2nd Sunday of Lent
March 8, 2009 Year: B
Gen. 22:1-2, 9a, 10-3, 15-18;
Rom. 8:31-35, 37; Mk 9:2-10
If God is for us, who is
"God tested Abraham. God said to him, 'Abraham!' And
Abraham said, 'Here I am.'
God said, 'Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you
love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there
as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall
When Abraham and Isaac came to the place that God had
shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the
wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on
the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out
his hand and took the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven,
and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he replied, 'Here I
am.' The angel said, 'Do not lay your hand on the boy or
do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God,
since you have not withheld your son, your only son,
Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by
its horn. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it
up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time
from heaven, and said, 'By myself I have sworn, says the
Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld
your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I
will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of
heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your
offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and
by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth
gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my
voice.'" [Gen. 22:1-2, 9a, 10-3, 15-8]
"If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not
withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us,
will he not with him also give us everything else?
Who will bring any charges against God's elect? Is it
God who justifies? Who is to condemn?
Is it Christ Jesus, who died, and indeed, who was
raised, who is at the right hand of God, who intercedes
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will
hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us." [Rom. 8:31b-35, 37]
"Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led
them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was
transfigured before them, and his clothes became
dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach
And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses, who were
talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it
is good for us to be here; let us make three tents, one
for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' Peter did
not know what to say, for they were terrified.
Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there
came a voice, 'This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to
him! Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one
with them any more, but only Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered
them to tell no one about what they had seen, until
after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what
this rising from the dead could mean." [Mk. 9:2-10]
Once upon a time there was a child ready to be born. So
one day he asked God: “How am I going to live on earth
being so small and helpless?”
God replied, “Among the many angels, I chose one for
you. She will be waiting for you and will take care of
”But tell me, here in Heaven, I don’t do anything else
but sing and smile, that’s enough for me to be happy.”
”Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for
you every day. And you will feel your angel’s love and
”And how am I going to be able to understand when people
talk to me, if I don’t know the language that men talk?”
”Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet
words you will ever hear, and with much patience and
care, your angel will teach you how to speak.”
”And what am I going to do when I want to talk to you?”
”Your angel will place your hands together and will
teach you how to pray.”
”I’ve heard that on earth there are bad men. Who will
”Your angel will defend you even if it means risking its
”But I will always be sad because I will not see you
”Your angel will always talk to you about me and will
teach you the way for you to come back to me, even
though I will always be next to you.”
At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but
voices from earth could already be heard, and the child
in a hurry asked softly:
”Oh God, if I am about to leave now, please tell me my
”Your angel’s name is of no importance, you will call
your angel: Mommy.”
After six days
The immediate reference to this chronological indication
appears to be the episode of Peter's confession; but
according to some authors it could have lost its
chronological value and took on a more profound meaning.
Briefly it may be: an allusion to the Feast of
Tabernacles, basing on Peter's proposal to erect 3
tents (v 5); a reference to Ex 24:16 in which is
said that the cloud covered the mountain for 6
days and on the 7th day, God called Moses; a
remains of a primitive account of the resurrection; a
synchronization of the Transfiguration and the 7th day
of the week of the Passion and Resurrection; a recourse
to a Semitic scheme in which the event of the 7th
day constitutes a climax; a use of an ancient Judaic
literary scheme and of primitive Christianity in which
the 6th day took on an importance as the day
of God's revelation on Mt Sinai and the day which the
Law was given.
"He took with him Peter, James and John"
From the group of disciples Jesus chose 3, whom
according to Mark's Gospel were present at the
resurrection of Jairus' daughter (Mk 5,37) and will be
close to Jesus in Gethsemane (Mk 14:33). These are 2
significant moments because in the 1st, the 3 disciples
become witnesses to the divine power which Jesus
revealed by resurrecting a dead person, a sign of
eschatological power which will be realized in the
resurrection of all believers. In the 2nd
event the 3 disciples are witnesses to the supreme hour
in which Jesus, the Son of God (Mk 14:36) and "Son of
Man was given over to the hands of sinners" (Mk 14:41).
Analogically it may be considered that the restriction
of the immediate witnesses to these 3 disciples
underline that the Transfiguration is a culminating
event of Jesus' revelation and the mystery of his death
"He brought them up a
high mountain where they could be by themselves"
The topographical data is important for its message.
