By Mary Flick, CSJ
I recently read a Jesuit theologian who said that Jesus’ life mission was the conquest of death. Today’s readings give us hope in that victory. As we begin our Lenten journey, today’s gospel is already providing encouragement for the road ahead. First though, we look back to Abraham, our ancestor in faith, to see what is required. Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his only son, and with him, the promise of his future. Even God’s greatest gift is subject to death. Abraham has nothing to go on but his trust that God will keep God’s promise, and somehow, God will provide. And God does.
In the second reading, Paul confirms God is trustworthy. God walks with us on this life journey filled with loss and letting go. God knows the cost of human life; God did not spare his only son from death. But God provides something far more wonderful than the human life lost to death. God has raised Jesus to even greater life. And Jesus, who knows what life will ask of us, intercedes for us that we too, might conquer death.
But don’t take it on Paul’s word. As you listen to the gospel, put yourself in the disciples’ place. Follow Jesus up the high mountain and see how God provides the promise, the assurance, and a glimpse of what Jesus’ conquest of death looks like. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. But first, he and his trusted three have a detour to make. On the mountain, Jesus’ clothes became dazzling. Transfigured, he becomes translucent, radiating God’s presence and glory. And God’s presence is affirmed in the voice from the cloud which speaks familiar words, the same message Jesus had heard at his baptism: “This is my beloved.” Moses and Elijah are there, too – the Jews’ greatest law-giver and the greatest of the prophets. Their presence confirms that all of Jewish tradition has brought Jesus to this journey to Jerusalem.
The sounds and sights of this transformed, transfigured moment leave the disciples terrified, bewildered, speechless. “Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.” So, too, as we begin our annual trek to Jerusalem with Jesus, may we see “only Jesus.” As we question the death around us, the loss within our own lives, may we disciples turn to our ancestors in the faith. May we, with Abraham, trust that God will provide; believe that we share in Jesus’ mission. Together, we are all conquerors of death through our lives of faith.