Reflection on the Gospel-2nd Sunday of Lent Year C (Luke 9:28-36) -Veronica Lawson RSM
Last week, the wilderness was a character in the gospel reading. This week, we find a mountain and a cloud featuring in the narrative. These other-than-human characters and the prophets of old (Moses and Elijah) link Luke’s story of Jesus to the Israelites’ covenant relationship with God. Wilderness, mountain and cloud also remind us that God’s Earth is the locus of mystery where human and other-than-human Earth beings are transformed through encounter with the divine. For Pope Francis, “[s]oil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God” (Laudato Si’ 84).
For Jesus, the mountain is already a place of encounter with God, a place of prayer. Luke has Jesus spending a night in prayer on an unidentified mountain before he chooses the Twelve. Jesus now takes three of his closest friends up another unidentified mountain where the aspect of his face changes and his clothing becomes dazzling white. Elijah and Moses, the key prophetic figures of Israel, “appear” and enter into dialogue with Jesus, God’s definitive prophet.
This episode seems to point to a time in Jesus’ ministry when he accepts his likely fate: if he continues to challenge oppression and injustice, he is certain to encounter opposition, even death. He struggles with this realisation in the wilderness and comes to terms with what it involves on the mountain. The voice of God reaffirms the identity of Jesus and calls for a response: “Listen to him”. These words are reminiscent of Moses’ instruction to the Israelites: “Your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet” (Deut 18:15). For Luke, Jesus is the prophet-like-Moses whom they must heed. Peter wants to hold on to the experience of glory, to “make tents” and settle down. He prefers not to face the difficulties involved in fidelity to the mission. But that is not the way of discipleship. The tents evoke once more the Israelites’ wanderings in the wilderness.
Like Jesus and his companions, we too need the occasional glimpse of glory. We also need the good sense to follow through on the path that brings life, despite the pain. We can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges facing us and by the opposition we sometimes experience. If we are to hear the prophet-like-Moses in our times, we have to come to terms with the personal costs involved. Some of us actually need to go alone or together to a mountain top or place of extraordinary beauty to discover again the strength that comes from encountering the divine. I grew up in the shadow of Geboor (Mt Macedon). I once climbed within view of Everest. Every now and then, I climb Mt Buninyong. At such times, I know the wonder of God revealed in the beauty of the earth itself even as I sense its fragility and susceptibility to destruction.