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Saint Ignatius High School

Transfiguration--and Tents

The Transfiguration is one of the most complex and symbol-laden events in all of the public ministry of Jesus. As Peter awakens, he knows he is supposed to do something, but his first suggestion is setting up tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. What can we learn from Peter's mistake?
The 2nd Sunday of Lent
 
First Reading: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
 
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14
 
Second Reading: St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 3:17-4:1
 
Gospel: According to St. Luke 9:28-36
 
This weekend’s gospel reading focuses on the second of the five major events in the public life of Christ. The first of the five is the Baptism and the final three are the Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension.  Today the focus is on the Transfiguration, one of the most complex and symbol-laden events in all of the public ministry of Jesus.
 
In August we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and so the use of this same story during Lent must serve a purpose that helps us to home in on the meaning of this penitential season.  There are a number of ways that this reading is applicable to Lent, but one way is that it holds up a mirror to us, the spiritual descendants of the first followers of Jesus.
 
Anyone who hears this story would naturally be reminded of the Agony in the Garden, the beginning of the end of the earthly life of Jesus.  As the Transfiguration story opens Jesus has taken Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor to pray, but the three Apostles fell asleep.  This, of course, foreshadows what will happen when they are with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper.  Their sleep is a warning to us all that we need to be vigilant, literally – to stay awake or keep vigil, and be ready for those moments when Jesus is calling us to be with Him.
 
Too often we go through life asleep, not paying any attention to the call from Jesus to stay awake and be engaged in the work to which we are all called.  Too often we don’t even notice the needs of others as we sleepwalk through life as we literally walk past the opportunities that Jesus presents to us to be His hands and feet and voice for those in need. 
 
Our spiritual drowsiness keeps us from seeing things rightly, and when we do begin to wake up we often don’t have the right response – just like Peter at the Transfiguration:
 
‘“Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he (Peter) did not know what he was saying.’
 
Peter knew that he was supposed to do something, but having been asleep he simply responds with the first thing that comes to mind.  The glorification of Jesus in the presence of Moses, representing the Law, and Elijah, representing the Prophets, required a response by Peter, but certainly not the one he gave.  One can imagine Jesus, Moses, and Elijah giving each other sideways glances as Peter suggests erecting tents.  You have just seen Jesus, Moses, and Elijah all glorified in the same place and building tents is Plan A?
 
Lent calls us all to respond to Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, in a way fitting and proper to the Messiah in all of His glory.  But if we are awake and attentive we will realize that the only fitting and proper response is the one that first unites us to the cross of Christ and then to all those who share in His suffering.
 
A.M.D.G.