Lent is a time for winnowing chaff in and from our lives through self-denial, prayer and almsgiving and above all through dealing with our sinful tendencies. On this second Sunday of Lent we have the Transfiguration of Our Lord for our Gospel reading. Please allow me to tease out a different theme from the gospel passage than what is intended.
After Jesus being transfigured; seeing him in his radiant glory and conversing with Moses and Elijah, Peter gets a great idea. He cannot keep it to himself. He blurts out, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”. Does Peter want to escape from the realities of life and the hard daily toils down in the valley? Preachers joke about it saying Peter finishes short of asking a tent for himself because he is confident that he will have some space for himself in Jesus’. I don’t think so.
Going by the context it’s clear that these words come out of a genuine concern for his Master. It’s Peter’s way of saving Jesus from his enemies. He knows what awaits Jesus in the valley: rejection, malicious traps, turmoil and possible death. He is aware there are people down in the valley, who have made clear that they will leave no stone unturned to get rid of him. Peter doesn’t want it to happen. So Peter says, Rabbi, people down there don’t know who you really are. Why do you want to go down to the valley and put yourself in trouble? You stay here and we will go to the valley and do what we can. Occasionally we can come and see you here. In short, Peter wants to “save” Jesus. Bless his heart!
It’s this kind of concern and other-centeredness the season of Lent calls us to. In order to be able to achieve this goal, Lent asks us to practice almsgiving – not out of pity but as a privilege. Almsgiving is not so much to help others as to reveal who we are: The children of God; “made little less than God” (Ps. 8). Therefore Paul has this to say: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2: 3-5)
It requires lots of self-denial, prayer and fasting – a lot more than we are doing now.