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‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’

Readings for Feb. 24-25, Second Sunday of Lent

By Fr. Jack Treloar, SJ | For On Mission

This week’s Gospel story is one of the most fantastical episodes of Jesus’ life in all of the New Testament.

Jesus’ garments begin to shine and are as white as snow. Moses and Elijah appear on the scene. The voice from Heaven booms out, “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.” Even though this narration could seem to be straight from fantasy literature, that does not mean the story is insignificant. There is deep spiritual meaning in each of these events.

We begin with the transformation of Jesus’ appearance in which the Gospel indicates that he is far from merely human. His garments change from the everyday tunic and cloak he wore. Now, the clothing is beyond anything a very rich person or even royalty would wear. 

Mark tells us Jesus’ attire “became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” This is one way Mark has of informing his readers that Jesus is much more than simply human; he is also completely divine. In the transfiguration, the divinity shines forth and eclipses his humanity.

In the second stage of the story, two key figures of Jewish history appear with Jesus.

There is first Moses, the primal lawgiver of Jewish tradition. His appearance with Jesus indicates that Jesus’ own teaching is in accord with the whole tradition of Jewish law. So, everything we find in the Ten Commandments, we also find in Jesus’ teaching. 

Jesus himself tells us that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. In other words, he taught that there was so much more to the law than the interpretations given by the authorities of his day. 

Second, there is Elijah who brings with him all the authority of the tradition of Jewish prophecy. His presence indicates that Jesus is the true fulfillment of the prophetic tradition.

The combination of these three figures becomes an indication of totality of divine revelation in the teaching of Jesus. He combines and completes everything that occurs in the law and all prophecy. He is the ultimate realization of all of creation in its totality.

But Jesus, Moses and Elijah are not enough in themselves. The final affirmation of Jesus’ mission and teaching comes when the voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” 

It’s almost as if the Father were saying, “If the presence of Jesus, Moses and Elijah do not convince you that I am working something totally new through the authority and teaching of Jesus, I now give my total seal of approval to Jesus, my son.”

We hear one of the versions of the transfiguration every year on the Second Sunday of Lent. It can get somewhat habitual and tedious as we listen to the reading in church. 

But when we stop and really pay attention, we realize that the transfiguration is a complete affirmation of Jesus as savior, even though he will suffer and die. He will rise again in a state far beyond this transfiguration.

Fr. Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator. 

The readings for Sunday, Feb. 25, can be found at Second Sunday of Lent | USCCB.

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