Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent - 2019
Dearly Beloved, on the first Sunday of Lent, our Gospel always tells the story of Jesus' temptation in the desert. How many of your temptations were you victorious in? How many temptations did you fall for? On the second Sunday, we always hear the story of Jesus' Transfiguration. A vision of heaven and a voice that affirms that Jesus is the Son so we should listen to him. This vision should be motivating enough for us not to give up in living for God amidst all the challenges we face each day as Christians.
The Transfiguration occurs after Peter's confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus' prediction about his Passion. After the prediction there is a discussion of the cost of discipleship. The placement of the Transfiguration story close to Peter's confession and Jesus' prediction encourages us to examine the Transfiguration in the larger context of the Paschal Mystery.
Dearly Beloved, It took the apostles a long time to get to know Jesus, and the longer they were with Jesus, the better they got to know him. They got to know him better when he was transfigured on the mountain and they saw his divinity revealed. They would get to know him better again after Jesus revealed that he would suffer and die in Jerusalem even though they would not understand until later. They would get to know Jesus better again during the Last Supper, his agony in Gethsemane, his Passion, death and resurrection. The entire time the apostles were with Jesus, they were getting to know him better and what following him as his apostles meant. It is the same for us. We also gradually grow in our love for and knowledge of Jesus and we also grow in understanding what Jesus is asking of us.
As Peter, James and John saw Jesus’ divinity revealed, their attitudes towards Jesus must have been transformed just as they saw Jesus was transformed. We could say, that is what Lent is all about; allowing God to transform our lives and our attitudes so that we can see Jesus more clearly. During this season of Lent we examine our lives to see where we stand before God and each other.
Friends, I believe we can see this call to transformation also in the Scripture readings we heard proclaimed today. In the first reading Abram is promised the land by God (Gen 15:18). But when we move to the New Covenant, we see that there is no emphasis at all on land. There is a new vision with the arrival of Jesus and all previous values have to be re-evaluated. Many times in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” (Matt 5) Instead of inheriting land in the New Testament, the emphasis is on the kingdom of God. In the New Covenant, the land to be inherited is heaven (Heb 11:16). Just as the Hebrew’s were enslaved in Egypt and crossed the sea during the exodus to freedom, we were in sin and crossed the sea when we were baptized. The Hebrews wandered for forty years in the desert and then entered the Promised Land; we live here and then look forward to meeting God. So much of what happened in the Old Covenant is now seen as a sign or symbol to teach us about the spiritual life and our journey to God (see 1 Cor 10:6). Fighting for the land of Israel is something we see in the Old Testament. We have moved on now from thinking about a geographical territory and in the New Covenant the land to be concerned about is inheriting heaven (Heb 11:16). Lent is a time to see with new eyes.
In the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul makes this idea of our inheritance in the new covenant very clear when he wrote.
“But 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 by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Phil 3:20-21)
This transformation began when we were baptized. It will come to its fullest completion at our death. To sustain this transformation which has already begun, pay attention to the words to the voice from the cloud. “This is my chosen son, listen to him.” I invite you to listen to Jesus in this period of Lent in these three ways;
1. In the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Approach the Eucharistic celebration with more enthusiasm and focus.
2. In your personal prayer and moments of meditation during the course of the week. Please, do not give up spending quality time in prayer and meditating upon the mysteries.
3. Spend time reading the gospels and allow God to speak directly to your heart.
eloved, this vision of heaven is to encourage us, above all, not to give up in our struggle against all manner of sin and temptations. God is with us. We are in the process of being transformed, being made ready for our home with Him in heaven.