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2nd Sunday of Lent - March 17, 2019


Homilia en Español

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By Deacon Jim Hinnerschitz

       Today we hear about the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain with three of his apostles present.  Some definitions of transfiguration are:

  • a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state
  • an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change
  • an event in Jesus' life in which his appearance was radiantly transformed. 

 

The same three apostles who were on the mountain with Jesus were present in the Garden of Gethsemane.  These three apostles were caught sleeping during both of these important events in Jesus’ life.  The transfiguration was a foreshadowing of events to come in Jesus’s life and the garden scene takes place the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested.  On the mountain the apostles see Jesus radiant and resplendent like they have never seen him before.  This revelation of his glory on the mountain is meant to strengthen their faith and prepare them for the terrible passions that Jesus would have to undergo during his arrest, trial and crucifixion.
All three readings today urge us to do one thing: fix our eyes on heaven.  In the first reading, God told Abraham to look at the night sky.  “Count the stars, if you can.  Just so…shall your descendants be.”  In the second reading, St Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven” and not in this world. 


And in the Gospel, Jesus gives Peter, John and James a vision of his heavenly glory.  Jesus knew he was headed for the cross and that his death would shake them to the core.  So, Jesus gave them this vision to strengthen their faith and encourage them, even as they saw him arrested, tortured and killed.


Jesus wants us to fix our eyes on heaven as well.  He wants us to focus on his glory and his promises as we pray each day.  He knows that if we do, we’ll give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to write these promises on our hearts.  We’ll let the Spirit show us Jesus’ love and mercy so that we can stay close to him during the day.


Here are some key promises we can fix our eyes on.  First, God promises to keep his covenant with us, just as he kept his covenant with Abraham.  Second, Jesus promises that our citizenship is in heaven.  And third, the Holy Spirit promises that if we fix our eyes on Jesus in prayer every day, we’ll begin to see him more clearly, just as the apostles caught a glimpse of him at his transfiguration.


 Looking a little closer at today’s Gospel, Moses represents the law that God gave to the people and Elijah represents the prophets. 


The law was given to God’s people, the Israelites, so they would become a priestly people, a holy nation, a people set apart, in the hopes that they would then function as a sort of magnet to the rest of the world.  But as we know the Israelites turned away from the law and became a sinful people.


The prophets continually called the Israelites to be faithful to the law and to follow the ways of the Lord.  The prophets spoke to Israel repeatedly, reminding her of her sinfulness.
And then came Jesus, God and man.  Jesus did what no hero of Judaism had ever done: fulfilled the law, remained utterly obedient to the demands of the Father, even to the point of laying down his life.  Jesus brought the law and the prophets thereby to fulfillment.


The transfiguration, in and of itself, was a momentous event.  Especially for these three Jewish apostles (Peter, John and James), the appearance of their great deliverer Moses and their fiery prophet Elijah was unbelievably significant.  Moses and Elijah encapsulate the history of Israel, spanning the time of both the law and the prophets.  Yet this momentous occasion pales in significance to the occasion that brought them all together; to speak of Jesus’ coming departure from this world.  During lent we are reliving this impending event, along with the dark days that lead up to Jesus’ crucifixion.  Hopefully, unlike Peter, John and James, we will not simply be dazzled by the glory of the transfiguration, but will discover the true meaning of the message delivered by it.


What do you imagine Moses and Elijah were thinking and experiencing?  Here standing before them was the man, Son of God and Son of Man, who would make possible the genuine deliverance of Israel, the mission upon which Moses staked his life, and the fulfillment of Elijah’s prophesy regarding the holiness of God.  We can wonder if they were recalling God’s words, “I have observed the misery of my people…I have heard their cry… I know their sufferings, and I have come to deliver them.”  At long last Israel would be set free, free from enslavement to sin, and along with Israel all mankind too would have the opportunity to be saved.  This inclusion of the Gentiles in salvation was always God’s plan; that through Israel all nations of the earth should be blessed.  How they must have glowed with joy of knowing that now the promise was coming to completion, now it was about to be fulfilled.


Sometimes we smugly laugh at Peter’s feeble attempt to process all that he saw.  Prior to the cross, he did not comprehend all that was taking place, but he did recognize that it was a holy occasion.  Do we, looking back with all of the wisdom of hindsight, also recognize and appropriately respond to this holy event and the occasion it foresaw?  Probably not.  Yet we can take courage that even in the midst of their ignorance the cloud of God’s presence engulfed Peter, John and James and spoke to them, so he might also overshadow us.  We should not expect to be thrilled and excited by some “new” message, but simply expect to evermore hear the father say, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him”.  And so we should, especially during Lent.


