Second Sunday of Lent – Fr. Adam Royal
March 7, 2020 – 5:00PM
When Jesus is transfigured on the mountain, he is surrounded by two of the most significant figures in the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah have long been thought to symbolize the law and the prophets. That is, they signify that all of the Old Testament, its history, laws, and prophetic utterances, point to and prepare the way for Jesus Christ. They make ready the moment when Jesus appears, and God offers the complete revelation of himself to humanity. However, I have my doubts about this interpretation. I don’t think Moses and Elijah symbolize merely the law and the prophets. I believe they signify all of us, imperfect and sinful humanity, loved and desired by God. That is, I think they symbolize God’s limitless mercy.
Moses and Elijah were great men, not because of who they were by themselves, but because of who they became with God’s grace, with his mercy. Moses, the leader and lawgiver of the Israelites, had a horrific temper, couldn’t speak in public, and even murdered a person. The prophet Elijah suffered from doubt in God and depression. He had an uninviting appearance. And his successor, who sent bears to eat a group of children, was known to be the more level headed of the two prophets. Moses and Elijah were two deeply flawed people, just like all of us. But they knew God’s mercy. They trusted in God’s mercy, and that is what made them great. That is why they were on the mountain beside Jesus at the transfiguration. So that we could behold not only who we are right now, broken and imperfect, but who we are to become in Christ, mirrors of the divine brilliance.
God doesn’t show us mercy so that we can remain just as we are. He shows us mercy so that we can be transformed so that we can be remade into a new creation, freed from our sins and imperfections. When Jesus is transfigured before us, he reveals our future; he shows the world brought to perfection by God’s mercy. The new world Christ offers us is so beautiful, so perfect, that when it appears in this fallen world, it looks as if it is glowing with a mystical light. Its brilliance was so exceptional, the apostles fell upon their faces and trembled with fear. Beside them were Moses and Elijah. Sinful and imperfect humanity beheld the radiance of the glory of God. They saw what they will become, what all people who trust in God’s mercy will become at the resurrection.
The sins and failures of Moses and Elijah did not separate them from God. They were not a barrier to God’s love, and our failures are not a barrier to his love either. Ultimately, it is not our sins that will separate us from the Father but our hearts. At the end of a day, with its many poor choices and rash decisions, can we honestly turn to the Father and say, “Lord, have mercy on me”? That is what the Father asks of us, to be his true children and trust in his love. His grace, his mercy, is sufficient to take care of everything else.