On this second Sunday of Lent we are given the gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Ancient tradition holds that the Transfiguration of Jesus occurred 40 days before Good Friday. The central figures of the Transfiguration are Jesus’ “inner circle” of apostles: Peter, James, and John. It is these 3 only who are present for the raising of the daughter of Jairus. Peter was the first Pope, James was the first apostle-martyr and John was simply the favorite. Ironically it is these 3 who wanted to avoid the cross at all costs. Peter tried to talk Jesus out of the cross, and is thus called “Satan” by Jesus. The brothers James and John have the nickname “Boanerges” which means “sons of thunder.” In the gospel of Luke, while on the way to Jerusalem James, John and Jesus pass through Samaria, where the people reject Jesus’s journey because Jesus is going to the cross. James and John want to call down fire from heaven to destroy them, thus, “sons of thunder.”
St. Thomas Aquinas believed Jesus was transfigured before these three men in order to strengthen them for what was about to happen to Jesus. St. Thomas writes: “For a person to travel a difficult road, he must have some knowledge of the end in order to persevere.” And so the Transfiguration takes place before the crucifixion to remove the doubt and despair that might occur as a result of the cross. Jesus drops His humanity for the briefest moment. Peter, James and John see a brilliant flash of the Divinity of just who this Jesus is. Jesus is Divinity veiled in humanity. There is more here than just a mere human being. They received a glimpse of Jesus’ true Divine Nature to sustain them for the coming “scandal” of the cross.
As a result, they remain silent. They do not understand. We are very much like them. We only see the “human” Jesus and do not get a glimpse of the “Divine” Jesus. Peter, James and John saw that—quicker than a flashbulb. They were shown a glory beyond their imagining. But it must have been magnificent, because it was enough for them to persevere in the face of the “scandal” of the cross.
This second Sunday of Lent we are given this gospel of the Transfiguration so that we also might not lose heart in our trials. Like Peter, James and John, we are given a glimpse of the target—the glorified Christ—that awaits those who remain faithful unto Him.
– Fr. Gerard Gordon