Other Sunday and Holy Day Readings
2nd SUNDAY OF LENT (Cycle B)
Abbreviations: NAB (New American Bible), NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).
God reveals His divine plan for humanity in the two Testaments, and that is why we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy. The Catechism teaches that our Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).
The Theme of the Readings: The Beloved Son
Our Lenten season began with the account of Satan testing Jesus in the wilderness. This Sunday, we continue with another tale of testing. In the First Reading, we hear how God tested Abraham's obedience in a covenant ordeal. He told Abraham to build an altar and to offer up his "beloved son," Isaac, as a sacrifice on a mountain (Gen 22:1-2). It is a test of faith that Abraham passed because he believed God would keep His promise to give Abraham descendants from his beloved son, Isaac (Gen 17:19). Abraham had faith that God would resurrect his son from death to keep His promise (Heb 11:17-19).
In the Responsorial Psalm, the psalmist expresses confidence that God watches over the lives of the righteous. Their deaths are a matter of significance because they are precious to God, who accepts their deaths as a sacrificial offering. In the response, we confess our faith in God to raise us up from physical death as we sing: "I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living."
In the Second Reading, St. Paul assures us that God is on our side. He writes that God did not spare His Son but offered up Jesus as a sacrifice on the Cross to save humanity from sin and death. St. Paul gives us the promise that the elect will emerge victorious from all the attacks and sufferings in life. God who acquits His chosen of their sins through His beloved Son. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we died with Christ to be raised with Him to a new spiritual life and with the hope of reaching Heaven in death and a bodily resurrection at the end of time.
In the Gospel Reading, God calls Jesus His "beloved Son" on the mountain of the Transfiguration miracle in the same way that Isaac was Abraham's "beloved son" in Genesis 22:2. The difference is that God spared Abraham's beloved son, but He did not spare His "beloved Son," who died as a sacrifice on the altar of the Cross for the sins of humanity.
The Church has always read Abraham's story of testing and faith in offering his beloved son Isaac on an altar as foreshadowing how God, like Abraham, did not withhold His beloved Son from the altar of the Cross. Jesus died for all the beloved sons and daughters in the human family as a sign of God's love for the world. Jesus is the true Son that Abraham rejoiced to see (Jn 8:56; Mt 1:1). He is the beloved Son of God sent to suffer and die in atonement for our sins (Is 53:3) so that we might be strengthened in our tests of faith on our journey to eternal salvation. Jesus' sacrificial death, Resurrection, and Ascension give us the hope of reaching Heaven and the blessing of union with the Most Holy Trinity at the end of our life's journey.
The First Reading Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13 ~ The Testing of Abraham
1 God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am!" he replied. 2 Then God said: "Take your son Isaac, your only one whom you love, your beloved son, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you." [...] 9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. 10 Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the LORD'S messenger [Angel/Messenger of Yahweh] called to him from Heaven, "Abraham, Abraham!" "Here I am!" he answered. 12 "Do not lay your hand on the boy," said the messenger. "Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son." 13 As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
[...] = literal Hebrew translation IBHE, vol. I, pages 50-51.
No other event recorded in the Old Testament so prefigures the Passion of the Christ as Abraham's test of obedience in Genesis chapter 22. The event is the last record of Abraham's direct experience with the divine and God's final command to His servant Abraham. The Jews call this event the Akedah, which means the "binding" of Isaac, and Christians, from the earliest years of the Church, have seen it as an archetype for the sacrifice of Jesus (Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem, 3.18).
1 God put Abraham to
These events took place about ten years or more after Ishmael's exile (Abraham's son by the slave Hagar) when Isaac was about 13 years old since he could carry the wood for the sacrifice (Gen 22:6). The narrative begins by revealing that God tested Abraham's covenant relationship with Him through a covenant ordeal. A covenant ordeal is a testing of the obedience and faith of a person who was in the special relationship of a covenant union with God. In Abraham's covenant ordeal, God tested his faith, trust, and obedience when He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. It was also a covenant ordeal for Isaac, who did not resist.
