The gospel reading of the first two Sundays of Lent follow a certain pattern in all three cycles. On the first Sunday we always meditate on the temptations of Jesus, and on the 2nd Sunday the transfiguration of the Lord. The focal point of the event of transfiguration is a mountain. The narration of Matthew describing the transfiguration clearly has three parts:
- Going up the mountain
- The moment of grace on top of the mountain
- Coming down the mountain with the fruits of that experience
GOING UP THE MOUNTAIN: The gospel reading of Ash Wednesday, proposed a programme for the spiritual journey of the season of Lent: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. These three ‘strategies’ are relevant not only for the season of Lent, but throughout our Christian Life. The season of Lent is but an intense way to live out our Christian Life. Therefore fasting, prayer and almsgiving are ways to go beyond ourselves, extend our hearts to God (vertical dimension – in prayer), and stretch out our hands to our neighbours (the horizontal dimension – in charity). These two dimension of our Christian life journey is like going up the mountain and coming down it. What does the gospel text of today tell us about going up the mountain, more precisely, about Christian prayer? It is Jesus who “took with him Peter and James and his brother John went up a high mountain where they be alone.” It is God himself who enable us to pray. Just as it was God who invited Abram to enter into a covenant with Him, as we heard in the first reading of today (Gen 12:1 – 4) it is God who invites us to enter into a relationship with Him in prayer.
ON THE MOUNTAIN-TOP: On top of the mountain the three disciples are privileged to witness a theophany despite their own inability to be present to God. Other Gospels tell us, “Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep…” (Lk 9:32). They see Jesus in the company of two great men in the history of Israel: Moses and Elijah. Moses stands for the Law and Elijah for the Prophets, thus showing that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament. And “suddenly from the cloud there came a voice which said, “This is my Son, the Beloved: he enjoys my favour, Listen to him” (V.5)! This was for the disciples an experience God in the person of Jesus. The reaction of the apostles to this theophany is “fear” (awe) and a total prostration: “the disciples fell on their faces” (Mt 17:6).
COMING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN: The Gospels tells us: “As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, “Tell no one about this vision until the Son of man has risen from the dead” (Mt. 17:9). God experience invites us to silence and contemplation, so that the effect of the experience could be deepened, at least unitl the right time. Secondly, this silence is not necessarily a permanent isolation from the world. It is also something that is carried forward to the market place, to our daily life, to our homes, to the place of work and study. This is the significance of coming down the mountain.
The spiritual exercises of the Lenten season are meant to offer us the possibility of experiencing God more deeply, and to carry that experience to our encounter with people.