Mar 7, 2008

Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Lent, Year A: Given at Cronulla on 16 February, 2008.

Readings: GEN. 12: 1-4; II TIM 1: 8-10; MT 17: 1-9


The story of the transfiguration of the Lord is one of the great moments of Christ’s life. At Christ’s Baptism in the River Jordon, the Heaven’s were opened and a voice from Heaven said: “This is my beloved Son, my favour rests on him.” Theologians believe that the Baptismal opening of the Heavens occurred to show the Jesus was the Messiah, the chosen one of God – and thus the public ministry of Jesus began.


Today we hear the story of the Transfiguration in the midst of Lent and once again the Heavens are opened and a voice from Heaven says: “This is my beloved son, Listen to him.” Peter, James and John went up the mountain with Jesus and they are told from the Heavens to listen to Jesus.


The apostles were following Jesus, but time and time again they misunderstood what Jesus was telling them. Peter said that he was willing to follow Jesus wherever he went, but when Jesus talked about a brutal death and crucifixion, the apostles would hear nothing of it.


It is thought that the transfiguration occurred not long before the final days of Christ’s life. After coming down from the mountain, Jesus and his disciples headed towards Jerusalem for what would become the passion of Jesus Christ.


The story on the mountain is a great story full of meaning. Jesus becomes as white as light, he begins to glow and shine forth his divinity. And then Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus. Heaven is shining forth on earth.


Peter, James and John see what is occurring and Peter decides to do something. Peter was enjoying this moment so much that he wanted to preserve this moment for all time. Peter wanted Heaven on earth.

What occurs next is very interesting. Matthew tells us that while Peter was still speaking, a cloud covered them with shadow and a voice from Heaven spoke “This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him.”

And as the cloud was lifted, the only thing Peter, James and John could see was Jesus.


My friends, there are times when each of us want to have Heaven on earth. There are times when we might say: I am enjoying this moment so much - I never want it to stop.

But my friends, believing and following the ways of Christ is not only for our personal satisfaction, for our personal spiritual growth.

Following Christ takes us beyond the deep spiritual experiences of Heaven and takes us towards Jerusalem, towards the Cross, and then towards the Resurrection of all the just.


The apostles were following Jesus, but they weren’t listening to him. Time and time again Jesus said that we must take up our cross daily and follow him. Jesus spoke about his imminent death but the apostles would hear nothing of it.


Lent is a time for us to become more like Christ – to allow Christ to change us - to change our person. Because of original sin, each of us is tempted to put ourselves first before anyone else. Christ is showing us through Lent that we need to look beyond ourselves, to look beyond our security and our safety zones.


When we are doing the will of our Heavenly Father, it is not from our personal power or control that we achieve anything, but it is Christ’s power living within us and making us more like God.


In St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, there is a very famous artwork painted by Raphaello called The Transfiguration. Raphael believed that it was his finest artwork, not just artistically, but also theologically. Raphael paints a story about how Jesus is the centre and focus of our lives – Jesus gives us strength.


When Jesus came down from the Mountain after the Transfiguration, he finds the other apostles trying to drive a demon out of young boy. Some of the apostles were trying to do it by quoting passages from the Old Testament. Others are laying hands and others are trying different methods which could be called almost witchcraft. But none of the apostles were able to drive the demon out of the boy.

Then Christ, comes to the boy, lays his hands on the boys head and the demon is driven out. Then the apostles ask why they were unable to drive the demon out. And Jesus famously says: There are some demons that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.

In the next couple of chapters following these events, Jesus reminders the apostles time and time again that they have no power from within themselves. The only power they have is given by God.


This Lent season is a time to reflect on our lives.

As a country we reflected on our life as a nation last Wednesday when we said sorry. What the Prime Minister did reminded me of Pope John Paul II during Lent in the Jubilee Year in 2000. John Paul II apologised and asked for God’s mercy for all the evils done by Christians throughout the history of the Church.


Reconciliation requires each of us to allow someone else to have power of us. In many respects, the Indigenous people of Australia now have power of us. They may request compensation and they may not. Whatever the case, they called to act in a godly-way – they are called to forgive and they are called to have mercy on us.


Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving calls each of us to reflect on who is in control of our lives. Who is important in our life and where do we find power and strength.


My friends, Lent is a time for us to become transfigured with Christ. We need to provide more space for Christ in our life. We need to continue to choose Christ as the source and centre of our lives.


In each Mass our offering of bread and wine becomes transformed into the body and blood of Jesus. At each Mass we pray, we fast for at least an hour and we make an offering to the poor.


Each Mass should be the source of heavenly strength against our own temptations, and a source of renewal of our lives during Lent.  In addition, communion with Jesus should be a source of daily transfiguration of both our minds and hearts. When we receive communion, we do not absorb the food, but Christ absorbs us – we become more like God. We must also be transformed by becoming more humble and selfless, sharing love, compassion and forgiveness with others.


Do you want a good idea for Lent? Maybe choosing to come to an additional Mass during the week could be your Lenten observance and preparation for Easter.

The Mass is the great act of penance: the great act of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Mass is the great encounter and experience of Jesus which calls us beyond the transfiguration, which calls us towards Calvary and from Calvary towards Heavenly glory.


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