Peter desired to make three booths, or tents, for Moses, Elijah and Jesus.  Perhaps the “booth” we should build in honor of this redemptive departure of Jesus should not be a booth of tents but a spiritual space in our head and heart wherein we strain to grasp his every word.
As we enter the second week of Lent how will we create this space of receptivity in our life, a place to contemplate him and listen to his voice.  Wouldn’t it have been a tragedy if Jesus had invited a fourth person to accompany him to the mountain experience and that person had been too busy to join him?  Similarly, wouldn’t it be tragic if Jesus is inviting us to join in a transformational experience and we are too busy?


We are twelve days into the Lenten season.  We still have twenty-eight days left to transform our lives and unburden ourselves of the many vices and worries that hold us back from our relationship with God.  Let’s not miss this opportunity to pray more, to spend some quiet time with Jesus in adoration and to share our time, talents and treasures with others.  Let’s unclutter our lives of things that do not help build the kingdom of God and instead be more like Jesus and transform our lives and the lives of those around us, to the wonderful things that God has instore for each of us.


Let us stay awake, open our heart, look up to heaven and listen to God’s chosen Son.

 

 

By Deacon Tim Papa

One of the things that we were taught in our diaconate classes concerning scripture was a process that goes by the academic term “exegesis.” The term is complex, but the idea is simple: it is the study of a scriptural passage in order to determine its meaning. Scholars will apply all manner of tools to the process: parsing the words used in the original Greek or Hebrew language, drawing on an understanding of the historical events of the period, and that sort of thing. All of us, even though untrained in these methods, should read scriptures daily, as Father Oscar remarked last week, and spend time working out for ourselves what passages mean based on our life experiences and religious education.


So here we are, the second Sunday of Lent, the weekend each year where the Gospel is about the transfiguration. What meaning does this passage from Luke have? We have both Moses, the giver of the law of the Hebrew covenant, and Elijah, one of the most significant prophets, meeting with Jesus. It is fairly easy for us, today, to see that the history of Israel, represented by Moses and Elijah, has come down to this moment with Jesus the messiah. The arrangers of today's readings spell it out clearly for us to follow. The first reading is the promise to Abraham to reward him and his descendants for their faithfulness. In the Gospel we have Peter, John, and James witnessing three of the most important of Abraham’s descendants being transfigured into glorified bodies. Finally, the second reading has Paul describing the “glorified body” that our “lowly body” will become when Christ calls all things to himself, meaning that this manifestation of the promise of the resurrection of Jesus is also a promise made to us, if we only obey the Father's instruction to “listen to Him.”


We today see this clearly, knowing the events that will take place at Easter. However, in the Gospel we have the man that will become our first pope, who was chosen to lead the Church and will be one of our most prominent saints. How does Peter react to these events which foreshadow God’s promise of salvation? He wants to build tents. I don't know about you, but this reaction always struck me as strange; I picture our Lord looking at Peter with an inquisitive stare which asked, “Really? You want to build tents?”


Now some scholars, applying their exegetical techniques, have tried to explain this in various ways, such as suggesting a reference to a Jewish feast of Sukkoth, which is the Hebrew word for tent. But my non-scholarly exegesis comes up with a different answer to which we can all relate: Peter and the others didn't know what to do. They had just observed something profound and joyous, and they had an incredible desire to participate, serve the Lord and be a part of Christ's saving work, but they didn't know how to do it. They wanted to do something, almost anything, so Peter came up with what was probably first came to mind at the time, that is, taking care of the physical needs of the Lord and those with Him.


Have you been there, in a new situation that caught you off guard, and you find yourself afterward asking yourself why you did something or didn't do something else? I know I have. English has an expression which captures this: 20/20 hindsight. And in just a few more weeks on Palm Sunday we will hear poor Peter do it again, denying three times that he knows Jesus, which he rues bitterly immediately afterward. This is our Saint Peter. This is our Pope Peter. This is Cephas, the rock of the Church, the Prince of the Apostles. He is all of that, and most importantly, he is human.
We should all learn from the lives of the saints. They provide examples and inspiration to us to lead the lives that God wants us to live. Unfortunately most of the short biographies of the saints are highlight reels of their lives which can strip them of their humanity. Did they struggle with doing the right thing? Did they sin? Did they make poor decisions which they later regretted? Absolutely – they all did. And we can thank the Gospel writers, because they left those struggles in there for us to understand in the lives of the apostles. I can relate to Peter – I too can be a knucklehead who does and says things that I would like to take back. I too take too long to come to the realization of what I must do to lead a truly Christian life. But I take enormous comfort that I too can strive to live up to the Gospel.