The importance of the opening statement allays any doubt concerning God's purpose in Abraham's covenant ordeal. It was a test, and He did not intend an actual human sacrifice. Human sacrifice, especially child sacrifice, was widely practiced in the ancient Near East and was an abomination to God. Archaeological excavations in Canaanite cemeteries have found thousands of clay jars containing the bones of sacrificed children.
There is a difference between Satan tempting us and God testing us. Satan tempts us to sin to separate us from our relationship with God and to destroy us (1 Chr 21:1; Mt 4:1; 1 Pt 5:8; Rom 6:23). God never tempts us to do evil. St. James wrote, No one experiencing temptation should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity, it gives birth to death (Jam 1:13-15, also see Sir 15:11-15). God only tests us to strengthen us and give us the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy (Ex 20:20; Dt 8:2; 1 Kng 10:1; 1 Ch 29:17; 2 Chr 9:1; Dan 1:12, 14; Wis 3:1, 4-7; 1 Cor 10:13).
|Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-24)||Failure|
|Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14)||Success|
|Jesus at Gethsemane (Mt 28:36-46; Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:39-46)||Success|
|Peter in the courtyard during Jesus' trial (Mt 26:69-75; Mk 14:66-72; Lk 22:55-62; Jn 18:16-27)||Failure|
|St. Stephen at his trial with the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 6:8-60)||Success|
1b He called to him
"Abraham!" "Here I am!" he replied. 2 Then
God said: "Take your son Isaac, your only one whom you love [your beloved son],
and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a
height that I will point out to you."
The Hebrew word "Moriah" is from the root r'h, meaning "to see" and its derivative nouns mar'a and mar'e, denoting "sight, spectacle, or vision" (Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible, Jon Levenson, page 94-95).
Yahweh first called Abraham in a test of faith and obedience when He told him to leave the city of Ur and "go to the land I will show you" (Gen 12:1). In the final call in Genesis 22, Yahweh again commanded Abraham "go to," but this time to "go to the land of Moriah." Genesis 22:4 identifies the land of Moriah as a significant three-day journey from Abraham's camp at Beersheba. 2 Chronicles 3:1 identifies the Land of Moriah with the mountain range where the city of Jerusalem stood. It is the same location where the Temple of Yahweh would be built a thousand years after Abraham during King Solomon's reign. It is significant that the same Hebrew words "go to" (lek-leka) are found in God's first command in Genesis 12:1 and again in the final command in 22:2 (Interlinear Bible: Hebrew-English, page 27, 50; Waltke page 301). These particular words do not appear together anywhere else in the Old Testament (Waltke, page 301).
The event in Genesis 22 was a test of Abraham's faith and obedience as clearly stated in 22:1; however, it was also a test of Abraham's trust in God to fulfill His covenant promises despite what seemed to be impossible odds against the fulfillment. God promised Abraham many descendants through Isaac and the gift of the land of Canaan to Isaac's descendants, but that promise seemed unattainable if he sacrificed his "only son" (Gen 12:1-3; 15:5-6; 17:19). This is the reason Bible scholars, both ancient and modern, refer to Abraham's test as a "covenant ordeal." There is no doubt that the story's focus involved Abraham's son (apparent in the repetition of the word "son"). In the Hebrew text, the word "son" (ben) appears ten times in the narrative (Gen 22:2 (twice), 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, and 16), while the word "only" (yahid) son is found three times (Gen 22:2, 12, 16). Isaac is Abraham's "only beloved son." Ishmael, the slave-girl Hagar's son, was sent away because he was a threat to the "son of the promise" (Gen 17:11-14a). Isaac was the son God promised would father a nation of descendants for Abraham (Gen 17:4-9, 19) in fulfillment of parts one and two of Abraham's three-fold covenant: land, descendants, and a world-wide blessing that God first made when He called him to go to Canaan (Gen 12:1-3).
