Preparing for Mass
March 17, 2019 by Deacon Michael Houtchen
Second Sunday of Lent
Gospel Luke 9:28b-36
Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
Today, Jesus, along with Peter, John, and James, go up on a mountain to pray. I didn’t know this, but mountains or hills are mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible? Some mountains were revered as holy sites by the Jews and later by Christians because simply put, mountains are closer to God because God lives in heaven and mountains reach up to heaven. Truthfully, God does often reveal himself from mountaintops:
- In the Old Testament, it’s on Mount Zion where the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple would be built.
- In the New Testament, Mark would tell us, “Jesus went up a mountain, called those whom he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve whom he called apostles.” (Mark 3:13-14).
- In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus delivers the Beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount.
- One of Jesus’ temptations took place on a mountain. It is written ̶ then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world . . . and Satan said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me” (Matthew 4:8).
- There were a number of healings on a mountain. “Moving on from there Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them” (Matthew 15:29-30).
- Jesus’ final discourse was on a mountain, “As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, “Tell us . . . what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).
- The commissioning of the Apostles takes place on a mountain. “The eleven disciples (yes, at this time there only eleven) went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them” (Matthew 28:16-20).
Perhaps the most significant mountaintop experience is in today’s Gospels, the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-13). Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah, who themselves had encountered God on a mountaintop:
- It would be on Mount Horeb that Moses would first encounter God. If you remember, it was in a burning bush (Exodus 3:1).
- Elijah met God on Mount Horeb. You may not remember the story. Elijah is told to “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by” (1 Kings 19:11-13). In the story, there’s a strong and heavy wind, but God was not in the wind. There’s an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. There’s a fire, but God was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a whispering sound, and from the whispering sound comes a voice, “Elijah, why are you here?”
So now, on a mountain, the disciples see and overhear Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the great prophet, talking with Jesus. The three are speaking about Jesus’ exodus that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. During this second Sunday of Lent, we should be reminded of what Jesus would be going through in a few weeks. We should remember His Passion. In the Stations of the Cross, we remember the fourteen steps Jesus would take to fulfill his exodus. So, what then was Jesus’ exodus?
Let’s look at the word “exodus.” When we hear the word, we remember how God, through Moses, freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Once free, the Israelites would enter into a covenant with God. In the covenant, God promised to make Abraham the father of a great people and Abraham and his descendants must obey God. In return, God would guide them and protect them and give them the land of Israel. But it wasn’t simply a matter of obeying rules – God wanted the Israelites to live their lives in such a way as to show the world that God was the one and only all-powerful God, whom people should follow and worship. God would also give them the laws and the Ten Commandments.
Jesus’ exodus refers to the freedom from the slavery of sin that Jesus would achieve for us through the cross and the Resurrection. Through His resurrection, Jesus would establish a New Covenant, which is the eternal alliance between us and God the Father. Jesus would also give us a new commandment. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
We are to love one another.