March 8, 2020
Second Sunday of Lent, Year A
The second stage of the way of Lent brings us, as is customary, to a high mountain (Mt 17:1) that tradition identifies with Mount Tabor, where Jesus ascends together with Peter, James, and John.
Mountain tops immediately refer to the place of encounter with God, to the place where He reveals Himself. And here also, in this event, God effectively reveals Himself. In this case, He does it in a completely new way. The place where God reveals Himself is not in the powers of nature, not in all His power, but in the man Jesus.
As a result of sin, man became incapable of reflecting or revealing the glory of God: closed in on himself, hunched on himself, man was able only to manifest himself, his works, his limits. For Jesus, instead, He partakes fully of the life of the Father, full of His love, as we saw in the Baptism; and He is completely obedient to Him, as we heard last Sunday. Jesus has nothing of His own, nothing that is not related to the Father. Therefore, His entire humanity can reveal, can manifest the glory of the Father, His beauty, His life, without keeping anything for Himself.
The evangelist Matthew, attempting to describe the appearance of Jesus at the time of the Transfiguration, points to two elements: face and clothes (Mt 17:2): we could say that inside, deep in Himself, Jesus has a light that radiates outward, illuminating everything else. Jesus has life in Himself, and this life is light (cf. Jn 1:4).
We dwell solely on two aspects.
The first pertains to Peter’s question, who, on seeing the beauty of His face and clothes, evidently, wants to prolong the moment if possible. He proposes to make three tents, to remain there (Mt 17:4). The voice of the Father seems to respond to these words: the way to stay with Jesus always is not so much to make three curtains, but to listen to Him, to remain listening to Him (Mt 17:5).
The clear reference is to Baptism, where the voice of the Father already made itself heard. There, at the Jordan, the Father spoke a word of love about Jesus (“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” Mt 3:17), and this word nourished the life of Son, first in the long days of fasting in the desert, and then in the steps of Jesus’ mission among men.
Now, this life shines on Tabor, and the Father invites all to listen to the Son, which carries in His flesh that Word of love that He heard for the first time (“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him” Mt. 17:5).
Last Sunday, in the temptations episode, that Word was put to the test: the devil proposed to Jesus not to believe it, not to live as a Son. But Jesus, unlike Adam, did not give in to the temptation, and He remained listening to the Word of the Baptism.
The second aspect pertains to an episode that Matthew places just before the Transfiguration account. After the first announcement of the Passion, Peter reacts in a very strong way: he takes Jesus aside (“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, «God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you»” Mt 16:22) just as on the mountain Jesus takes him and the two other disciples aside (Mt 17:1) and reproves him for what he has just said (“Get behind me, Satan! You are a scandal to me” Mt. 16:23).
In calling Peter Satan, Jesus reads in Peter’s words a temptation similar to that which He had in the desert and recognizes that the words of the apostle are not words from God, but from men (“because you are not thinking according to God’s thoughts, but according to humans!” Mt 16:23).
On the mountain, Peter and the apostles were invited directly by the Father to get back to the attitude of the disciple who listens to the Word of the Lord.
He listens to it even if this Word is hard, speaks of suffering, death, and the cross; and he listens to it by keeping before his gaze the face and the white clothing of the One who, giving His life, reveals fully the glory of His Father.