9 When they came to
the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged
the wood on it. 10 Then he reached
out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
Having carried the wood for his sacrifice, Isaac, the beloved son, was bound and laid upon the rock altar and the wood that was intended to completely consume the sacrifice in fire. 2 Chronicles 3:1 identifies Mt. Moriah as the site where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and names the mountain elevation located near the city of Jerusalem. It was where Isaac's descendant, King David, would have a vision of Yahweh and where God commanded him to build an altar. It is the same site upon which his son, King Solomon, built Yahweh's Temple. Jesus of Nazareth also carried the wood for His sacrifice, the Cross, to which He was bound and His life completely consumed in physical death. Jesus suffered crucifixion on an elevation of Mt. Moriah below the Temple Mount, just outside Jerusalem's gates.
10 Then he reached
out and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the LORD'S messenger [Angel/Messenger of Yahweh] called to
him from Heaven, "Abraham, Abraham!" "Here I am!" he answered. 12 "Do not lay your hand on the boy," said the
messenger. "Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are
to God since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son." 13 As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram
caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it
up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Abraham passed the test of his covenant ordeal. At the most dramatic moment, as Abraham was about to plunge the knife into the chest of his submissive son, the Angel of Yahweh stopped him by calling out to Abraham. The angel, identified by God's covenant name in Hebrew as "the Angel/Messenger of Yahweh," made an appearance during significant moments in salvation history (Gen 16:7-11; 22:11-15; Ex 3:2; Num 22:22-35; Judg 2:1, 4; etc., 2 Sam 24:16; 1 Kng 19:7; 2 Kng 1:3, 15; 19:35; etc.; Zec 12:8). The event of the Akeda is undoubtedly one of those moments. The Angel of Yahweh may be a manifestation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the pre-Incarnate Christ active in the plan of salvation. Significantly, the "angel" tells Abraham: you did not withhold from me your own beloved son" (Gen 22:12), suggesting He was the pre-Incarnate Son of God.
The major difference in the outcome of the intended sacrifice is that Yahweh spared Abraham's son by providing a male sheep (ram) for the sacrifice. It will be near that same site that God's "beloved Son, Jesus, will become the Lamb of sacrifice. However, some questions remain:
Evidently, Isaac submitted and did not struggle, even though Scripture recorded that he was bound (Gen 22:9), probably a foreshadowing of Jesus secured by nails to the altar of the Cross. The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews (probably St. Paul) provides the answer to the second question when he writes that Abraham believed God would give him descendants through this son with whom the covenant was to continue. The writer of Hebrews assures us that Abraham's faith and trust in God's promises led him to believe that God would raise his son from the dead to keep those promises (Heb 11:17-18). God kept His covenant promises to Abraham in the new Israel of the New Covenant Church by raising His beloved Son from the dead to fulfill the promise of an uncountable number of descendants in a world-wide blessing and a home in the real "Promised Land" of Heaven (Mt 20:17-19).
In their commentaries on this passage, the Church Fathers point out that when the Angel of Yahweh stopped Abraham and showed him the male ram "caught up" (sebeck in Greek and achaz in Hebrew) in a tree to offer in sacrifice in place of the boy. Abraham realized that Yahweh had indeed provided the sacrifice (as he told Isaac in Genesis 22:8). At that moment, Abraham's son was "given back" to him on the third day after their journey of death had begun (Gen 22:4). The Church Fathers saw this event as foreshadowing the Passion of the Christ "caught up" (like Isaac's ram of sacrifice) on the tree of the Cross and also given back to His Father on the third day after His resurrection.
Abraham's willingness to trust God with his life and the life of his son was not just belief; it was a work of faith. We are all called to "works of faith" in our journeys to salvation. St. James, writing to the Church about the necessity of demonstrating living and active faith, held Abraham up as an example of such faith: Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus, the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called "the friend of God" (Jam 2:21-23).
