Reflection for the Vigil of the Second Sunday in Lent
Reading: Luke 9: 28-36
By Deborah Peters, OSB
The overwhelming problem in Sophocles’ great tragedy, Oedipus Rex, is that Oedipus does not know who he is. Had he known, he would not have killed his father, married his mother, and he certainly wouldn't have spent the entire play looking for himself.
In one way we are like Oedipus. It is important for us to know who we are. We spend a great deal of thought and effort trying to define and redefine the persons we are or would like to be. What this search often amounts to is that we want to make ourselves accepted, one of the whole, and loved. Generally, we do it with the help of others.
In chapter nine of Luke’s gospel, after Jesus asks his apostles “Who do the crowds say that I am?” The apostles answer John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets. Then when Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am,” Peter makes his inspired declaration, “You are the Messiah of God.” Sandwiched between Peter’s declaration and Jesus's training of his apostles is Luke’s rendering of the Transfiguration. This moment—reassuring, comforting, encouraging—is a moment of love—a son's love for his father and a father's love for his son. Yes, it is all of that, but it is much more.
Indeed, here we see Jesus at prayer, we see him glorified, and it is here that we are told who Jesus is. The Transfiguration, in fact, may be seen as a defining moment of Jesus’s work. There with Moses and Elijah who many commentators believe represent the law and the prophets is Jesus who is fulfilling their work and his own. They discuss the “exodus” or the “departure” which is not only interpreted as Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection; but also as deliverance from slavery, freedom and new life, and/or going to the promised land. The law and the prophets have led God’s chosen people to a new dispensation. Moses and Elijah fade away. Jesus remains. At this point, we are told who Jesus is. Once again, as at the baptism, the father proclaims Jesus as “this is my chosen son.” Then God tells us to “listen to him.” What has Jesus said? Earlier he said if we will be his followers, we must take up our cross daily and follow him.
The Transfiguration tells us who Jesus is. But, the question remains—who are we? Jesus gives us the sure and certain knowledge that we are the beloved—embraced through baptism, nourished through meals, and joined in our suffering. We know that after the passion, resurrection, and the cross, there is the transfiguration where we will find ourselves accepted, a part of the whole, and loved. Like Oedipus, we keep searching, trying to find out who we are. We are the chosen. In the end, if we listen to Jesus, we will find ourselves transfigured, alive in our father’s love.