Gospel Reflection for Sunday the 28th of February 2021
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Second Sunday of Lent
The Church has chosen the Transfiguration of Our Lord as a suitable Gospel reading for the second Sunday of Lent. As a foretaste of Our Lord’s Resurrection, the glory of the Transfiguration sustains us in the hardship and trials of the penitential season and keeps our focus on the goal of our Lenten observances: to be on the mountaintop with Jesus, to see the divine light shining from His face and to experience the joy of God’s glory. This is our goal during Lent and we will soon say, when we reach the glory of Easter, “it is wonderful for us to be here”. The sacrifices of Lent will be worth it. Peter, James and John were taken away by Jesus, up a high mountain, where they could be alone by themselves. This temporary detachment from the world, from the comforts and routines of life, pays rich dividends. Time spent in prayer, with our phones switched off, is time well spent.
In the Transfiguration, a cloud came down on the mountain, covering the group in its shadow, and God spoke from within the cloud, revealing the divinity of Jesus: “this is my Beloved Son, listen to Him.” Throughout the story of the bible, God has come in both the form of a cloud and also in the form of fire or light. When the Israelites were escaping from Egypt, God accompanied them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. On their way through the desert the Israelites lived in tents and when they worshipped a cloud descended on the tent of worship, indicating God’s presence. At night time, light and fire could be seen inside the cloud. Again, we see cloud and light together, just as in the Transfiguration. Furthermore, on the day that Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai to meet God and receive the Ten Commandments the mountaintop was covered with cloud and the people could hear thunder and see lightening. On his return from the mountaintop, the face of Moses was beaming with light, a reflection of the light of God in whose company He had been. Cloud and light, revealing God.
Cloud and light, as a pair, are the perfect signs to indicate God’s presence. The cloud is a sign that God is a mystery. We will never understand Him fully in this life and our knowledge of Him increases slowly over time. Even when we are sure of His presence, we can only partially see or understand Him. This is as it should be. The cloud reveals God but preserves His mystery and our humility.
Though God is a mystery, He also shares His light with us. He gives us enough light for our daily needs and, over time, growth in our knowledge of God is experienced as enlightenment. The Ten Commandments brought light and clarity to the People of God. Now, Jesus is the New Moses that enlightens all people. The prophets of old, such as Elijah, delivered the words of truth to the people. Now, Jesus, is not just a deliverer of words, He is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the prophet of all prophets.
Yes, cloud and light are the perfect signs of God’s presence.
Jesus, Himself, is both God and man. His humanity is the cloud that hides His divinity. His divinity is the everlasting fire within His human body. The Eucharist, too, can be understood in terms of cloud and light. As a mystery, the Eucharist is shrouded in a cloud – we do not understand it fully and we cannot penetrate its truth with the eyes of our body. But, within the Eucharist, within the cloud, is a hidden fire, the burning fire of the heart of Jesus. God is present in the Eucharist, shrouded in a cloud which hides His divine light and life. As St Thomas Aquinas would say in one of his hymns: the Eucharist is the “Godhead here in hiding.”
Jesus foretold his disciples that He would come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. “And then”, He said to them, “they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”
-Fr Eamon Roche