Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.
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Jesus asked his disciple, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers for all of them, “You are the Christ.” Then Jesus reveals to them his destiny. He would suffer and die in the hands of sinful men, but rise again on the third day. That he would suffer and die shocked them so much that they did not hear the rest of his statement—that he would rise again on the third day. But to cushion the blow of the prediction of his passion and to make them remember that the cross would not be the end of his story, Jesus made Peter, James and John witness the Transfiguration.
The Transfiguration took place on a mountain. Tradition identifies Mt. Tabor as this mountain. Why did it take place on a mountain. In the OT mountains were the place of encounter with God. Moses, for example, received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. Elijah experienced the presence of God on Mt. Horeb in the form of a soft breeze.
Moses and Elijah appeared conversing with Jesus. Moses represented the Law; Elijah, the Prophets. Together the Law and the Prophets make up the Old Testament. That they appeared together with Jesus meant that the mission of Jesus was the fulfillment of the OT promises.
Peter wanted to build three tents. If he was thinking of the Tent of Meeting, he may have in the mind the building of a shrine. If he was thinking of the tent as a dwelling place, then it would mean that he wanted to stay there and prolong this extraordinary experience. But it was not to be because Jesus brought them down from the mountain.
As they were coming down, Jesus commanded them not to speak about this experience until after the Son of Man had been raised from the dead. They did not understand what he meant by rising from the dead in the same way that they did not understand his prediction of the passion. For the Jews expected the resurrection to happen only on the last day. And for the Messiah to suffer and die was unthinkable.
In Mk’s gospel, nothing is said about the brightness of the face of Jesus. He only mentions his clothing turning dazzlingly white. This transformation was meant to be a preview of the transformation of Jesus at his resurrection.
THE STORY OF THE TRANSFIGURATION AND LENT
Why was the Transfiguration chosen as the gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent?
First, the Church wants to remind us even this early during the Lenten season that the culmination of Lent will be the celebration of Easter. The Lenten season is a forty-day period of meditating on the passion and death of Jesus. But it will not end there. It will end with the triumphant celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Secondly, the Church also wants to remind us of the work that we must do for Lent. What work must we do? We must repent and turn away from our sins. If we do this during the Lenten season, the result will be a change, a transformation into better Christians.
Why do we have to undergo change or transformation into better Christians? Because the purpose of Easter is not only to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and but also to celebrate the change, the transformation into better Christians that happened during Lent.
We can use the mythical bird called the Phoenix as a reminder of the work we have to do for Lent.
When the Phoenix reaches 500 years old (some say 2,000), it is ready to die. It prepares a nest of cinnamon twigs which it turns into a funeral pyre. It burns itself in that pyre. When everything turns into ashes, something wonderful happens--a newly hatched Phoenix emerges.
Remember the ashes we received on Ash Wednesday? Do you remember the words that accompanied the giving of ashes? “Turn away from your sins and believe in Gospel.” If we take seriously this work of turning away from our sins, then what happened to the Phoenix can happen to us. From the ashes of Ash Wednesday, we can emerge as changed Christians ready to celebrate Easter Sunday with the Risen Christ.