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The transfiguration of Jesus

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Gospel • Mt 17:1-9

JESUS took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

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Each year on the second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel is always a narrative of the Transfiguration of Jesus. The Transfiguration confirms Jesus’ prophecy of his passion; it is also intended to strengthen the disciples to endure Jesus’ death with faith. Then, the Father’s voice is heard: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Jesus speaks to Peter, James, and John, telling them, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” Jesus is advising his disciples – and us: Have faith! Do not submit to fear and doubt! What beautiful, practical Lenten advice!

One may ask: What is the opposite of “faith” in sacred scripture? Is “fear” the antonym of “faith”? Being afraid often means doubting that God is with us. I boldly assert that “fear” is opposed to “faith.” Some examples may clarify my assertion.

In the Hebrew scriptures, God speaks to Abram, “Do not fear, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great” (Gn 15:1). In the New Testament, when the angel Gabriel is sent by God and speaks to Mary, he says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God… You will conceive in your womb and bear a son…” (Lk 1:30-31).

One finds a variety of other persons who receive the same call to move away from fear and to trust in God’s designs. Two well-known examples immediately come to mind: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Mt 1:20). The lowly shepherds hear the angel declare, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy…” (Lk 2:10).

Jesus himself during his public ministry speaks of the need to have faith. When the disciples are struggling with rough seas, Jesus calls out to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27). During the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus says to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Lk 5:10). Jesus tells his disciples: “Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows” (Lk 12:7); “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32).

On this Transfiguration Sunday we need to hear Jesus’ voice to realistically face our fears (like what Abraham, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Peter, and the disciples did). We accept life’s challenges and real dangers; we are not naïve. Yet, in spite of many daunting circumstances, we commit ourselves radically to God. With the continued presence of the Spirit, we respond to God’s call with authentic Gospel boldness. As Peter, James, and John discovered, God’s transforming grace is sufficient; we become, in fact, fearless witnesses, authentic evangelizers, and joyful, faith-filled proclaimers of the Gospel. Our motto of discipleship – during Lent and always – becomes the “4-F” approach: Forget Fear, Find Faith!

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2018,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.