Second Sunday of Lent: The Mess Down the Mountainside

February 25, 2024 | Rev. Manuel Williams, C.R. | Today’s Readings

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Matthew 17:1-2)


When Jesus took Peter, James, and John up that mountain he must have had a growing awareness of what awaited him in Jerusalem. Though the text does not say so, given who he has been revealed to be thus far in Mark’s gospel, it is highly probable that he went up that high mountain seeking solace and encouragement; to pray. As he would later do in Gethsemane, perhaps he prayed that the cup of suffering, which lay before him, could be taken away.

But once there, Moses, the law receiver from Mount Sinai, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, who on another mountain humiliated a cohort of Baal’s priests, appeared with him.

Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were in conversation — their sharing so intense that Jesus’ garments became blindingly white. The apostles were utterly amazed, and Peter, in his utter impulsiveness and representative humanity, offered to build tents for the three so that this glorious moment might be prolonged. Yet the voice from heaven declared: “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him.” 

In an instant, the glorious moment ceased. They began the journey down the mountain with Jesus’ admonition that they tell no one what they had seen until the Son of Man had been raised.

This Second Sunday of Lent 2024 our community of disciples could use a mountaintop experience. We surely need to be reminded of the law of love, which is the essential element of the covenant with God we have made as individuals and as Church. We know deep in our hearts that we too are called by our baptisms to be prophets, proclaiming a world replete with the values of justice, mercy, and compassion. 

The heartbreaking reality down the mountain where we find ourselves this Lent is the mess human sin has made of so much of our world.

Outrageous violence assaults our eyes, ears, and hearts with some measure of deadly vehemence. We see it in Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Sudan, execution chambers around the world, and in numerous other places. 

We see a polity in our country that’s nearly been consumed by the purveyors of a demonic caste system. A system that aims to alienate us from each other and our common humanity by denigrating the marvelous diversity God has created in all of us. Revenge and retribution are becoming normalized.

Yet, as we contend with all the mess at the end of our last mountaintop experience, we believe that in the paschal journey of Jesus we too are assured that there is life beyond the death and destruction we see around us. Equipped by whatever practices we embrace this Lent, we sojourn on in Resurrection hope. 

But unlike Peter, James, and John we are obliged to tell everybody about the values of his Kingdom and the redemptive power of his love.

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