2:a söndagen i fastan B

En predikan (homily) för andra söndagen I fastan (B)


av Dom Benedict Hardy OSB


At the Baptism of Jesus, the Father’s voice testified to his identity. This is my beloved Son. On that occasion Jesus went down in humility. Now we see him raised up in glory: the same Son of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour. We who accept that divine testimony to him are invited to share with him in his humility, in his suffering and death, in order that we may share also in his glory. That is the Gospel, we preach once again today.

St. Mark is obviously not in any doubt about who Jesus is. His Gospel begins by proclaiming it: it’s “the Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God”. Jesus looks like an ordinary man. But from the beginning St. Mark demonstrates that he is much more than an ordinary man. His hidden mystery leaks out, as it were, from time to time: when he performs miracles; when the demons acknowledge him, and now, when he is seen ablaze with heavenly glory.

The first few words in today’s Gospel passage are important. St. Marks begins his sentence: “Six days later”. That is, 6 days after Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi. There St. Peter had said You are the Christ. Some commentators try to make this confession in Mark less than the one in Matthew, who adds “The Son of the Living God”. But that is silly, because today we hear St. Mark fill out Peter’s confession with the words of God the Father: This is my Son. Another clear link between this episode and that is that after Peter’s Confession, Jesus predicted his coming suffering and death, and also his coming again in glory. Now the truth of all that is underlined on Mount Thabor, with Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets, as witnesses.

Moses and Elijah are important, because they show that Jesus is not somehow against the Old Testament, or separate from it. On the contrary: the whole of it is a preparation for his coming: he fulfils it all, even as he supercedes it.

St. Mark clearly thinks St. Peter made something of a fool of himself at the Transfiguration. He wanted to build 3 booths, or tents, as the Jews commonly did at the festival of booths. This festival was a reminder of the time when the Jews lived in tents during their 40 years journey through the wilderness towards the Promised land. The festival also looked forward to the Messianic era, when God would once again live with his people.

What was wrong with that? Because Peter thought to honour Jesus by putting him on an equal footing with Moses and Elijah. For a Jew, that was putting him very high indeed. But of course it was stupidity, because Jesus is far above Moses and Elijah. Nor did Jesus need symbols of the Messianic era! He was the Messiah, and God among his people, and the Kingdom was already present in his own person.

So although he had thought he understood, clearly Peter hadn’t. Or perhaps better: what Peter had rightly understood had not really yet sunk in.

Has it done so with us? Surely that’s St. Mark’s question to us today. Mark knows that his Gospel, based on the testimony of St. Peter, will be read not just by catechumens in early stages of exploring their faith, but by all Christians, continuously nourishing their faith by God’s own word. And St. Mark seems to remind us today that if we think we have understood, we still don’t know the half of it. We confess Christ’s divinity, and we are right to do so. We know he suffered for us, and rose for us. That is all true. Yet: the depths of this mystery are unfathomable. There is always more to learn. We are asked to gaze on the face of Christ, and to see there God’s own face, and his beauty, and his love, and mercy, and goodness. As today we contemplate Jesus in his mysteries, Jesus on the Mountain, we don’t so much learn more things about him, as discover with ever greater depth how great he is, how beautiful; how wonderful is what he has done, how fitting, how good, how exactly right for me, here and now.

In today’s 1st reading we heard again the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac. It’s a sign that in Jesus God the Father holds nothing back from us. He gave his own Son up for us. That offering is made present in the Mass. We are able to receive, because he has first given. How do we respond? Surely in like manner – with total generosity, and total self offering: through him, and with him, and in him.