Beautiful on the Cross
2nd Sunday of Lent
February 28, 2010
Gospel: Lk. 9:28b-36
As we come closer to the holy week which celebrates the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, the figure looming larger and larger is that of Ebed Yahweh, the servant of the Lord. He is spoken of in the so-called Servant Songs in Deutero-Isaiah. He is often referred to as the “Suffering Servant” because of the fourth song (Is58:13—53:12) where we find one of the memorable passage like, “It was our infirmities that he bore , our suffering that he endured while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by god and afflicted . But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed” (Is.53:4-5). The Servant is probably too complex a figure to be fitted into a single category of an individual or group in israel. However, Christians see the servant as prefiguring Jesus Christ. When Christ came, he served himself heir to the prophecies about the servant . None except Christ was the fulfillment of the mysterious suffering servant of the Lord.
to see their “Rabbi” (means teacher) Jesus crucified would break the spirit of his disciples. It would demolish whatever “Honor” Jesus had enjoyed before them by the authority of his words and action, and by his miracles. Something more was needed to make them stick with him: a vision of who Jesus really was beyond his human appearance and solemn witnesses to God.
This is what we celebrate in the second Sunday of Lent. the long and difficult journey to Jerusalem is broken by a wonderful experience on the mountaintop. Jesus undergoes a metamorphosis, a change of form, a transfiguration. He is surrounded by heavenly splendor; he converses with Moses and Elijah, two prominent figures representing God’s Revelation: the law (Torah) and the Prophets. Then comes a voice “This is my Chosen Son” it is said in the servant of the Lord “here is my servant whom i uphold, my chosen one with whom i am well pleased ” (Is 42:1). Jesus is far superior to the servant: he is faithful to God’s house, not as a servant like Moses, but as a son. (Heb 3:6)
This experience on the mountain would not be enough to keep the apostle faithful to the very end. Although Luke would be more sympathetic than Mark or Matthew , Jesus’ intimate group would abandon him at his arrest at Gethsemane.Peter would deny Jesus three times. But the transfiguration would serve all the believers from then on. It was prelude to Jesus’ resurrection, his ultimate victory, and all his full entry to into the heavenly glory. The Transfiguration is a reminder of that Jesus’ suffering and and glorification are intertwined, that “it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer (these things)and enter to his glory” (Lk.24:26). This is what Luke means when he writes that Moses and Elijah were speaking of the exodus that Jesus was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Through his suffering, Jesus will lead his people “out of their slavery” to sin and death “into the freedom” of God’s Children.
In the transfiguration, the disciples behold the glorious face of Jesus. He is the most beautiful of children of Man. He is “the splendor before which every other light pales, and the infinite beauty which alone can fully satisfy the human Heart” as the late John Paul II writes in Vita Consecrata (n 16) But in Christ, Beauty is forever joined to his face of sorrow. The Pope explains: “It is the precisely on the Cross that the one who in death appears in human eyes are disfigured and without beauty, so much so that the bystanders covers their face (Is 53:2-3) fully reveals the beauty of God’s Love” (Vita Consecrata n24)