Just as the first Sunday of Lent is traditionally dedicated to the temptation of Jesus, so the second one is devoted to his transfiguration. As if to say: Lent is not only a time of desert, temptation and penance; it is also an invitation to go up the mountain to contemplate the shining face of Christ.
What is the transfiguration? It is the momentary disclosure of Jesus’ divine glory before his disciples. It takes place shortly after the profession of faith of Peter, who first has recognized Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, and the first prediction of the passion. The transfiguration serves to confirm Peter’s confession and, at the same time, to prepare the disciples to face the passion by foreshadowing the sequel of the death on the cross, that is to say, the resurrection.
The transfiguration is important not only for the disciples, but also for Jesus himself. It could be considered as a call—a second call. The first call of Jesus was at his baptism, on the threshold of his public life: on that occasion, Jesus had been called to start his mission as the Messiah. Now, with the transfiguration, Jesus is called to set out on his journey towards the passion. In both cases the voice of the Father comes from heaven, to testify Jesus’ divine nature: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The only difference is that now God adds a command for the disciples: “Listen to him.”
In today’s liturgy there is another call, that of the father of God’s people, Abraham. The very existence of the people of Israel depends on Abraham’s obedience to that call. God asks Abraham to leave his land and go to an unknown land. He promises to make of him a great nation. And Abraham obeys with faith: he “went as the Lord directed him.” Abraham’s faith is at the origin of the history of salvation.
The second reading, on its part, talks of our call: God “saved us and called us to a holy life” (literally: “called us with a holy calling”). Every Christian is called to holiness. We are supposed to respond to this call with the same faith as Abraham, with the same obedience as Jesus.
Somehow, in today’s liturgy both Testaments, the Old and the New, are represented; the whole history of salvation is summed up: there are Abraham, the first of the patriarchs; Moses, the symbol of the Law; Elijah, the representative of the Prophets; there is Jesus, the center and apex of history; there are his disciples Peter, James and John; we also are there, called to follow in their footsteps. From Abraham up to us, we are all involved in the fulfillment of the same plan of God.
But there is an interesting detail in the gospel. When the apostles reopen their eyes, coming out of the daze caused by the transfiguration, “they saw no one else but Jesus alone.” As if to say: after the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, there is no need of Abraham, Moses and Elijah any more. Their role was just to prepare the way for Christ, and they are still witnesses to him. But, once he has come, they disappear; they have accomplished their mission. Now, the only one at whom we have to look, the only one to whom we have to listen is Jesus.