Every year Lent gives us a study in contrasts. After the solemnity of Ash Wednesday (for those who were able to celebrate it), and the starkness of the temptation of Our Lord in the wilderness, we suddenly encounter the glorious vision of the Transfiguration on the Second Sunday of Lent.
Why then are we given this sudden change of mood? Partly it is for the same reason as St Peter, St James, and St John were. To strengthen us for what is to come. The vision was not for them to immediately proclaim, but to help them through the experience of Christ’s passion and death, only to be told to everyone, after the Resurrection. The foreshadowing of the risen, glorified, Christ, is to help us remember why we undergo Lent each year. It is not a punishment. Rather it is a journey, with a wonderful destination at the end.
But it is not just to help us through the remainder of the forty days of fasting and penance. It is also to be a support throughout our lives. Difficulties and challenges are, after all, not confined to Lent. Again and again in our Christian lives we can face circumstances that can dishearten us. Times that make us wonder whether it is really worth it.
We can have our own version of the disciples’ experience, watching those we love suffer, or die. We can face our own pain and mortality. Sometimes the journey the Lord is calling us to can seem like a continuous version of Lent: much fasting, little feasting. In the face of that, we do need hope.
As the prayers of this Sunday’s mass remind us, the glimpse of the risen, glorified, Christ on Mt Tabor, is also a glimpse of the risen, glorified, us. This Gospel is to help us, before we get too settled into the rhythm of Lent, keep our eyes on the goal. Each Easter we celebrate not just the Resurrection of Our Lord but our own hope of Resurrection. Just as the disciples saw Moses and Elijah, personifying the Law and the Prophets, pointing towards the Resurrection, so we see the Scriptures pointing us towards the final destination for us all.
Journeys, whether through Lent, or life, can be tiring, even wearisome. But when we have a clear vision of something we truly desire at the end of a journey, be it a luxury hotel, a beautiful landscape, or a lover’s greeting, then it is much easier to shoulder our pack, get up and carry on. All of those things, and more, await us at the end of our Earthly journey. And today’s Gospel vision of the Transfigured Christ helps us to recognise just how great the “more” waiting for us really is.
Father Chris Denham