The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Homily: 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year C

Readings: Gn 15:5-12,17-18; Phil17-4:1; Lk 9:28b-36

I’m sure each of us has witnessed remarkable transformations, in people or places.

Just a few years after the end of World War II, my family spent a year in Germany. It was a remarkable time, for the destruction caused by the war was still very much evident. In some cities, almost everything was destroyed. Homes, apartment houses, shops, small businesses, large factories had been turned into unrecognizable piles of brick and broken concrete.

But thanks to the Marshall Plan and the power of the human spirit, rebuilding had already begun. And by the time I returned ten years later, Western Europe had been completely transformed. It was a remarkable example of the human spirit, in its darkest hour, rising to accomplish wonderful things.

But this resurrection of post-war Europe pales in comparison to the rebuilding God has promised us – the miraculous restoration He will accomplish in our resurrection from the dead. As St. Paul reminds us in the 2nd reading:
 
 "…our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body."
Today's Gospel reading from Luke gives us a glimpse of what Christ's glorified body is like. Before His Resurrection, Jesus' body was just like ours, subject to hunger and thirst, pain and pleasure, weakness and strength. But after the Resurrection, Christ's body was glorified, transfigured by His divine nature. And God will do the same for us.

The eternal life God has promised to those who love Him isn’t merely some sort of spiritual existence. It will include our material bodies, but bodies very different from what we now have. More than that we cannot say. What really matters is how our faith in the resurrection affects what we do in our lives today.

This is why this surprising event that Luke describes, the Transfiguration, took place; for the Transfiguration was both a glimpse into the future that God has planned for us, and a wake-up call for the here and now.

Yes, a wake-up call, for Peter, James and John had been asleep. How did Luke put it? "Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray…" Then, just moments later, Luke tells us that "Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep."

Now, this was nothing new. In fact, the disciples spent a remarkable amount of time asleep, afraid, oblivious, blind, or hidden away.  Jesus often had to wake them up, open their eyes, calm their fears, and bring them out of hiding.

By the time Peter, James and John went up that mountain to pray with Jesus, they had seen Him heal the sick and cast devils into the sea.

They heard unclean spirits shriek and watched while a paralytic simply picked up his pallet and walked away. They had seen him walk on water and change water into wine.

In the past few months, they’d had all their fears challenged; all their sins revealed and forgiven.

They found themselves eating with sinners, laughing with tax collectors, talking to lepers and harlots and thieves.

They had left their comfortable lives, and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. And yet…and yet despite all this -- despite all their waking up and growing up and sitting up in wonder, when they followed Jesus up that mountain, they still fell asleep. Only eight days before the Holy Spirit had moved Peter to declare Jesus to be "the Christ, the Son of the Living God." But when Jesus spoke of His passion and death… well, Peter and the others would have none of it!

Then, on that mountaintop, flanked by Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, Jesus is transfigured before them. As His divinity is revealed, Peter, James and John awaken, and their own transformation begins.

Peter wanted to stay there. He wanted the moment to last forever. Is it any wonder? But God says, No. Not now. You must return to the world. You must do my work. You must take my love and my Word to all. You must do what my beloved Son tells you.

“Listen to him”, the voice of the Father cries. Listen! Do as He has commanded you, and you will share in the glory you see today. Listen…and be transformed.

He has sent me to announce Good News to the poor, to proclaim release for prisoners and give sight to the blind; to let the broken victims go free. Listen…and be transformed.

Do not be afraid. From now on, you will be fishers of men. Make disciples of all nations. And I will be with you even until the end of time. Listen…and be transformed.

I haven’t come to invite the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. Your sins are forgiven you. Go and sin no more. Listen…and be transformed.

Blessed are you who accept your spiritual poverty, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who show mercy, for you shall obtain mercy. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall receive comfort beyond your imagining. Blessed are you who are persecuted because of me, for your reward will be great. Listen…and be transformed.

Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. If you love only those who love you,
what credit is that to you? Listen…and be transformed.

Take and eat. This is my body given up for you. Take and drink. This is my blood, shed for you and for many, so that your sins may be forgiven. The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ nourish us on the way to our destiny. In a few moments, as we process up the aisle to receive Jesus, we symbolize a people on a journey. And our firm "Amen" to the Body of Christ is a sign of our faith in the promise of Jesus: "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have life eternal and I will raise them up on the last day." Listen to the Word of the Lord…and be transformed.

But just like Peter, John and James, we seem to spend a remarkable amount of time asleep. We spend so much of our lives afraid, oblivious, blind, and hidden away – hiding from the God who loves us. This season of Lent, Jesus wants us to awaken and open our eyes. He wants to calm our fears and bring us out of hiding.

How many of us spend Lent fretting about what we’ll give up? Desserts, movies, coffee, a favorite TV show? And on Fridays we trade pepperoni pizza for fish and chips. But today's Gospel reminds us that, above all, Lent is a season of transformation. It’s a time to wake up, to open our eyes so that like the three Apostles, we can see Jesus in his glory. It’s a time to listen, so we can hear His voice calling us to be fully aware and fully alive – to live our faith every moment of our lives.

Lent is a time to take your place beside Abraham, to look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.

Lent is a time to stand beside Moses and tell stories of liberation; for that's what Jesus gave us – freedom – freedom from sin, freedom to do the Father's will. We’ve been brought out of slavery, redeemed at a great price, by the blood of the Father’s only Son.

Lent is a time to come out of hiding and walk with Elijah, to spread the Good News fearlessly to all who will hear.

Lent is a time to listen, to hear the urgency of Christ's message to each one of us – a message of love He never tires of repeating.

Lent is a time for prayer, for it’s in our prayer life that we are most open to the God’s Word.

Yes, brothers and sisters, Lent is a time to listen… a time to be transformed. Don’t let it go to waste.

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