Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent
. . . of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. (Lk 9:31)
In the liturgical calendar, we hear the account of the Transfiguration of the Lord twice: on the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on August 6 and on the Second Sunday of Lent. On both days, the preface for the Mass gives us a key for our understanding of the important event in God’s plan of salvation:
On the Feast, “For he revealed his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses and filled with the greatest splendor that the bodily form which he shares with all humanity, that the scandal of the Cross might be removed from the hearts of his disciples and that he might show how in the Body of the whole Church is to be fulfilled what so wonderfully shown forth first in its head.” On the Second Sunday of Lent, “For after he had told his disciples of his coming death, on the holy mountain he manifested to them his glory, to show, even by the testimony of the law and the prophets, that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection.” (See the proper preface for each day in Roman Missal, Third Edition). A common insight to both prefaces is that the Transfiguration prepares his disciples and us to deal with the scandal of the Cross which is our focus during the Lent.
It is hard for us to realize just how scandalous Jesus’ death on the Cross was. Crucifixion was the most shameful way to die. It was reserved for the worst of the worst. In addition, the Mosaic law put a curse on anyone who died in the manner that Jesus did: “If a man who is guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his corpse hung on a tree, it shall not remain on the tree overnight. You shall burry it on the same day; otherwise, since God’s curse rests on him who hangs on a tree, you will defile the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you as an inheritance” (Dt 21:22-23). If Jesus truly was God’s Son, would God allow such a shameful death to occur? The Transfiguration responds to the above questions.
First, it makes it clear that Jesus is God’s Son and that Jesus is divine. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus was praying, “his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.” Then, the apostles “saw his glory” and “from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my chosen Son; listen to him.’” Jesus is God’s divine Son. The crucifixion does not negate that!
Second, the crucifixion, despite its appearance, was not a defeat. In the Transfiguration, Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah about “his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” The word exodus is, of course, an allusion to God’s mighty intervention on Israel’s behalf when the Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt. Jesus is not only going to endure this exodus; he is going to “accomplish” it. What did Jesus accomplish in Jerusalem through his crucifixion? He accomplished his Father’s will: Dying on the Cross to atone for your sins and mine. He turned the sign of defeat into the sign of victory!
As we enter this Second Week of Lent, here are two suggestions I would like to make: First, install a crucifix in your living room, and every day look up at this sign of salvation and pray: “We adore you O Christ and we bless you, because through your Cross you have redeemed the world.” Second, if you have not made it to the Stations of the Cross, join the Church in this devotion of tracing the path of Jesus toward Jerusalem. And may each of us hear: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23).
Scriptural Readings: Reading I Gn HYPERLINK “https://bible.usccb.org/bible/genesis/15?5” HYPERLINK “https://bible.usccb.org/bible/genesis/15?5″15:5-12, 17-18; Responsorial Psalm Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14 HYPERLINK “about:blank”. Reading II Phil 3:17-4:1; Verse Before the Gospel Cf. Mt 17:5; Gospel Lk 9:28b-36