Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
Second Sunday of Lent
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
“Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Matthew 17:9
Why does Jesus ask Peter, James, and John to keep a secret? “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead” (Matthew 17:9. Sometimes children, perhaps some adults as well, will ask a friend to keep a secret to test their friendship. But here Peter, James, and John have already been privy to a vision of such splendor and transcendent consequence, along with hearing the voice of the Father acknowledge that Jesus is His beloved Son (Matthew 17:5), that we can only conclude that the friendship, a close and intimate bond, has already been established. There is no test here. Instead the Transfiguration, as we call it, has taken place to reinforce the faith of Peter, James, and John to face the scandal of the cross. Jesus asks them to keep it secret until after the Resurrection because for anyone else but His closest followers the event would be misinterpreted. The Transfiguration is meant to be an encouraging preface to what will be a very discouraging but necessary moment in the life of Jesus. Faced with the reality of the cross, we need that encouragement too.
At the end of Lent is the summit of the cross. Jesus will be rejected and crucified. Judas will betray Him. Peter will deny Him. The apostles, save John, will abandon Him. The sight will be a sorry one. And Jesus knew that for those who believed Him, rightly so, to be the Messiah the sight would be discouraging as well. Can we identify with this?
Lent, like a great drama, brings out the discouragement that can be ours. I remember a priest friend observing once that when humans experience great tragedy in their lives, they crave for normalcy. They look for a return to stability, certainty, terra firma. When we come to Good Friday, we easily bring those disappointments and painful moments that weigh heavily on us to the cross.
Lent is a battle that leads to a victory, but there has to be a battle first. I do not know whether you have noticed but if you take Lent seriously, something of a struggle takes place. If you are determined to tackle a fault or sin, if you increase your prayer, if you repent and go to confession, if you increase your good will and charity, then something happens. A struggle ensues. The Devil does not like this turn of events. Obstacles will arise. Excuses will be made. Even despair or at least deep disappointment in yourself can set in.
Our Lord knows all of this. He knew this would be true for the apostles. Hence, the Transfiguration. There is evidence in the Scriptures that the Transfiguration was a precious and consoling memory for the apostles who witnessed it (II Peter 1:16ff.). Yes, there is the cross. There must be the cross. There can be no resurrection without the cross. But the resurrection will come. “[D]o not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7). Fear no discouragement. Recommit yourself to what is right and good. Do not allow darkness to overwhelm you. Instead, seek the light, the transforming light of the Transfiguration.
Bishop Glen John Provost