Today is Saint Patrick’s Day. This venerated saint, even though born into a Christian family, did not himself become a Christian until he was a young man and had undergone captivity and slavery. Here God needed to keep calling him and wait for the answer that, in hindsight, should have been made earlier in Patrick's life. But this took time.


We can all share the promise to Abraham and be a part of the covenant which finds its completion in Jesus, if we only “listen to Him.” Try, and keep on trying. When we fail, admit that we failed, ask for forgiveness, and try again.


A good opportunity to do this is by giving an hour a week to the Lord in adoration. As you sit in the chapel looking upon the Blessed Sacrament, you can spend the time to do your own scripture study, knowing that God is there with you to help in your exegesis. You can read about the saints, such as Saint Teresa of Calcutta who struggled for years with a longing for God which she was unable to see through a darkness which she could not comprehend. You can share your failures, and ask for help in doing a better job of the Father’s mandate to “listen to Him.”


We all are the descendants of Abraham, so we are part of God's promise in the first reading. Our part in this covenant is to try to be faithful and learn from our mistakes. Saint Peter got it right in the end, although it was not always clear to him and he made mistakes along the way. The same is true of Saint Patrick. Ask God for help, and He will be there for us as well.


By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

The meaning of the Transfiguration must be understood in the context of the passion prediction of Christ.  Jesus reveals to his disciples that he must suffer at the hands of unbelievers, be put to death, and rise from the dead.  Then when Jesus is transfigured, he reveals that his suffering, death, and resurrection are one mystery, the Paschal Mystery.

 

The word, “paschal,” comes from the Hebrew, “pesach,” meaning pass over.”  Remember that when God liberated the Israelites from Egypt, he instructed them to slaughter an unblemished lamb and mark their doors with the blood.  The the angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites and they were saved by the blood of the lamb.  Thus, when Moses and Elijah are speaking with Jesus about his death in Jerusalem they are discussing how once again the people will be saved by the blood of the lamb.  Thank God we have the Season of Lent in which we are invited to follow Jesus through suffering and death to new life.

 

During the Transfiguration, the voice of God says, “This is my Son, listen to him.”  The same voice says to us, “Come to adoration and listen to my Son.”  Peter James and John were called up the mountain to behold the glory of the Lord.  So we are called from our busy lives, our worries, and our burdens to behold the glory of the Lord with eyes of faith.  We come into the presence of the Lord to say, “I believe, I adore, I love, I trust.”  Jesus called Peter, James, and John – the inner circle of the disciples – to reveal his Glory.  Listen to the Lord – is Jesus calling you to be in his inner circle in adoration?

 

God also calls Jesus his chosen one.  This is why we call Jesus “Christ,” the anointed one, because he was chosen and anointed by God to be priest, prophet, and king.  Jesus was a priest when he offered himself on the cross as the perfect sacrifice.  When we are anointed at confirmation, we, too, are chosen to be priests to offer ourselves to God.  We offer our joys, our sorrows, our abilities, our mind, our will – our entire self – especially during the Mass when we unite ourselves to Jesus for a perfect offering to the Father.

 

Jesus was anointed and chosen to be a prophet.  The Letter to the Hebrews says that in times past God spoke in varied and fragmentary ways through his prophets.  In the fullness of time, God speaks through his son whose Word is expressed in the Gospel.  This is why we revere the book of the Gospels because it is by the Word of Christ that we are healed, transformed, given life, and saved.

 

Jesus was anointed to be king.  In his passion, Jesus was mocked by the soldiers because Jesus had no palace, or throne, or army.  They did not know that Jesus rules his kingdom from the cross and that his weapon is love.  In imitation of Jesus we make love the most powerful force in our life.

Today is the feast of St. Patrick.  Patrick was of Roman heritage and lived in Britain in the 5th Century.  He was captured by pirates and taken to Ireland and was enslaved as a shepherd.  Patrick escaped but years later returned to Ireland to evangelize the pagan people there.  Excuse me, but if I escaped from slavery, I would not return to my place of bondage.  Patrick understood, however the power of the Gospel to heal, to transform, to give life, and to save.  Patrick transformed Ireland into an island of faith by his evangelization.  My dear brothers and sisters,  we too can transform the world if are transfigured and become witnesses for the Lord.