Voices and God’s Last Word

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year B) 2021

Readings: Gen 22:1-2. 9-13. 15-18; Ps 115:10. 15-19. R. 114:9; 
Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.

SOME people commented that despite the technological advancements in communication–the technologies that are supposed to draw us together and promote understanding, we have become even more fragmented and nowhere near understanding one another. Some attribute this to the rise of social media. We’ve become a society of “experts”—or we think we are experts. We often confuse opinion with facts. We are no longer able to distinguish facts from opinions or crazy imaginations or conspiracy theories. Hence, we do not know how to relate to one another and often we do not know how to navigate our social lives. But who could blame us? There is so many information out there. So many voices. Who to listen to?

Our gospel today seem to give us the answer. Mark, writing for his community, tries to point them in the right direction on who to listen to as they lived out their faith. The story of the transfiguration is not just a story of divine revelation. it is also a story about the mission. The story of the transfiguration recalls to us how God, in human history, speaks to us. He spoke to Moses in Mount Sinai and He spoke to Elijah in Mount Horeb. Both these men of God experienced powerful manifestations of God’s glory on these high mountains. Each time, communicating His will. Each time, telling His chosen ones how to proceed.

And yet, in today’s Gospel, both prophets, as well as Peter, James and John hear the voice of God again on a high mountain, but in a still more powerful and significant way. Here there is no thunder, no lightning, no wind, no fire. Instead, they see Jesus. The glory of God is manifested not in fire and thunder, but in Jesus whose, body and garments are turned dazzling white. At the end of the episode, a cloud appears in Old Testament style, God’s voice coming from it and bears witness to Jesus: ‘This is my beloved Son.’ God—the Old Testament Voice points us to the New Testament Voice that had already been speaking. Jesus, the beloved Son of God, had already been speaking with Moses and Elijah, just as they had conversed with God hundreds of years before but now through the Voice of God’s only Son, the Word incarnate. And in the story of the transfiguration, God makes His last declaration: “Listen to him!”—Listen to the voice of Jesus!

As if to make the point, at the end of the vision Moses and Elijah, the very embodiment of the Old Testament, representing the law and the prophets, just disappear. After this episode, no other account in the Bible where God speaks directly to us. Like what the three disciples noticed after hearing the Voice, we find only Jesus, all alone for us to listen and be obedient to. So the point is clear: Jesus is the Voice of God. From now on, we only have to listen to Jesus.

Now, the challenge for each one of us is how we can make ourselves more open to receiving God’s voice; allowing them to transform us and make us messengers of the Good News. It is not an easy challenge. Even the three disciples were not successful. Even after they had witnessed the transformation of Jesus their minds remained closed. Sometimes, we too, are blinded by the daily routines of our lives, the many voices we hear. We become too familiar and complacent about who we are and about what we have at the moment. This dulls our sense of awe and so we are unable to be open to the wonderful things God is doing for us and through us.

This 2nd Sunday of Lent, the gospel teaches us that to see, we need to look. To hear, we need to listen. To experience, we need to open our minds and hearts to the possibility of God’s voice. We do not need to be on a mountain-top to experience a special meeting with God. All we need to do is to shake off our complacency, to do away with our pride, our self-centeredness, and be ready to receive whatever God wants to offer us. Now, for a moment, close your eyes. Imagine now you are before God and He speaks to you in his glory as He did with the apostles on the mountain. What is his word to you? Do you hear Him? How will that word help you on your spiritual journey this Lent? What will be our response? ###

NB. As I mentioned before, I never claim to always have an original homily and still, maintain that homilies need not be always original because preaching is handing on the Word of God or echoing the great teachings about the faith. Most of the times, I research the works of more capable preachers than I am and in this instance, I want to acknowledge the homily of Fr Simon Gaine, originally published from the Torch, 22 February 2021, parts of it I excerpted here (see: “The Final Word.” Torch. The Dominican Friars – England & Scotland. 22 February. Accessed February 27, 2021. https://www.english.op.org/torch/the-final-word.)