Second Sunday of Lent


On the second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading proclaims the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. This event is reported in each of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Mark’s Transfiguration story is similar to that found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ prediction about his passion. After this, in each of these Gospels, there is also a discussion of the cost of discipleship.

In each story, Jesus takes three of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—to a high mountain. While they are there, Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus.  First, we see that there are three persons on the “high mountain”: Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. We see the priest, prophet, and King, the three offices of Jesus, embodied here by three physical persons. They seem to be in consultation and complete harmony, just as the Holy Trinity is three Persons in complete accord.

Next are the three witnesses, hand-picked by Jesus: Peter, chosen to be the “Rock” on which Jesus would build His Church; John, the youngest and the “beloved” disciple; and James, who would lead the Church in Jerusalem. This reminds us that the Father created, and nurtured man and He would build a Church using through his “beloved Son,” Jesus; and the Spirit would breathe life into the Church on the day of Pentecost.

We can also see each Person of the Holy Trinity in this passage: God the Father in the voice saying, “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him;” God the Son in physical form; and the cloud representing the Holy Spirit — just as He appeared in the desert in the Old testament. This is not something that would have been understood by the disciples, who “kept the matter to themselves.”

The use of the number three here is very intentional. The three on the mountain, the three witnesses, the indication of the three Persons, all point to the truth of the Trinity. This concept of God was completely foreign up to this point. What a mystery for the disciples, and us, to ponder as we continue the Lenten journey!