10 I believed, even
when I said, "I am greatly afflicted." [...] 15
Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.
16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; you have loosed my bonds. 17 To you will I offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
18 My vows to the LORD I will pay in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Psalms 113-118 are called the Hallel ("praise God") Psalms and were sung in the Temple on special feast days, including the Feast of the Passover. In verse 10, the psalmist testifies that he kept his faith even during times of great distress. Expressing grief over misfortune does not imply a lack of faith.
Then in verses 15-19, the psalmist writes about how God watches over the lives of the righteous. Their death is a matter of significance because they are precious to God, who accepts their deaths as a sacrificial offering. The psalmist views himself as a "beloved son"/servant of Yahweh, raised to know and love God all his life from the teachings of his mother, the Lord's "handmaid." He expresses confidence that God watches over him. Even in times of distress, he attends worship in God's holy Temple. Despite his troubles, as a faithful son/servant of the Lord, he offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving in the Liturgy of communal worship as he fulfills his vows and praises the Lord.
The responsorial phrase "I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living" is from verse 9. It refers to the psalmist's participation in Temple liturgy where he stands in the presence of God, which is a foretaste of Heaven, the true "land of the living." Our response is an epithet associated with worship in the Jerusalem Temple that also appears in Psalms 27:13; 52:7 and Isaiah 38:11.
The Second Reading Romans 8:31-34 ~ We are the chosen
sons and daughters acquitted by Christ
31 If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? 33 Who will bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. 34 Who will condemn? Christ Jesus, it is who died, or rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us
In verse 31, St. Paul sums up what it means to be a beloved son/daughter in God's covenant family through the Sacrament of Baptism. St. Paul gives us the promise that the elect will emerge victorious from all the attacks and sufferings they endure in life since it is God who acquits His chosen of their sins through His beloved Son. We have died with Christ in Baptism, and we are also resurrected with Christ to a new life (see Rom 6:4-5). God the Son now sits at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for us in our earthly struggles and ready to greet us when we have completed our journey to salvation (see Eph 2:4-6).
The Gospel of Mark 9:2-10 ~ The Transfiguration of
the Beloved Son
2 After six days, Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, 3 and His clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. 4 Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 6 He hardly knew what to say; they were so terrified. 7 Then a cloud came casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him." 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. 9 As they were coming down from the mountain, He charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
The experience with the divine on the Mount of Transfiguration is a revelation of the New Covenant Kingdom of the Messiah to the three Apostles: Peter, James, and John. The Gospels of Matthew 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36 record the same experience.
The disciples and Apostles must have been frightened and discouraged after Jesus' first prediction of His death in Mark 8:31-33 (also see Mt 17:1-8; Lk 9:28-36; 2 Pt 1:16-18). To give them the vision to grasp in their darkest hour in the fulfillment of His prediction, Jesus took Peter, James, and James' brother John Zebedee up a "high mountain" to let them witness a manifestation of His glory. It was an experience that would confirm for them that Jesus is the Son of God and that He will come in glory when all He told them took place.
The selection of the three out of the twelve Apostles was not a demonstration of favoritism. God does not have favorites. It was instead a demonstration of hierarchy in the future administration of Christ's kingdom. That the event took place on a mountain is significant. Throughout salvation history, mighty works/revelations of God often took place on mountains, including the Theophany of God on Mt. Sinai (see Gen 22:2, 11; Ex 19:16-20; 1 Kng 18:19-39; 19:11-18; 1 Chr 21:15-17; 2 Chr 3:1; and Mt 5:1-2).
