Scripture for Feb.18 Lect. 340: James 3:1-10. Psalm 12:2-3.4-5.7-8. Mark 9: 2-13
Transition is important in Mark’s Gospel. Today we experience it in the narrative about the Transfiguration of Jesus. Three of his first disciples are with him on the mount (Tabor is the traditional spot). Peter, James, and John are to experience his being transfigured in brilliant light while speaking and dialoguing with Elijah and Moses. They may represent the Prophetic and the Torah theme of the Bible. As we listen to Mark we discover that they are questioning Jesus about the meaning of “rising from the dead.” Resurrection was not a common theme in the Hebrew Scriptures but it did develop after the prophetic writings come to an end. Here we look at it from a Christian perspective. In fact, some scholars believe it may be a resurrection account that Mark rewrites into the event of the Transfiguration. But let us always take the viewpoint that the story narrator gives us his story and he means it to happen during the days of Jesus’ active ministry. Perhaps, the first verse should not have been omitted in the liturgical reading of the Gospel for today for it specifically mentions that this happened after six days.
Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are formidable figures in the covenant love God has for all of us and they do lead us to contemplate this mystery with more attentiveness than usual. John Paul II place it as the fourth mystery of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary which cover important historical happenings in the life of Jesus’ public ministry before going up to Jerusalem for the last time.
Jesus has stressed elsewhere that God is the God of the living in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is that living God for Moses, Elijah, himself and us! We, as members of the Mystical Body and the Communion of Saints, are believers in the Resurrection. Jesus’ words and his actual resurrection are the mainstay and foundation for our participation in this overwhelming mystery of our faith. God has told us in the Transfiguration that Jesus is his Beloved. Mark says it this way, “This is my Son, my Beloved; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7).
A cloud overshadows the three disciples and they realize that they are now alone with Jesus. Elijah and Moses are gone. He answers their question about Elijah while remaining faithful to the fact that it would be Elijah who brings in the Messiah. Elijah is said to be John the Baptist in the words of Jesus, meaning that the historical person to usher in the Messiah is John the Baptist during the time of Jesus. “Yes, Elijah does come first to set everything right.” (Mark 9: 12). C.F.D. Moule has commented upon these verses about Elijah and Jesus’ answer: “As for Elijah, if he is expected to be the forerunner---the first to come--- the most realistic interpretation of that, Jesus tells them, is not the terrific vision they have just seen, but the hard facts of the martyrdom of John the Baptist, his forerunner in actual history. So the vision is ‘brought down to earth’, not by denying its reality but by showing what it means: devoted toil, suffering, death.”
Thus together with the three disciples we have experienced a glimpse of the resurrection. We learn from our omniscient Evangelist that the way to resurrection is to follow Jesus up to Jerusalem and then to Calvary. This is the only path to Resurrection.
The Transfiguration calls us to personal conformity to Christ and a transformation and a transition in our believing that we are united to Christ in all of his mysteries. The mystery of rising from the dead is essential to the life, death, and resurrection. We are helped by these two passages of Paul: “Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world, but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed.” (Romans 12:2). ‘…we all reflect as in a mirror the splendor of the Lord; thus we are transfigured into his likeness…’ (II Corinthians 3:18 ). Amen.
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