Today finds us at the Second Sunday of Lent. This liturgical season is traditionally distinguished by two very conspicuous liturgical omissions. Not even the hymn known as the Gloria (Glory to God in the Highest) nor the Alleluia verse sung before the Gospel is allowed during the entire 40 days of Lent.
Why is it like that? First of all, the Gloria is a hymn that reminds us about the coming of the Lord using words from the angels at the birth of Christ. During Lent the Church returns in spirit to a time when the people of God were in exile, waiting for the Messiah to come and save them. It is a similar season of expectation as is Advent, but instead of awaiting Christ’s birth, Catholics await Christ’s second “birth” from the womb of the sepulcher — the Resurrection.
On the other hand, following this same spirit of exile, the Church joins with Moses and the Israelites as they wander in the desert for 40 years. It is a time of agony and sanctification, where the faithful join together to say, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). The word “Alleluia” is gotten from a Hebrew expression that means “praise the Lord” and is therefore omitted during Lent.
As a result of it, our focus in Lent is not about rejoicing, but in mourning our sins, looking at those things that take us away from an authentic relationship with God. Once these mourning are removed through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we would be able to rejoice again at Easter, for it is not only in Christ’s resurrection that we celebrate, but we also celebrate our own rebirth in the spirit.
Same as a woman experiencing labor groans in pain before birth, so the Christian people groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, and the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23)
Today’s Gospel reading is from St. Mark 9:2-10. This vision of Christ glorified, given to these Apostles on Mount Thabor (the traditional site of Transfiguration) was surely a very special privilege, and it was one they did not forget. "We saw his glory," St. John says in his gospel, written over sixty years later. In his epistles John also refers to this privilege (1 Jn. 1:1-4). St. Peter, writing from Rome to the churches in Asia Minor about thirty years later, mentions this outstanding experience: "For we were not following fictitious tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when from out the majestic glory a voice came down to him saying: ‘this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ And this voice we ourselves heard borne from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Pt. 1:16-18).
Yes, the three Apostles were privileged and we too are sharers in their privilege. The Transfiguration of Christ is but one among many of the incontrovertible proofs of the divine Sonship of Christ which we have in the gospel narratives and in the twenty centuries-long history of the Church which he founded. Were he not divine, that Church would long since have crumbled and fallen under the many vicious assaults from outside which it has undergone, as well as from the many human weaknesses which have beset it from within. But Christ is God and the Church has his divine protection and assistance. Therefore, it will go on to the end of time to continue his work of elevating and redeeming mankind.
This reading which begins the second week of our Lenten Journey presents us with a vision of Christ's future glory—a glory in which they would share. It was given to these Apostles to strengthen and encourage them in the terrible test of their faith which the passion and death of Jesus would be for them very soon. It is for a similar reason that the Church orders this story of the Transfiguration to be read to us during this season of Lent.
We are or should be mortifying ourselves with prayer and fasting during this season. This mortification, when done with repentance and a contrite heart, prepares us a glorious and unending future life. To encourage us to continue it, we are reminded that the One we are following, the One whose voice we listen to, is none other than the Son of God. There are the voices of many false prophets shouting around us, telling us to enjoy ourselves in this life, to "eat, sleep, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die," but there is the rub—tomorrow we shall die, but where shall we go then?
Let us thank our divine Lord today, for giving this consoling and encouraging vision of his glory to his Apostles and through them to us. It was for them, and it is for us, a guarantee and a foretaste of the joys and the glory that will be ours for eternity, if we but persevere in our struggles against the world, the flesh and the devil. This struggle is not easy for our weak nature, but our loving Savior is ever beside us to "raise us up and tell us not to fear" if we but rely on him. When we are tempted to give way to our human weaknesses, or to give way under the weight of the crosses that sometimes are about to crush us, let us think of Mount Thabor, and the glorified Jesus, who a few weeks later faced his own real passion and cross cheerfully for our sakes. This thought will help us to carry our crosses as the thought of the future glory which will be ours should make us thank God that we have been created and thank his beloved Son for setting us on the road to that future glory.
FIRST READING — Genesis 22:1–2, 9a, 10–13, 15–18
God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” he replied. Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.” When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son. Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing— all this because you obeyed my command.”
SECOND READING — Romans 8:31b–34
Brothers and sisters:If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us, who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised— who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
GOSPEL — 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.