Besides the symbolic resonance of the adjective "high",
Mark records elsewhere the motif of mountains which help
interpret this verse. In 3;13 the mountain is the place
where Jesus reveals himself as the founder and leader of
the community by choosing some disciples, "making them"
the Twelve and giving them the eschatological power to
announce the Gospel and to cast out demons. In 6:46 the
mountain is the place where Jesus after having
multiplied the bread and before walking on the Sea of
Galilee, went to pray; 2 revelatory events in the
presence of the disciples. In 13:3 the mountain is the
place where Jesus, alone with his disciples, reveals the
signs of the eschatological coming of the Son of Man.
The mountain of the Transfiguration thus appears to be
an element which accentuates the aspect of messianic
revelation with reference to the community in which the
3 disciples represent.
place of the Transfiguration away from the public, found
near to places where some significantly messianic
miracles were worked (1:40-45; 5:21-43; 7:31-37;
8:22-26) and the prohibitions to divulge these miracles
(5:37.40 cf. 5:43; 7:33 cf. 7:36; 8:23 cf. 8:26; the
Transfiguration 9:2 cf. 9:9), becomes clear in the light
of Mark's characteristic theme by which "that which he
kept hidden from the masses came to be revealed to his
disciples, the nucleus of the future messianic
"He was transfigured in
their presence; his clothes became dazzlingly white..."
The verb used by the evangelist is also found elsewhere
- see Rom 12:2 and 2Cor 3:18 - and it indicates a
spiritual change. Here however it treats of a
visible transformation. The context shows that it is not
a metamorphosis of the Hellenistic type whereby Jesus
acquired a nature of another living thing or of another
person or had taken on a disguise. Jesus does not appear
to be a divine being who took over a human body, nor was
found to be in an unrecognizable form (cf. Mk 16:12 and
Lk 24:16). On Mt Tabor the disciples had no trouble in
recognizing him; his personal and physical reality did
not undergo mutation. The evangelist does not speak of
the type of transfiguration undergone by Jesus. He
speaks only of a unique and heavenly candour of the
clothes. From this one may consider that "it treats of a
transformation to a heavenly condition which matched the
resplendent whiteness of the clothes." Moreover
according to the connection between 9:1 and 9:9, to see
the Kingdom of God come in glorious power is to see
Jesus transfigured. It speaks of a transfiguration in
which Jesus assumes the splendour of the eschatological
Glory in the might of the divine power of the Kingdom.
But it is also possible to maintain simply that, like
the Jewish apocalypses, the candour of the clothes is a
sign of the heavenly glory that is given to the elect
who become like the angels (cf. Mt 28:3; Rev 3:4; 4:4).
It is difficult to show that in the whiteness of Jesus'
clothes, one ought to see a motif which links to the
young man "dressed in white" and seated in the opened
tomb as found in Mk 16:5, and then to establish that
this points to a relationship between the
Transfiguration and the Resurrection of Jesus.
"Elijah appeared to them with Moses and
they were talking with Jesus"
The meaning of the presence of these two renown heavenly
figures who represent the Prophets and the Law next to
Jesus, most probably is that the times are fulfilled in
Jesus and that Jesus is the Messiah. It is unique that
Mark names Elijah first, but it is difficult to give an
explanation for this.
It appears that Mark stressed the function of these
2 persons with regard to the disciples.
"Master, it is good for us to be here;
let us make three tents..."
Peter, having experienced this heavenly event, expressed
his joy and proposed to keep as long as possible Jesus
and the 2 heavenly figures. Various authors see in these
words of Peter an allusion to the Feast of Tabernacles
(cf. Ex 23:16; Lev 23:27-34; Dt 16:13). But if this were
to be true, then Peter ought to have had proposed the
building of tents also for the disciples. This feast in
the time of Jesus was linked to the pilgrimage to
"He did not know what to say; they were
In this comment by the evangelist is found, as also
often elsewhere, the theme of fear, awe
and the like of the disciples. Significant parallels
within Mark's gospels are 14:40 and 16:8. The 2
statements in 9:6 appear to be a fusion of these 2 other
texts which joins the unintelligibility of the disciples
in Gethsemane with the fear of the women at the tomb. In
this way, the evangelist appears to allude to the
incapacity of the disciples to understand both the
tragic and glorious events; of the mystery; and
indirectly that the glory of Jesus transfigured is
intimately linked to the glory which Jesus will obtain
through the power of his Death and Resurrection. "It is
the Glory which corresponds to the Passion and Death and
that death brings with it the glorious Resurrection. The
Transfiguration of Jesus was not meant to make a
paradise out of the mountain; it was to stimulate, to
fortify each step in the journey towards the Passion.
