42:1). The expression: “Listen to Him!” reminds us of the prophecy which promised the coming of a new Moses (cf. Deut 18:15). In Jesus, the prophecies of the Old Testament are being fulfilled. The disciples can no longer doubt. Jesus is truly the glorious Messiah whom they desired, but the way to glory passes through the cross, according to what was announced by the prophecy of the servant (Isa 53:3-9). The glory of the Transfiguration proves this. Moses and Elijah confirm it. The Father guarantees it. Jesus accepts it. At the end, Mark says that after the vision, the disciples saw only Jesus and nobody else. From now on, Jesus is the only revelation of God for us! Jesus is alone, the key to understanding all of the Old Testament.
• Mark 9:9-10: To know how to keep silence. Jesus asked the disciples to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead, but the disciples did not understand. In fact, they did not understand the meaning of the cross, which links suffering to the resurrection. The cross of Jesus is the proof that life is stronger than death.
• Mark 9:11-13: The return of the prophet Elijah. The prophet Malachi had announced that Elijah would return to prepare the path for the Messiah (Mal 3:23-24): this same announcement is found in the Book of Ecclesiasticus/Ben Sira (Sir 48:10). But how could Jesus be the Messiah if Elijah had not yet returned? This is why the disciples asked, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come before?” (Mk 9:11). The response of Jesus is clear: “But I tell you Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him” (9:13). Jesus was speaking about John the Baptist, who was killed by Herod (Mt 17:13).
4) Personal questions
• Has your faith in Jesus given you moments of transfiguration and of intense joy? How do these moments of joy give you strength in times of difficulty?
• How can we transfigure today our personal and family life as well as our community life?
5) Concluding Prayer
All goes well for one who lends generously,
who is honest in all his dealing;
for all time to come he will not stumble,
for all time to come the upright will be remembered. (Ps 112:5-6)