This Sunday we remember the Lord’s Transfiguration, when he appears to his closest disciples flanked by Moses and Elijah. Our Lord is revealed as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and Lent is a time for remembering that in Christ all the promises made by the Lord to mankind throughout salvation history are fulfilled.
In today’s First Reading the Lord rewards Abram’s faith in the Lord’s promise that he would have countless descendants. This faith was seen as righteousness (see Genesis 15:6): it showed that Abram was pleasing to God, a thought St. Paul would later develop in his letters (see Romans 4:9). We are those descendants, because we call Abram (later renamed Abraham by the Lord) our father in faith.
The Lord also promised Abram that the land he was dwelling in would be his; his nomadic existence would one day end and he’d have a place he could truly call home. Abram asked how he would know, and the Lord instructed him to prepare the ceremony for establishing a covenant. In Abram’s time, two people entering into covenant would walk between sacrificed animals that had been split in half as a way of saying they’d bring that same fate upon themselves if they broke the covenant. In this moment of salvation history this insight into God’s relationship with those who have faith is something murky, even terrifying. Abram didn’t even have to make the walk; the Lord offered freely to enter into the covenant, and it was a disproportionate act of generosity on his part. Abram persevered in his faith and God’s promises were fulfilled.
In today’s Second Reading Paul laments those who have become enemies of the Cross of Christ and chosen comfort over the difficult path of renunciation that true glory requires. In a mysterious way, when covenants with God were broken left and right throughout salvation history, the Lord did take the punishment upon himself, sparing his people, to the point that the Son shed his blood to establish a new and everlasting covenant. He reminds us that we are citizens of Heaven and that is where we should be headed. The Cross is the way; there are no detours, no shortcuts. At the Transfiguration Our Lord reveals his divinity and also shows the glory we will experience if we take up our cross every day and follow him.
The Lord in today’s Gospel is preparing his disciples for the trials of faith they’re about to endure when he is handed over in Jerusalem to suffer his Passion. They have an experience of God in great contrast from Abram’s experience: from something vague and confusing to something blindingly insightful, so much so that confusion and fright comes from trying to process it all. On the mountaintop they see Christ in his glory; his divinity shines through. They see two of the greatest holy men of their salvation history flanking him: Elijah and Moses, who speak of what Our Lord must endure. They receive a revelation of the Trinity: the Son in his divinity, the Holy Spirit in the cloud overshadowing them, and the Father speaking from the cloud. It is all still veiled in mystery, but it’s like a light along a dark road that encourages you to keep moving forward.
The Lord promises us many things, but it is contingent upon doing our part. Lent is a time for renewing the promises we’ve made in response to Our Lord keeping his. We still have many weeks of Lent before Our Lord’s Passion and Glory. Let’s continue along the path of the Cross through contemplating these mysteries and living our Lenten resolutions well, knowing it is the only path to the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Readings: Genesis 15:5–12, 17–18; Psalm 27:1, 7–9, 13–14; Philippians 3:17–4:1; Luke 9:28b–36. See also 2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C, Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle B and 2nd Week of Advent, Saturday.