The Christological revelation is oriented towards an
ecclesiological parenesis for a community placed in the
journey which leads the Passion."
"And a cloud came,
covering them in shadow"
The way this is expressed
indicates that the action of the cloud is meant to
protect and guide the frightened disciples from the
event. This meaning seems to be reinforced by the fact
that the cloud elsewhere in the Old Testament indicates
the coming of God in His manifestation to His people in
the Exodus (Ex 40:35; Num 9:18.22; 10:34). The function
of the cloud was to guide and protect the people in
their journey in the desert (Ex 33:9-10; Num 11:25;
12:5). Perhaps it can allude also to the eschatological
cloud which covers the elected people as found in Is
4:5. The cloud can therefore indicate the benevolent
action of God on the disciples called to follow Jesus in
the journey towards the Cross.
"There came a voice from
the cloud 'This is My Son, the Beloved. Listen to him' "
The association between the cloud and the voice is found
in biblical literature (Ex 16:10; 19:19; 24:16; Num
17:7) as well as ancient jewish literature (Num 21:6 in
Targum Yerulshalmi I ; Gen 22:10 in Targum Neofiti). It
treats of a voice within a theophanic or revelatory
framework which proclaims a divine oracle. Peter had
practically equated Jesus with Elijah and Moses. The
voice instead made the distinction very clear.
The statement of the divine sonship recalls without
doubt the declaration which the evangelist had referred
to at the moment of Jesus' baptism in Mk 1:11. There the
divine oracle was addressed to Jesus, here however it is
addressed to the disciples and through them, to the
community and the crowds. Indeed with the command to
listen to Jesus, the voice indirectly presents Jesus as
a prophet whom all the people must listen to (cf. Acts
3:22 citing Dt 18:15). It is a unique command valid for
"messianic secret" and the incomprehension of the
Passion and the Resurrection"
It is written "As they came down from the mountain, he
ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until
after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They
observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves
they discussed what "rising from the dead" could mean."
In the descend from the mountain, Jesus spoke to his 3
disciples about what happened on the mountain and gave
them an order. This is the well-known "messianic secret"
(cf. 1:34; 3:12 and especially 8:30) followed
immediately by the incomprehension of the disciples
regarding the announcement of the Son of Man's Passion
and Resurrection (cf. 8:32-33; 9:31).
first instance regarding the messianic secret, there is
brought the prohibition to divulge the messiah-ship of
Jesus (8:30) and the event of the Transfiguration
inasmuch as it is the manifestation / revelation of the
Son of God (9:9); "The function of the prohibition is to
link strictly the messiah-ship of Jesus to the event of
Cross and the Resurrection; outside of this event Jesus
cannot be understood nor proclaimed".
In the second matter regarding the incomprehension
of the Passion and Resurrection by the disciples, Mark
shows that it remained up till the end and was overcame
only by the illumination of Easter. A common element to
these 2 themes - to which could be added also the
incomprehension of the parables (cf. Mk 4:13.33-34;
7:18) - is the recognition of the "incapacity of the
human mind towards divine revelation, the transcendental
grandeur of the mystery and the gratuitousness of his
giving it to believers". Moreover it
is noted above all that it treats of an incapacity of a
"past time" which now, in the time of Mark's readers,
had been overcome. Hence it harks back in history to the
revelation itself and cannot be an interpretative key.
I have cited at the beginning of this paper a
liturgical text summarizing the mystic theology and the
existential spirituality which the event of the
Transfiguration had inspired the Church. I now conclude
with a liturgical text which seems to have as its basis
the same fundamental text. It is found in the Preface of
the Feast of the Transfiguration according to the
Ambrosian Missal; "Christ revealed his glory before the
witnesses pre-chosen by Him and in the poverty of our
common nature He shone an incomparable light. Thus He
prepared his disciples to bear the scandal of the Cross,
anticipating in the Transfiguration the marvelous
destiny of the entire Church, His Spouse and His Body;
called to share in the fate of its Head and Lord".
FOR MORE MATERIAL REFER
ALSO THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT YEAR A & C in this homily