March 8, 2020 - 2nd Sunday in Lent
(Gn 12:1-4a; 2 Tm 1:8b-10; Mt 17:1-9)
Nearing the end of his life, Paul writes to the younger Timothy from his prison cell in Rome. In this letter he passes on to Timothy the mission of proclaiming the Gospel, which necessarily includes the hardships he mentions. Paul promises that strength from God is sufficient for bearing these hardships. At the time of this writing, Paul's hardships include prison, abandonment, loneliness, the “thorn in the flesh” he speaks of elsewhere, and disappointment over the false practices adopted by some of the churches he started. Yet Paul demonstrates his faith by not losing heart in the face of all these hardships, but trusting that somehow the gospel will succeed.
The Gospel reading is Matthew's account of the transfiguration. This event tells us who Jesus is through the voice from the cloud and through several parallels to Moses' mountaintop experience on Mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments. Both events were on a mountaintop where God's voice speaks from a cloud. Moses represents the Old Covenant and Jesus represents the “new Moses” with a New Covenant. Why did Peter offer to build three tents? Caught up in the moment, did Peter simply hope to prolong and commemorate his own mountaintop experience and offer shelter to his special guests? Was Peter influenced by the annual Jewish observance of the Feast of Booths, a seven-day commemoration of God's protection of his people while they journeyed 40 years in the wilderness? During that feast, small huts made of tree branches are constructed. Peter may have seen parallels between what he was witnessing there on Mount Tabor and the apparition Moses saw on Mount Sinai. Peter probably remembered the promise that the Lord would raise up a prophet like Moses and that Elijah also would return to earth. At the Transfiguration, Peter was seeing something remarkable. He was awestruck. Both Moses and Elijah had appeared, having come to tell the whole world that Jesus was the Messiah, someone even more important than Moses.