As the new Moses, Jesus, like Moses in Exodus, ascended a mountain (Ex 24:12). Jesus did this not to find a revelation of God (like Moses) but to give a revelation of God the Son to His three Apostles. Two traditions identify the mountain. One tradition names Mt. Hermon near Caesarea Philippi. However, the more famous tradition names Mt. Tabor, an isolated mountain about eight day's journey for a religious Jew (a religious Jew could not travel on the Sabbath) from Caesarea Philippi where Jesus and the Apostles were staying (Mk 9:27). Mt. Tabor is west of the Sea of Galilee in the northeast portion of the Plain of Esdraelon that rises to a height of 1,843 feet. Christians have celebrated Mt. Tabor as the site of the Transfiguration since the 4th century AD.
2b And He was
transfigured before them, 3 and
his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach
In Greek, the word transfigured is metamorphoo, from which we get the word metamorphosis.
Mark's Gospel records and His clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Matthew and Luke's Gospels add that Jesus' face changed and became radiant like the sun (Mt 17:2l; Lk 9:29). The phenomenon of Jesus' radiant face recalls the description of Moses' glowing face after being in the presence of God (Ex 34:29-35). Jesus' white garment also recalls Daniel's vision of a "man" (probably the pre-Incarnate Christ). Daniel wrote that the "man" appeared to him dressed in linen with a belt of fine gold around his waist, whose body was like chrysolite, his face shone like lightning, his eyes were like fiery torches, his arms and feet looked like burnished bronze, and his voice sounded like the roar of a multitude (Dan 10:5-6).
4 Then Elijah
appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.
Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the prophets for the Old Covenant people. In St. Luke's account of the Transfiguration, he tells us Moses and Elijah appeared in glory and discussed with Jesus the coming hour of His "exodus," meaning His departure, "from Jerusalem," referring to His Passion (Lk 9:30-31). The disciples and Apostles knew Jesus in His human form; however, in the Mt. of Transfiguration encounter, He revealed Himself in His divine glory.
In the epiphany on the Mt. of Transfiguration, the three
Apostles witnessed the coming together of the Old and New Covenants with Christ
as the beginning and the end of divine revelation.
Moses and Elijah represented the Old Covenant Church, embodying the law and the prophets of the old Israel, while Peter, James, and John represented the New Covenant. The three Apostles also embodied the hierarchy of the new Israel, the Church of the people of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. It was a vision of the supernatural the Apostles would need to strengthen themselves and their brother Apostles in the covenant ordeal they were to face in the climax of the final year of Jesus' ministry.
5 Then Peter
said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three
tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 6 He hardly knew what to say; they were
St. Peter addresses Jesus as "Teacher" and makes a request that seems bizarre unless one takes into consideration the seven holy feast days of the Old Covenant; see the chart: The Seven Sacred Feasts of the Old Covenant. Significantly, Jesus did not rebuke Peter. St. John's Gospel does not mention the Transfiguration. St. John rarely repeats what was sufficiently covered in the Synoptic Gospels. However, he does mention that in the second year of Jesus' ministry, He went to Jerusalem for the pilgrim feast of Sukkoth, known in English as the Feast of Booths/Shelters or Tabernacles (Jn 7:1-2, 10). The covenant obligations for the festival are in Leviticus 23:33-43. In verse 42, God commanded: During this week every native Israelite among you shall dwell in booths, that your descendants may realize that, when I led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, I made them dwell in booths, I, the LORD am your God."
If it was indeed near the time of the pilgrim feast of Booths, Peter's suggestion about making booths/tents on the mountain is reasonable. Peter has realized that the old covenantal order is no longer binding, and it is not necessary to go to the Jerusalem Temple to worship God when they can worship God the Son on the mountain. If this is why Peter made the suggestion about building booths, then the Transfiguration event took place near the seven-day festival of Booths/Tabernacles in the early fall. St. John confirms that Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths in His ministry's second year (Jn chapters 7-8).
