To go through life’s nadir at the foot of the mountain

by May Tam
To go through life's nadir at the foot of the mountain
Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18

Romans 8:31B-34

Mark 9:2-10

As we move toward the Holy Week, the figure looming larger and larger is that of the crucified Jesus on the cross. On this second Sunday of Lent, however, we celebrate a different figure of Jesus. Here He undergoes a metamorphosis, a revelation, a theophany. It is the Feast of the Transfiguration – a unique miracle among other miracles because it happens to Jesus Himself.

The long and difficult journey to Jerusalem is livened up by this wonderful experience on the mountaintop. Surrounded by heavenly splendor and conversing with Moses and Elijah who represent the Law and the Prophets, Jesus' glory is magnified by a solemn witness, that of God Himself, “This is my Son, my beloved. Listen to Him” (Mk 9:7). Inasmuch as Peter wants to capture that radiant moment, the moment is evanescent. In fact, any enlightenment that the three disciples received on the mountain seems dulled by the conversation they have with Jesus on the way down, “they continued to discuss what 'to rise from the dead' meant” (Mk 9: 9-10).

The transfiguration is a reminder that Jesus' suffering and glorification are intertwined; that it is necessary for the Messiah to suffer and thus, enter into his glory (rf Lk 24:26). At the transfiguration, Peter's impulsive response to keep Jesus, Moses and Elijah is understandable. The disciples are bewildered to behold the glorious face of Jesus. His is “the splendor before which every other light pales, and the infinite beauty which alone can fully satisfy the human heart” (St. John Paul II Vita Consecrata 1996 P.16). Indeed the beauty of Christ is forever joined to His sorrow. St. John Paul II explains later, “It is precisely on the Cross that the One who in death appears to human eyes as disfigured and without beauty, so much so that the bystanders cover their faces (cf Is 53:2-3), fully reveals the beauty of God's love” (VC, P.24).

Glimpses and tastes of glory that once exhilarated the disciples can also exhilarate us. While it is human nature to desire comfort and embrace happiness, just as Peter says, “how good it is for us to be here!”, staying on the mountain is not the purpose of Jesus' transfiguration (Mk 9:5). In order to attain eternal glory, Jesus and His disciples have to come down from the mountain and face the awaiting trial. As Christians, we, too, should not linger on the mountaintop but dare to go through life and meet its nadir at the foot of the mountain. We have to move on with Jesus, follow behind Him and listen to Him like the disciples did. Only then will we be able to share the glory that once shone and captivated the apostles on the mountain, on the day Jesus was transfigured.