19 Mar Second Sunday in Lent
March 17, 2019
Father Shawn Hughes
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
Imagine what Peter, James and John must have talked about among themselves the day after they witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor.
Imagine how filled with joy, trust, and confident hope they must have been as they went down the mountain that day!
Imagine what their prayer must have been like over the next few days, weeks and months!
While Jesus was praying they had seen his face change and his clothes became dazzling white. (Luke 9:30) In this way the divine nature indwelling the humanity of Jesus became fully manifest. Up to now his divinity had been veiled by his human nature. In that moment of glory he wanted to show us three things:
Firstly appearing with him are the greatest patriarch and the greatest prophet of the Old Testament: Moses and Elijah. Moses representing the Torah, the Law. And Elijah representing all prophecy. They appear with Jesus on that mountain top to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Law of the Old Covenant and that He is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Covenant. That is why his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white. The Glory of the Old Covenant’s Law and Prophecies are brought to fulfillment and perfected in the New Covenant, in Jesus Christ.
- b) Secondly Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor to show us who we have truly been created to be. Whenever I am celebrating funerals there is a prayer that is prayed as part of the Eucharistic prayer. Each time I pray it, the awesomeness of who we are created to be leaps out at me. What we pray is what we believe.
In that prayer we pray:
Remember your servant
whom you have called
from this world to yourself.
Grant that he/she who was united with your Son in a death like his,
may also be one with him in his Resurrection,
when from the earth
he will raise up in the flesh those who have died,
and transform our lowly body
after the pattern of his own glorious body.
Imagine! We will be transfigured: our lowly bodies will be transformed after the pattern of his own glorious body. As our second reading said “He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.” (Philippians 3:21) Truly our citizen ship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20)
It gets better…the prayer from the Funeral Mass goes on:
To our departed brothers and sisters, too,
and to all who were pleasing to you
at their passing from this life,
give kind admittance to your kingdom.
There we hope to enjoy for ever the fullness of your glory,
when you will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
For seeing you, our God, as you are,
we shall be like you for all the ages
and praise you without end,
Not only will we be transfigured. Those who are pleasing to Him at the moment of death will enjoy the fullness of his glory and will be able to see God as He is and will be like him for all the ages. Imagine!
On Mount Tabor, Jesus wanted to give us a glimpse of the target. It is as though he were saying: you will become like this, if you take up your cross daily and follow me, if you are one of his disciples, one who is pleasing to Him, or , IF, we, as the Father from Heaven spoke in the gospel: “Listen to Him!”
When in John’s gospel “Jesus says, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12), he does not mean it in a metaphorical way. In his person habitually resides the uncreated light of God’s glory- this is what we see in the Transfiguration —the Light that, being divine, divinizes all it touches. And this Light is so at home within Jesus’ humanity that the glory can penetrate the humanity as a most perfect instrument for the communication of the divine life, without any harm coming to Christ’s created nature. Here on Tabor we have before us the living and perfect icon of human nature divinized by being taken up into divine life.” Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis:
We receive this Light, this Life in baptism. We were originally created in the image and likeness of God. When our first parents originally sinned we lost the likeness to God in which we had been created. That loss was inherited by all of us. Jesus’ suffering, death and Resurrection restored that likeness. He redeemed us…gave us back our original value. That is what we receive at baptism. We are redeemed. The original likeness to God we were originally created to have is restored. So much so, as has been taught since the beginning of the Church, if a baby died the moment after a he/she was baptised they would go straight to heaven. As the prayer from the funeral Mass stated, fully able to enjoy God’s glory; fully able to see God as He is and where we shall be like him for all the ages. This spiritual reality is so profound that St. Francis of Assisi used to genuflect before newly-baptized babies. He would always genuflect before the glory of God bestowed upon that child in the transfiguration of Baptism.
Imagine! At the moment of our Baptism, our souls are so transfigured that we are fully able to enjoy God’s glory, to see God as He is and be like Him. That is why it is so essential to get a baby baptised as soon after baptism as possible. And the point of all the other Sacraments flow from Baptism. They either strengthen us to live at that level of Baptismal right readiness for heaven or restore that glory when it has been lost due to sin. If we live at the transfigured level of baptism throughout our lives at the moment of death we will go straight to heaven. That is why it is so essential to receive the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession often. For strength and for reconciliation with God.
Finally Christ was transfigured on Mont Tabor because he wanted to strengthen us in our pilgrimage here on earth. Jesus is confirming the faith of this inner nucleus of the Church, represented by Peter, James, and John, against the coming Passion. It is as though he is saying to Peter, James and John. Remember this when things are not so glorious. Remember this when all is darkness. Remember this when I am hanging on the Cross for you. Remember this when you are suffering. Remember the target; glory!
In each of our own lives we all need mountain top experiences to be able to prepare us for the difficult encounters of the scandal of the crosses.
The transfiguration takes place when Jesus and the apostles leave behind the noise, the hustle and bustle, the grinding daily routine, that often absorbs us so much that we are unable to see Christ and experience his love and mercy. We too need to leave behind the noise, the hustle and bustle and the grind of our daily routine and enter, daily, into prayerful communion with our God, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit.
Our instructions in today’s gospel are very simple. “This is my Son; my Chosen. Listen to Him.” If we are going to be able to see Jesus we must listen to Jesus. The normative way we to listen to Jesus is to read the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church he established. Especially in the gospels and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church you will hear his voice and see His glory revealed. In Lent I would encourage you each day to spend 10 minutes of your prayer time with the sacred Scriptures and read a paragraph of the catechism, which can be easily found online if you don’t have your own copy.
Interestingly, both the Hebrew and Greek words in the Scriptures for sin would be literally translated as “missing the mark” “missing the target.” Jesus show’s us the target today! To hit it, we must “Listen to Him.”
Thus the key Lenten questions for reflection this week are: “Am I listening to the teachings of Jesus and His Church?” and secondly and equally importantly: “Am I allowing myself to be transfigured by them?” “Am I becoming more and more Christ-like?”
St. Augustine would say concerning receiving the Eucharist: “Believe what you see, see what you believe and become what you are: the Body of Christ.” When we say “Amen”, we are saying “Yes! I believe this is the Body and Blood of Christ and that I will be the Body of Christ to others.
The event of the Transfiguration is essential for us to understand that life in Christ is about fullness of life now. Christianity is not a religion of the continual postponement of joy and delight. The Transfiguration is the experience of the fullness of divine Presence, divine action, divine communication, and glory now, in our very midst, in this world of passing-ness and disappointment…This is only possible with the Sacraments he has given us if we receive them regularly and worthily and when we “Listen to Him” and choose for our lives to be transfigured by what we have heard.