This Sunday the liturgy enlightens us with two beautiful passages that refresh our Lenten journey: the vocation of Abraham and the Transfiguration of the Lord.
In Chapter 12 of the Book of Genesis we contemplate the Father of Faith, Abram, who is called by God when he is very old. God wanted to call him at this stage of his life to begin to write the History of our Faith. The chapters prior to chapter 12 of the book of Genesis can be called «prehistory» but never history in the exact sense of the word. With Abraham and his positive response to God’s call, the challenge of Faith opens before us.
To receive God’s blessing it is necessary to abandon our comforts, our comfort zone, our polytheism if any, to open ourselves to the Voice of the One who calls us to a more perfect and universal Project. Abraham said yes in his old age, as if to make it clear to us that there is no excuse when it comes to God’s call. We could hide, make excuses or look for other easier ways. But in the end, if we do not respond to the true call, we will never be happy or satisfied.
In the Gospel we find this time the second passage in the life of Christ in which the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is fully manifested. The first was the Baptism of the Lord: the heavens were opened and the voice of the Father was heard, and the Holy Spirit was seen in the bodily form of a dove descending upon the beloved Son. The Trinity was manifested in signs intelligible to human beings.
Now something similar happens: the garments of Christ shine with light and whiteness. A cloud, image of the presence of the Holy Spirit, covers all those present and finally the same voice of the Father speaks the same message: «This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.
If at the Baptism of the Lord the Trinity manifests itself to confirm the beginning of Jesus’ messianic ministry. In the Transfiguration, the Trinity again becomes manifest to confirm the final outcome of Christ’s ministry, which will be consummated in the Paschal Mystery.
In fact, the text tells us that Moses and Elijah appear conversing with Jesus about his «exodus», about his «passover», or to better understand it: about «his passion, death and resurrection».
The Gospel passage has a profound spiritual, and I would say mystical, content. Jesus wanted to make his three closest apostles, Peter, James and John, witnesses of his glory and divinity. He wanted to climb the mountain of the Transfiguration, which Tradition has placed on Mount Tabor, and there, placed in prayer, he unveiled his deepest identity: to be the Son of God.
He converses with the two great saints of the Old Testament who represent respectively the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) as if to show us that the Holy Scriptures and the entire Old Covenant point to Him as «the one who was to come»… and finally everything is sealed with the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit. It must have been impressive for Peter, James and John to contemplate all this: the radiance of the divine light, the cloud that reminded them of the «shekinah» or presence of God and finally the powerful voice of the Father pressing His love for His only Son.
It is understandable that Peter, perhaps a little out of his mind, as usually happens in mystical experiences, began to speak without understanding what he was saying, as the other synoptic Gospels tell us. Matthew, for his part, tells us that the apostles, before the theophany, fell on their faces full of horror. None of this is strange or incomprehensible to those who love prayer. Mystics have this kind of experience very often.
All of us are called to have this luminous and rewarding encounter with the Lord in prayer. We definitely have to climb Mount Tabor every day to draw strength from the source that God. But it is also true that we have to come down from the mountain and radiate this light received in prayer on our daily environments.
Peter was tempted to stay on the mountain and build three tents to always enjoy this light. But Jesus shows us another way. We must come down from the mountain, we must face the final outcome. We must obey the voice of the Father who does not back down from his saving plan.
In this Lenten journey, we are Peter, James and John, we must accompany the Lord in his final stretch towards Jerusalem. There we will find the final battle, the decisive hour, the passion, death and resurrection.
When distrust overwhelms us, when anxiety and fear of failure paralyze us, when the taste for comfort tempts us to remain calm, let us listen to the voice of Christ, who tells us again and again: «Rise, do not be afraid».