7 Then a
cloud came casting a shadow [episkiazo] over them; then from the cloud came a
A cloud is a frequent vehicle for the manifestation of God's presence in Scripture (see Ex 16:10; 19:9; 24:15-16; 33:9, 34:5; 2; 40:34; Dan 7:13; 2 Mac 2:8; Acts 1:9; Rev 11:12; 14:14). For example:
The Greek word in Mark 9:7 for the shadow of the cloud cast over them is episkiazo. It is the same word found in the account of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Virgin Mary in the Incarnation (Lk 1:35). It is also the same word used in the Greek translation of Exodus when God's Spirit overshadowed the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 40:34).
The voice from Heaven in verse 7 is the same voice heard when Jesus was baptized (Mt 3:17; Mk 3:11; Lk 3:22). It was at Jesus' baptism that, for the first time, the Most Holy Trinity was clearly manifested in an event. The same manifestation took place in the Transfiguration: God the Father's voice was heard from Heaven, God the Son was present in His glory, and the overshadowing cloud represented God the Holy Spirit.
The voice from Heaven said: "This is my beloved Son.
Listen to Him."
In this significant event, Jesus is "transfigured" both in time and meaning to confirm Peter's confession of Jesus as the "Messiah and the Son of the Living God" (Mt 16:16; also see Mk 8:29; Lk 9:20) and the prediction of His coming Passion (Mt 16:21-23; Mk 8:31-33; Lk 9:22). The pronouncement of the Divine Voice, "this is my beloved Son," is confirmation of Peter's confession of Jesus as Messiah, and the command: "Listen to Him," is a warning to listen to Jesus' announcement of His coming Passion and to cooperate in His mission.
The command of the Divine Voice of God from heaven, "Listen to Him," is also a confirmation that Jesus is the prophet like Moses that God promised the covenant people in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. That prophecy ends with a promise and a command: I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command. If any man will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it (Dt 18:18-19 NJB; emphasis added).
looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
Like the children of Israel who heard the voice of God in the Theophany at Sinai (Ex 20:18), and like the prophet Daniel who experienced a divine apparition (Dan 9:15-18; 10:7-9), the three Apostles are amazed at what they experienced. "At that time" (Lk 9:36b; Mk 9:9-10), they did not tell anyone about their experience, but later they not only spoke of it but wrote about it. Peter wrote about the Transfiguration in a letter to the universal Church: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him for the majestic glory, "This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain (2 Pt 1:16-18).
9 As they were
coming down from the mountain, He charged them not to relate what they had seen
to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Coming down from the mountain after the Transfiguration experience, Jesus commanded the three Apostles not to make known what they discovered about His true identity. Notice He did not tell them to never talk about the experience. He only asks them to remain silent until His death and resurrection.
10 So they
kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
The Apostles must have wondered if "rising from the dead" meant to have life returned so one could go on living a normal life as in the case of the Synagogue official's daughter (Mt 9:18-19, 23-26; Mk 5:22, 35-43; Lk 8:41, 49-56), or did it mean something else? It is a question that wasn't fully answered until Jesus' Resurrection, His forty days teaching the Church after His Resurrection, and finally answered at His Ascension to the Father in Heaven.
Abraham felt the wonder of God's love and mercy after passing a test of faith that must have been the darkest experience of his life (First Reading). The Psalmist felt his connection to God as a beloved son even amid his afflictions. And in faith, he offered praise to God for His intercession in his life. In the Gospel reading, the Apostles Peter, James, and John had been feeling doubt and fear concerning Jesus' announcement of His coming Passion and death. But their Lord allowed them to become the privileged witnesses to His glory in the Transfiguration of the Beloved Son that gave them confirmation of His divine nature. These experiences of God can be part of your life today when you claim in confidence the mantle of sons/daughters in the Sacrament of Baptism and in faith "walk before the Lord" in anticipation of one day being with Him "in the land of the living." After all, beloved children, it is as St. Paul wrote in the Second Reading: "if God is for us who can be against us!"
Michal E Hunt, Copyright © 2015; revised 2021 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.