Second Sunday of Lent February 21, 2016
Reading 1 Gn 15:5-12, 17-18
Responsorial Psalm Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14
- (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation. Reading 2 Phil 3:17—4:1
Verse Before the Gospel cf. Mt 17:5
Gospel Lk 9:28b-36
Homily— February 20 & 21, 2016
I find mountains intriguing having lived most of my life in Iowa. When I lived in Cochabamba, Bolivia I was living at about 7,000 feet elevation. At least three times I drove to 14,000 feet and hiked to 17,500 feet. I did not stay there very long as it was hard to breathe and I would have a head ache from the lack of oxygen.
In the Bible we often see the mountain top as a place to encounter God. The Book of Exodus, chapters 24 & 34 reminds us of “The glory of the Lord” that settled on Mount Sinai and how Moses went up the mountain where he stayed for forty days and forty nights. When Moses came down with the commandments the people saw that “the skin of his face had become radiant.”
In today’s second reading Paul reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven. . .(Jesus Christ) will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body”.
In the gospel Jesus took Peter, John, and James up the mountain to pray. The face of Jesus changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white while he was praying. It looks like Peter and the other disciples fell asleep as Jesus was praying but they woke up to see the glory of Jesus and Moses and Elijah!! When the cloud came over them they were afraid and then they heard the voice saying “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Having seen this encounter they must have struggled to make sense of it. I am sure this experience helped then later on when they saw Jesus carrying the cross and looking defeated on the cross for they knew his power and his glory.
I do ‘wonder what Peter, James and John thought when Jesus led them up the mountain. Were they just going along for the hike or did they anticipate something special? Whatever they thought, the experience surely surpassed their expectations. For a brief moment, they beheld the truth about Jesus. They perceived his place within their faith tradition, including the mystery of his suffering.
What happened on that mountain was, as they say, the mother of all peak experiences. It went beyond their capacity to comprehend. Their mountaintop encounter was like a spiritual walk on water. . . How to explain it? Was it more real than unreal.
After the vision vanished, they had to rely on the faith that says, “I know, though I know not how.” They faced a basic challenge of faith: to believe in what was beyond them or cling to their concrete experience. Could they let God be God?’
What signs of transfiguration have you seen in your life? I am thinking of all of those who went to the March for Life in Washington D.C. and got caught in the blizzard in Pennsylvania on their way home. Somebody had the wisdom to build a snow altar where they were able to celebrate an unforgettable Mass for those who were there. That was surely a transfiguration moment for them.
I think of the powerful experiences that people have when they go on a Christian Experience Weekend, and Emmaus Weekend, a Teen’s Encounter Christ weekend, or a retreat. People often have an experience of God’s love that they have great difficulty putting into words.
When people are approaching death there is often a time when they seem to have a burst of energy and they can communicate and enjoy the presence of others before they seem to be ready to pass from this life to the next. Sometimes they even look beyond us and through us to someone or something in another world.
Take time in your life to go to the mountaintop wherever that may be and spend time talking to the Lord. Allow your face to become radiant as the Holy Spirit fills you with peace and the assurance of God’s love.
Do take the time to remember the big and the little signs of the transfiguration that God has already shared with you. If you do not see any then open yourself to the one God wants to share with you in the future.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.