Last January 31, I visited for the third time since New Year’s Day a 92 year-old parishioner upon the request of her family. Yes, I know that we should never pray for death but like the family of Aling Ising who has been bedridden for almost 20 years with Parkinson’s disease and a stroke, I really wondered that Sunday what else was keeping her from going home? Two years ago I celebrated Mass at her bedside when she turned 90; that Sunday, I celebrated anew a Mass with anointing of the sick. During communion, I gave her the Blood of Christ by damping her lips with the Sacred Species. How she savored the Lord at that moment wherein her face brightened up even with her eyes closed! She was undeniably filled with joy upon receiving Jesus Christ that I continued doing it for a week six days until she peacefully died exactly a week after in the early morning of the following Sunday. I remember Aling Ising today while praying over St. Luke’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, of how her face brightened up receiving the Holy Communion: 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 (Lk.9:28-31).
All three synoptic gospels narrate the transfiguration of Jesus Christ just like His temptations last week; however, there is a remarkable difference with St. Luke’s account wherein he clearly said the reason for their ascent on the mountain was to pray. After all, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ is primarily a prayer event.
In the bible, mountain is the place of encountering and being one with God in prayer. The Old Testament teems with many stories of God meeting His prophets on the mountain like Moses and Elijah who came to converse with Jesus in His transfiguration. Jesus would always go to the mountains to pray and be one with His Father. Most of all, He would die on a mountain too, on Calvary. In our secular world, the mountain is also the place of an ascent to higher realities of life so that in the movie “That Thing Called Tadhana” it showed how two lovers moved on from their previous relationships after going up to Sagada because it is the place where we feel so free from the stress and burdens of daily life, touching base with our inner selves as we breathe in fresh air and see the wide expanse of the earth below. In a sense, when we are up on the mountain, we experience creation at its best but the problem is, a lot often we do it without the Creator Himself! That explains why even if we hike to the mountains and experience a high, a few weeks or months later, we are empty again because we simply recharge but do not renew ourselves in every ascent we make. We do not pray and meditate that every climb becomes a mere outward journey, rather than an inward one to discover our true selves by finding God within through nature!
On this second Sunday of Lent, we are invited to take that ascent to God in prayer to experience transfiguration too. Notice how in the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would bring along the same three apostles again with Him to pray; in fact, Christ would insist on the three to “pray so that they would not fall into tests.” When we truly pray, we see God’s goodness and holiness side by side with our sinfulness and weaknesses but we are enlightened by the Lord’s light that gives us hope and courage to move on, to pass over our many trials and sufferings. For us to be faithful children of God resisting the temptations of the devil according to last Sunday’s Gospel, the transfiguration of Jesus reminds us today of the need to always pray to become like God, His image and likeness through our own transfiguration! On Mt. Tabor, the three Apostles saw what happens when Jesus prays to the Father: “While he was praying, his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white (Lk.9:29).” In the same manner, when we pray and turn away from our evil ways, our face could change from the inside because of the Spirit dwelling in us.
The transfiguration was a foretaste of Christ’s future glory once He completes His own“exodus” or Pasch which Moses and Elijah discussed with Him according to St. Luke. Again in the same manner, when we pray especially the Sacred Scriptures, when we listen to God’s living words found in the Bible, He reveals to us His great plans for us to be His children in Christ “by changing our lowly body to conform with his glorified body (Phil.3:21).” And the good news is that in the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, He had led the way by suffering first for us, by dying first for us before every trial and suffering we go through in this life. This is the meaning of Abraham’s experience in the desert when upon darkness, “a fire pot and a flaming torch” passed over his offerings: it was the Lord passing over the offerings, doing everything for Abraham as He vowed to give him the promised land (Gen.15:17-18). In Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, that covenant of God with Abraham was fulfilled.
When we see the world today, everything seems to be so dark, even frightening with all the wars, crimes, and diseases that threaten every aspect of life. Things seem to get so dirty, even muddled without us seeing the real issues as we spew harsh words against one another whether in the name of politics and worst, in the name of God and religion, both here and abroad. Everything has become physical and material as we have fallen into the devil’s trap last week to “turn stones into bread.” Today the Lord is inviting us to come with Him up on a mountain to pray and see the glory awaiting us as we confront the powers of darkness in this world. May we not be afraid to follow Jesus our Light by listening to His voice in prayer always. Amen.