Fr Kieran Gardiner
Church in Horsham
Fr Kieran Gardiner
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St John's Horshan Newsletter
Deacon Tom Murray
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      On the second Sunday of Lent in each Lectionary cycle, the Gospel reading proclaims the story
of Jesus' Transfiguration. This event is reported in each of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark,
and Luke. This year, in Lectionary Cycle B, we hear Mark's report of this event. The context for Mark's
Transfiguration story is similar to that found in both Matthew's and Luke's Gospel. The
Transfiguration occurs after Peter's confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus' prediction
about his passion. After this, in each of these Gospels, there is also a discussion of the cost of
discipleship. In each case, Jesus takes three of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—to a high
mountain. While they are there, Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus. In Matthew's and Mark's
Gospel, there is reference to a conversation among Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, but only Luke's
Gospel includes the detail that this conversation is about what Jesus will accomplish in Jerusalem.
Elijah and Moses are significant figures in the history of Israel. Moses led the Israelites from slavery
in Egypt and received from Yahweh the Ten Commandments. In appearing with Jesus at his
Transfiguration, Moses represents the Law that guides the lives of the Jewish people. Elijah is
remembered as one of the most important prophets of Israel who helped the Israelites stay faithful
to Yahweh. Some Jews believed that Elijah's return would signal the coming of the Messiah for the
Jewish people. This belief is evidenced in the question posed by Jesus' disciples after they have
witnessed the Transfiguration. The appearance of these two important figures from Israel's history
with Jesus signifies Jesus' continuity with the Law and with the prophets and that Jesus is the
fulfilment of all that was promised to the people of Israel. On seeing Jesus with Elijah and Moses
and having witnessed his Transfiguration, Peter offers to construct three tents for them. Mark
reports that the disciples are terrified by what they have witnessed and that Peter's offer is made out
of confusion. We also notice that Peter has reverted from his earlier confession that Jesus is the
Messiah, calling Jesus rabbi instead. As if in reply to Peter's confusion, a voice from heaven
speaks, affirming Jesus as God's Son and commanding the disciples to obey him. This voice from
heaven recalls the voice that was heard at Jesus' baptism. In his Transfiguration, we see an
anticipation of the glory of Jesus' Resurrection. In each of the reports of the Transfiguration, Jesus
instructs the disciples to keep secret what they have seen until after the Son of Man has risen from
the dead. The disciples' confusion continues as they wonder what Jesus means by rising from the
dead. The disciples cannot possibly understand Jesus' Transfiguration until they also witness his
passion and death. We hear the story of Jesus' Transfiguration early in Lent, but we have the benefit
of hindsight. In our hearing of it, we anticipate Jesus' Resurrection, even as we prepare to
remember Jesus' passion and death.