Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A 2014
Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year A 2013-14
Today’s Gospel – the Transfiguration – is presented to us a number of times over the three year cycle of readings, and its importance is such that it appears in all the Gospels. But I would like to come at it in a slightly different way this time around. Last week we saw that Jesus, in his humanity, had to pull away from the distracting elements of human life in order to better communicate with the Father and be in touch with his Godhead. Jesus does this many times, usually before important things happen – before he chooses apostles, before his passion, before his public service begins. The same is the case today, although he brings three of the disciples along with him.
The context of today’s reading is also important. Jesus goes up to the mountain, not to be transfigured, but to pray. As a human Jesus experiences all the emotions that we do, and at this time of his life I would imagine that he would be a bit depressed, discouraged and frustrated. He has been going around preaching the Good News that the kingdom of heaven has arrived He has been healing the sick, performing miracles, telling them he is the one they have been waiting for, but he has not been accepted by his own people. Oh yes, they come to him to be cured or to have a miracle happen, but they haven’t accepted him for who he really is. He knows that the great work is yet to come – he has predicted his own death to the apostles – and he must feel it is about to happen. He is weary and maybe even more than a little frightened. So he does what he always does when he needs to commune with God, to refresh himself, to get strength to continue his work – he goes to nature to pray, this time to the mountains.
As he has done so many times before, he probably goes off a little way by himself, leaving the three apostles – Peter, James and John – while he pulls away from human things to talk with the Father in prayer. And while he was praying, the Apostles see a transformation take place – Jesus began to shine, and his clothes turned to a dazzling white. The Apostles began to physically see what they had known all along, that Christ was the Son of God, that he was special, that he was Messiah. The transfigured man they saw before him became a spirit-like being, and not only that they could see that he was in the center talking with two other spirit-like men that they identified as Moses and Elijah.
It was not long ago that Jesus had told the Apostles that he had come to fulfill the Law (the Teachings) and the Prophets. Moses represented the teachings of God, what we call the Law, and Elijah represented the prophets. And here was Jesus, in the center, about to complete what he said he was completing.
Oh, that we could hear the words that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus. They were not recorded or perhaps even heard by the Apostles, but I would imagine that they were words of encouragement to Jesus, words that could help Jesus through the Passion and death that was to follow.
Peter wants to build three shrines to commemorate the event, and Matthew makes no comment on this unlike other evangelists who do. Then the voice of God makes clear the meaning of the event and the pleasure God has in the obedience of his Son – “This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
Even if no one else had been listening to Jesus and accepting him as the one who had been foretold – the Messiah, the Apostles got it directly from God, and how could they not believe it? The voice frightened them to death, and they fell to the ground in awe.
But the time Jesus had spent in prayer did exactly what it had been planned to do – it took away Jesus’ own fear, and gave him the courage to face his own death, now knowing that the Son of Man would be “raised from the dead”.
All of this was necessary according to St. Paul today so that death could be abolished by our Savior Christ Jesus who brought “life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” And Paul says we didn’t have anything to do with it – it was “a total gift from God according to his own purpose and grace”. And all of this was necessary, too, because of a promise that God made to Abram in the beginnings of Hebrew history – “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise to Abram.
As I tried to make clear last week, Jesus was God, but he was also a man with all the emotions and limitations, though without the sin. None of us could be perfect as God is perfect, so none of us could redeem the world. But Jesus could be perfect, and in the death of that perfect man, the Lamb who died for our sins, our sins are forgiven us and heaven opened to us.
What did Jesus feel like when he came down from that mountain? What human emotions must he have felt as he asked the apostles not to talk about it? Certainly, there was a new resolve, a new strength, perhaps a complete human understanding of what he must go through and why.
What can we learn from this event, and how can it impact our lives? We are as human as Jesus and we too become frightened, discouraged, frustrated, caught up in a vortex of worldly troubles that drag us along. Do we go up to our mountains and pray? Do we take the time to get in touch with nature and let God talk to us? We, too, are God’s beloved sons and daughters. Do you think that God will ever treat us any differently than Jesus? God will be there to comfort us. We may still have to go through passions, sickness, fears, and horrors as Jesus did, but God will find a way to help us understand and get through these times. Talk to God. Give your emotions to God. Give yourself to God. As our psalm says today: “Let your love be upon us O Lord, as we place our trust in you. “Truly the eye of the Lord” watches over us and we have only to find a way to get a dial tone to heaven.
This is Good News and the kind of good news we need to hear when problems of life surround us. In this Lenten voyage, let’s find some time to let God comfort us. And this is the Good News i want to leave you with today!
Bishop Ron Stephens
Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese
Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA