Lent II [A] Sunday (March 8) 1-page summary of an 8- minute homily
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is metamorphosis or transformation. The readings invite us to work with the assistance of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives by renewing them during Lent, and to radiate the glory and grace of the transfigured Lord which we have received to all around us by our Spirit-filled lives.
Scripture lessons: The first reading describes the transformation of a pagan patriarch into a believer in the one God. His name will be transformed from Abram to Abraham and his small family into a great nation. All Abram has to do is to obey the Lord God’s command, and he does so. The second reading, taken from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy, explains the type of Lenten transformation expected of us. We are transformed when we recognize the hand of a loving, providing and disciplining God behind all our hardships, pain and suffering and try our best to grow in holiness by cooperating with the grace of God given to us through Jesus and his Gospel. In the Transfiguration story in today’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed as a glorious figure, superior to Moses and Elijah. The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to allow Jesus to consult his Heavenly Father in order to ascertain His plan for His Son’s suffering, death and Resurrection. The secondary aim was to make his chosen disciples aware of Jesus’ Divine glory, so that they might discard their worldly ambitions and dreams of a conquering political Messiah and might be strengthened in their time of trial. On the mountain, Jesus is identified by the Heavenly Voice as the Son of God. Thus, the transfiguration narrative is a Christophany, that is, a manifestation or revelation of who Jesus really is. Describing Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Gospel gives us a glimpse of the Heavenly glory awaiting those who do God’s will by putting their trusting Faith in Him.
Life messages: (1) The Transubstantiation in the Holy Mass is the source of our strength. In each Holy Mass our offering of bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine. Hence, just as the Transfiguration of Jesus strengthened the Apostles in their time of trial, each Holy Mass should be our source of Heavenly strength against our own temptations and a source of grace for the renewal of our lives during Lent. In addition, communion with Jesus in prayer and especially in the Eucharist should be a source of daily transformation of both our minds and hearts, enabling us to see Jesus in every one of our brothers and sisters with whom we come in contact each day. (2) Each Sacrament that we receive transforms us. Baptism, for example, transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. By receiving in Faith, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are spiritually, and sometimes physically, healed, and our sins are forgiven.
(3) A message of hope and encouragement. In moments of doubt, pain and suffering, disappointment and despair, we need mountain-top experiences to reach out to God and listen to His consoling words: “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.” Our ‘Lenten penance’ will lead us to the ‘Easter joy.’
LENT II [A] Sunday (March 8): Gen 12:1-4a; II Tim 1:8b-10; Mt 17:1-9
Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” There is a mysterious story in 2 Kings that can help us understand what is happening in the Transfiguration. Israel is at war with Aram, and Elisha, the man of God, is using his prophetic powers to reveal the strategic plans of the Aramean army to the Israelites. At first the King of Aram thinks that one of his officers is playing the spy, but when he learns the truth, he dispatches troops to go and capture Elisha who is residing in Dothan. The Aramean troops move in under cover of darkness and surround the city. In the morning Elisha’s servant is the first to discover that they are surrounded and fears for his master’s safety. He runs to Elisha and says, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The prophet answers “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” But who would believe that, when the surrounding mountainside is covered with advancing enemy troops? So, Elisha prays, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opens the servant’s eyes, and he looks and sees the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-23). This vision was all that Elisha’s disciple needed to reassure him. At the end of the story, not only was the prophet of God safe, but the invading army was totally humiliated. (Fr. Munacci) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
# 2: “Lord, give me the grace for transformation.” The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance. Biologists call it metamorphosis (derived from the Greek word metamorphoomai used in Matthew’s Gospel), to describe the change that occurs when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. (Holo-metabolism, also called complete metamorphism, is a form of insect development which includes four life stages – as an embryo or egg, a larva, a pupa and an imago or adult). As children, we might have curiously watched the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly. Fr. Anthony De Mello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man. “I was a revolutionary when I was young, and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ’Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
# 3: Metamorphosis of a Grub into a Dragonfly: You will recall from 7th-grade science class that metamorphosis is the process by which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly and a tadpole becomes a frog. It’s a gradual change on the inside that produces a total transformation on the outside. Holo-metabolism, also called complete metamorphism, is a form of insect development which includes four life stages – as an embryo or egg, a larva, a pupa and an imago or adult. At the bottom of a pond some little grub worms or nymphs (larvae of dragonflies) are crawling around in the mud. They wonder what happens to their members who climb up the stem of the water lily and never come back. They agree among themselves that the next one who is called to the surface will come back and tell them what happened. The next grub worm (nymph) that finds itself drawn to the surface by nature, crawls out on a lily leaf and emerges from its last molting skin as a beautiful adult dragonfly. It has been dark and murky down below, but the dragonfly sees that everything is bright and sunny in the upper world. Suddenly something begins to happen. The transformed grub spreads out two huge, beautiful, colored wings and flies back and forth across the pond to convey the glad tiding of its transfiguration to its friends. It can see the other grubs in the pond below, but they can’t see him. He also realizes that he cannot dive into the pond to convey the glad tidings of his great transformation. This metamorphosis is nothing in comparison to the glorious transformation awaiting us after our death. 1) https://youtu.be/-Hc5BYGQrP8 b 2) https://youtu.be/0C21zranBUw
Metamorphosis of ant-lion to fly 4) Holo-metabolism of Butterflies
Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is metamorphosis or transformation. The readings invite us to work with the Holy Spirit to transform our lives by renewing them during Lent, and to radiate the grace of the transfigured Lord around us by our Spirit-filled lives. The Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain reminds us that the way of the cross leads to Resurrection and eternal life and that the purpose of Lent is to help us better to enter into those mysteries.
Scripture readings summarized: Both the first and second readings present salvation history as a response to God’s call, a call going out to a series of key persons beginning with Abraham and culminating with Jesus Christ and His Apostles. Faith is presented here as the obedient response to the call of God which opens up channels for the redemptive action of God in history, thus transforming the world. In answering this call, both Abram and Saul broke with the experiences of their past lives and moved into an unmapped future to become new “people of the Promise,” for a new life. The first reading presents the change or transformation of the patriarch Abram from a childless pagan tribesman into a man of Faith in the One God. This, years later, leads to God’s transforming his name from Abram to Abraham, and making him, as promised, the father of God’s chosen people, Israel. The second reading, taken from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy, explains the type of Lenten life-transformation expected of us. Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ Transfiguration during prayer on a mountain.
First reading: Genesis 12:1-4 explained: The reading from Genesis explains how blind obedience to God transforms the childless and pagan Abram into a believer in the one true God, and, later in his story, from Abram into the Abraham who became the prototype of trusting Faith and the father of God’s Chosen People. Blind obedience to God at His command transformed childless Abram into the Patriarch Abraham, a believer in the one God. Today’s passage is really the first encounter between Abram and God. Abram, a pagan, was prosperous in land and livestock, but he had no children, and that, to people of his time, was the most serious of all possible deprivations. So God challenged him with an offer: “I will make of you a great nation.” But God’s requirements were absolute: “Go forth from the land of your kin.” The requirements were to become even more absolute when, after Abraham finally had a son, God asked him to sacrifice that same son (Genesis 22:1-18). God asks us, too, to leave our old life of sin behind, to go forth with Him into a period of repentance, renewal of life and transformation, and to give Him the whole of our being in loving surrender forever.
The second reading: II Timothy 1:8-10 explained: St. Paul’s letter to Timothy explains the type of Lenten life-transformation expected of us. We should be ready to bear hardship for the Gospel’s sake, and to be thankful to God for our call to holiness, not trusting in our own merits but in grace. “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.” This passage has the following Lenten themes: a) bearing hardship for the sake of the Gospel; b) understanding that we are called not because of our own good works, but by undeserved grace; c) allowing God to make our belief, that we were drawn into Jesus from before time began, the central reality in our daily living; and d) facing death while hoping for immortality, a share in the Resurrection. The phrase “manifest through the appearance of our Savior,” meaning after Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, may also be a reference to today’s Gospel story of Jesus’ Transfiguration, traditionally read on the second Sunday of Lent.
Gospel exegesis: The objectives and the time of the Transfiguration: The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to consult his Heavenly Father in order to ascertain His plan for Our Lord’s suffering, death and Resurrection. The secondary aim was to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of His Divine glory, so that they might discard their worldly ambitions about a conquering political Messiah. A third purpose was to strengthen their Faith and Hope and to encourage them to persevere through the future ordeal (CCC #568). The Transfiguration took place in late summer, probably in AD 29, just prior to the Feast of Tabernacles. Hence, the Orthodox tradition celebrates the Transfiguration at about the time of the year when it actually occurred in order to connect it with the Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles. Western tradition celebrates the Transfiguration twice, first at the beginning of Lent with the Gospel account and second on August 6 with a full Feast Day liturgy.
The location of the Transfiguration was probably Mount Hermon in North Galilee, near Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus had camped for a week before the Transfiguration. The 9200-foot mountain was desolate. The traditional oriental belief that the transfiguration took place on Mount Tabor is based on Psalm 89:12. Mount Tabor, on the other hand, is a hill in the south of Galilee, less than 1000 feet high with a Roman fort on top of it, an unlikely place for solitude and prayer. But, says modern Bible scholar John McKenzie “It is far more probable that this mountain, like the mountain of the Sermon (Mt 5:11) has no geographical location. It is the symbolic mountain on which the events of Sinai are re-enacted in the life of the new Moses.”
The scene of Heavenly glory: The disciples received a preview of the glorious figure Jesus would become at Easter and beyond. While praying, Jesus was transfigured into a shining figure, full of Heavenly glory. This reminds us of Moses and Elijah who also experienced the Lord in all His glory. Moses had met the Lord in the burning bush at Mount Horeb (Ex 3:1-4). After his later encounter with God, Moses’ face shone so brightly that it frightened the people, and Moses had to wear a veil over his face (Ex 34:29-35). The luminosity of the face of Moses is also meant to signal the loving, welcomed invasion of God. Into his soul. The Jews believed that Moses was taken up in a cloud at end of his earthly life (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4. 326). Elijah had traveled for forty days to Mt. Horeb on the strength of the food brought by an angel (1 Kgs 19:8). At Mt. Horeb, Elijah sought refuge in a cave as the glory of the Lord passed over him (1 Kgs 19:9-18). Finally, Elijah, was taken directly to Heaven in a chariot of fire without experiencing death (2 Kgs 2:11-15). In addition, “Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt, received the Torah on Mount Sinai and brought God’s people to the edge of the Promised Land. Elijah, the great prophet in northern Israel during the ninth century B.C., performed healings and other miracles and stood up to Israel’s external enemies and the wicked within Israel. Their presence in Matthew’s Transfiguration account emphasizes Jesus’ continuity with the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) in salvation history.” (Fr. Harrington S. J.)
These representatives of the Law and the Prophets, foreshadowed Jesus who is the culmination of the Law and the Prophets. Both prophets were initially rejected by the people but were vindicated by God. The Jews believed that these men did not die, because God Himself took Moses (Dt 34:5-6), and Elijah was carried to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kgs 2:11). So, the implication is that although God spared Moses and Elijah the normal process of death, He did not spare His Son. Peter’s offer to pitch three tents (vs. 4) is an allusion to the feast of Sukkoth (Tabernacles, Tents, Booths) which commemorated the wilderness period when the Israelites lived in tents (Dt 16:13-15).
God the Father’s Voice from the Cloud: The book of Exodus describes how God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai from the Cloud. God often made appearances in a cloud (Ex 24:15-17; 13:21-22; 34:5; 40:34; 1 Kgs 8:10-11). I Kgs 8:10 tells us how, by the cover of a cloud, God revealed His presence over the Ark of the Covenant and in the Temple of Jerusalem on the day of its dedication. The Jews generally believed that the phenomenon of the Cloud would be repeated when the Messiah arrived. God the Father, Moses and Elijah approved the plan regarding Jesus’ suffering, death and Resurrection. God’s words from the Cloud: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him,” are the same words used by God at Jesus’ baptism (3:17). They summarize the meaning of the Transfiguration: on this mountain, God reveals Jesus as His Son — His beloved — the One in Whom He is well pleased and to Whom we must listen. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #556, underlines the implication of the Lord’s baptism and his Transfiguration for our life: “On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus’ baptism proclaimed the mystery of the first regeneration, namely, our Baptism. The Transfiguration is the sacrament of the second regeneration: our own Resurrection.”
(1) The Transubstantiation in the Holy Mass is the source of our strength. At the shortage of wine during the wedding of Cana, Jesus changed water into wine: one substance became another substance. In each Holy Mass our offering of bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine. Hence, just as Jesus’ Transfiguration strengthened the Apostles in their time of trial, each Holy Mass should be our source of Heavenly strength against our own temptations and our source for the renewal of our lives during Lent. In addition, communion with Jesus in prayer and in the Eucharist, should be a source of daily transformation for both our minds and hearts. We must also be transformed by becoming humbler and more selfless, sharing love, compassion and forgiveness with others. But in our everyday lives, we often fail to recognize Jesus when he appears to us “transfigured,” hidden in someone who is in some kind of need. Jesus will be happy when we attend to the needs of that person. With the eyes of Faith, we must see Jesus in every one of our brothers and sisters, the children of God we come across each day and, by His grace, respond to Him with love and service.
(2) Each Sacrament that we receive transforms us. Baptism, for example, transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. By receiving in Faith, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are spiritually, and, if God wills, physically, healed and our sins are forgiven (CCC #568).
(3) A message of hope and encouragement. In moments of doubt and during feelings of despair, the expectation of our transformation in Heaven helps us to reach out to God and listen to His consoling words: “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.”
(4) We need these ‘mountain-top’ experiences in our own lives. We can share experiences like those of Peter, James and John when we spend some extra time in prayer during Lent. Perhaps we may want to fast for one day, taking only water, thus releasing spiritual energy, which in turn, can lift our thoughts to a higher plane. Such a fast may also help us to remember the starving millions in the world and make us more willing to help them.
JOKE OF THE WEEK: 1) Lenten penance: There is a story of a father trying to explain Lent to his ten-year-old son. At one point, the father said, “You ought to give up something for Lent, something you will really miss, like candy.” The boy thought for a moment, then asked, “What are you giving up, Father?” “I’m giving up liquor,” the father replied. “But before dinner you were drinking something,” the boy protested. “Yes, but that was only sherry,” said the father. “I gave up hard liquor.” To which the boy replied, “Well then, I think I’ll give up hard candy.”
2) “I have decided to give up drinking for Lent:” An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone and orders three more. As this continued every day the bartender asked him politely, “The folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?” “It’s odd, isn’t it?” the man replies, “You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank.” Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. As this continued for several days, the bartender approached him with tears in his eyes and said, “Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all…” The man ponders this for a moment and then replies with a broad smile, “You’ll be happy to know that my two brothers are alive and well. It’s just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent.”
3) “Don’t worry about me, Lord.” A certain missionary on a study trip to the Holy Land was visiting Jaffa (Joppa) where Peter was residing when he baptized Cornelius (Acts 10). The breath-taking beauty of this small seaside town was such that it inspired the missionary to come up with this joke: At the Transfiguration Peter offered to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Jesus said, “And what about you, Peter?” And Peter replies, “Don’t worry about me Lord, I got a better place in Jaffa.”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
5) Put Catholic Bible at your fingertips (on your Desktop) chapters & verses: Procedure: USCCB Catholic Bible on the desktop. 1) Open the website http://www.usccb.org/bible/books-of-the-bible/index.cfm
1) Click File 2) Save as 3) Desktop
6) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066
21- Additional anecdotes
1) “You don’t really know how it works, do you, Mom?” A little boy asked his mother, “Marriage makes you have babies, doesn’t it, Mom?” The mother reluctantly answered her son, “Well, not exactly. Just because you are married does not mean that you have a baby.” The boy continued his inquiry: “Then how do you have babies?” His mother, not very enthusiastic about continuing, answered, “It’s kind of hard to explain.” The boy paused and thought for a moment. He then moved closer to Mom, looked her right in eye, and carefully said, “You don’t really know how it works, do you, Mom?” Believe it or not, today’s Gospel passage on theophany on a mountain is one of those “What does that mean, and how am I supposed to explain that?” sort of passages. It’s difficult because, as the little boy told his mother, we “don’t really know how it works.” And when you don’t know how something works, it’s hard to explain. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) Baby powder and Christian transformation: You might remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff. When he first came to the United States from Russia, he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk; you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice; you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, ‘What a country!’” Smirnoff was joking, but we make these assumptions about Christian Transformation—that people change instantly from sinners to saints. Catholics call it transformation through repentance and renewal of life, deriving strength through the word of God and the Sacraments to cooperate with God’s grace for doing acts of charity. Some other Christian denominations call it Sanctification of the believer. Whatever you call it, most denominations expect some quick fix for sin. According to this belief, when someone gives his or her life to Christ, accepting Him as Lord and personal Savior, and confesses his or her sins to Him, there an immediate, substantive, in-depth, miraculous change in habits, attitudes, and character. Can we go to Church as if we are going to the grocery store to get Powdered Christian? The truth is that Disciples of Christ are not born by adding water to Christian powder. There is no such powder, and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations and by their active cooperation with the grace of God, expressed through works of charity. (Adapted from James Emery White, Rethinking the Church, by Baker). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) Edmund Hillary’s mountain-top experience on Mount Everest. The seniors among us certainly recall that amazing story 67 years ago, May 29, 1953. A New Zealand beekeeper named Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, were the first ever to reach Everest’s summit. Here was a mountain – unreachable, tantalizing, fearsome, deadly – that had defeated 15 previous expeditions. Some of the planet’s strongest climbers had perished on its slopes. For many, Everest represented the last of the earth’s great challenges. The North Pole had been reached in 1909; the South Pole in 1911. But Everest, often called the Third Pole, had defied all human efforts – reaching its summit seemed beyond mere mortals. Now success! And heightening the impact even further was the delicious coincidence of their arrival just before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the dramatic announcement of their triumph on the morning of the coronation. It was literally a “mountaintop experience.” The mountaintop experience of which we read in today’s Gospel a moment ago has Jesus and His three closest Apostles – Peter, James, and John – going up on a high mountain where they experience the miraculous Transfiguration undergone by Jesus, making His Heavenly glory visible to His disciples. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) “I just want you to know that I love you.” Did you hear the story about an inattentive, workaholic husband who suddenly decided to surprise his wife with a night to remember? He went down to the department store and bought her the expensive dress she had been admiring. He bought her a large bottle of perfume to go with it. He ordered tickets to the Broadway play she had been wanting to see and made reservations at their favorite restaurant. On his way home he stopped by the florist and bought two dozen red roses which he carried home under his arm. Upon arriving home, he exploded through the door, hugged his wife affectionately and told her what he had done. “I just want you to know that I love you; I appreciate you; I adore you.” Instead of melting in the man’s arms his wife started screaming at the top of her voice. “This has been the worst day of my life,” she said. “It was awful at the office. We lost our biggest account; co-workers were obnoxious; clients were unreasonable. I came home to find the kids had broken my favorite lamp; the babysitter is quitting; and the water heater is out; and now surprise of surprises, my normally sober husband comes home drunk!” When today’s Gospel starts talking about a Transfiguration with radiant faces and glowing garments and visitors from the dead, we become more than a little suspicious. What is going on here? All along the question remains: Are we willing to let ourselves be engulfed in mystery, inspired by glory, transformed by encounters of a Divine kind? That’s what the Transfiguration of Jesus is all about. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) The new Prioress is turning monastic life into “one big party.” A most unusual protest took place in a convent in New Jersey. Four nuns locked themselves in a tiny second floor infirmary and took a vow of “near silence.” They were protesting new rules established by their new prioress, Mother Theresa Hewitt. It seems that Mother Theresa had introduced television, secular videos, recorded music, bright lights, and (horror of horrors) daily “sweets” into the convent. The sweets consisted of a tin of candy which was passed around each day and each nun was supposed to indulge. In the words of one of the protesting nuns (who were among the younger nuns in the order, by the way) the new prioress was turning monastic life into “one big party.” In order to express their revulsion at these ungodly changes, the four sisters locked themselves away. We can sympathize. There is much in our brave new world from which I would like to withdraw. I can sympathize with Simon Peter who wanted to build three booths and stay on the mountaintop of the Transfiguration in the presence of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Unfortunately, he was not given that option, and neither are we. We must live in this world of strident, discordant noise. There is no retreat. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) Movie preview: You go into the movie theatre, find a seat that’s suitable. You find a place for your coat, sit down, and get ready to watch the movie. The house lights dim; the speakers crackle as the dust and scratches on the soundtrack are translated into static, and an image appears on the screen. It is not the film you came to see. It is the preview of coming attractions, a brief glimpse of the highlights of a film opening soon. The moviemakers and theater owners hope the preview will pique your interest enough to make you want to come back and see the whole film. On the Mount of the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John, the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, were given a preview of coming attractions. Today’s Gospel gives us a splendid preview of Jesus radiant in Divine glory, his mortal nature brilliantly, though not permanently, transfigured; a dazzling preview of His Divinity, unalloyed and perfectly pure, shining in glory like the very sun. This was a “sneak preview, “ in other words, of Easter and of His final coming in Glory to take us Home, the triumphant climax of the epic love story between God and humanity. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) “I had an hour of glory on a windswept hill.” Dr. William Stidger once told of a lovely little 90-year-old lady named Mrs. Sampson. Mrs. Sampson was frail, feeble, even sickly. But Dr. Stidger said that when he was discouraged, he always went to visit Mrs. Sampson. She had a radiant spirit that was contagious. One day he asked this 90-year-young woman, “What is the secret of your power? What keeps you happy, contented and cheerful through your sickness?” She answered with a line from a poem, “I had an hour of glory on a windswept hill.” Bill Stidger said, recounting this experience, “I knew she had been in touch with God and that was the whole reason for her cheerfulness.” Listen again to her words: “an hour of glory on a windswept hill.” It sounds very much like the experience Peter, James and John had on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) “What did you do with the ship?” A brilliant magician was performing on an ocean liner. But every time he did a trick, the Captain’s parrot would yell, “It’s a trick. He’s a phony. That’s not magic.” Then one evening during a storm, the ship sank while the magician was performing. The parrot and the magician ended up in the same lifeboat. For several days they just glared at each other, neither saying a word to the other. Finally, the parrot said, “OK, I give up. What did you do with the ship?” The parrot couldn’t explain that last trick! It was too much to comprehend, even for a smart parrot. Peter was like that parrot after witnessing the Transfiguration scene. He said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three tents-one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) The Mountain Top. John A. Redhead, Jr. tells of a father and son who have a really good relationship. Among their many good times together, one stood out above all the rest: It was a hike up a particular mountain where they seemed to reach the height of a beautiful friendship. After they returned home, there came a day when things did not seem to run as smoothly. The father rebuked the son, and the son spoke sharply in return. An hour later, the air had cleared. “Dad,” said the son, “whenever it starts to get like that again, let’s one of us say ‘The Mountain Top.’” So, it was agreed. In a few weeks another misunderstanding occurred. The boy was sent to his room in tears. After a while, the father decided to go up and see the boy. He was still angry until he saw a piece of paper pinned to the door. The boy had penciled three words in large letters: “The Mountain Top.” That symbol was powerful enough to restore the relationship of father and son. (Harry Emerson Fosdick, Riverside Sermons (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1958).) Come with me to the mountain. It is there that relationships can be made right. Come with me to the mountain. See who Jesus is. See what, by his grace, you and I can yet become.
10) The Church of Transfiguration: The traditional site for the Transfiguration is Mount Tabor, a high mountain in the north country of Israel. Over the years, the Church has gone where Peter could not go, and we have built what he could not build. Helena, mother of Constantine, built a sanctuary on the top of Mount Tabor in 326 A.D. By the end of the sixth century, three churches stood on the mountaintop, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. More shrines were built there over the next 400 years, and Saladin destroyed them all in 1187. A fortress built in 1212 was destroyed by the end of the thirteenth century. The summit was abandoned for another six hundred years, until a Greek Orthodox community built a monastery there. Sometime later, the Franciscans built a Latin basilica on the highest point of the summit, where they now maintain worship services and a website. The site can be reached at http://www.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/san/tab00mn/html) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) “Then you can imagine how humble and awkward I feel in yours.” Winston Churchill knew the difference between celebrities and heroes. In the summer of 1941, Sergeant James Allen Ward was awarded the Victoria Cross for climbing out onto the wing of his Wellington bomber at 13,000 feet above ground to extinguish a fire in the starboard engine. Secured only by a rope around his waist, he managed to smother the fire and return along the wing to the aircraft’s cabin. Churchill, an admirer as well as a performer of swashbuckling exploits, summoned the shy New Zealander to 10 Downing Street. Ward, struck dumb with awe in Churchill’s presence, was unable to answer the Prime Minister’s questions. Churchill surveyed the unhappy hero with some compassion. “You must feel very humble and awkward in my presence,” he said, “Yes, Sir,” managed Ward. “Then you can imagine how humble and awkward I feel in yours,” returned Churchill. [Max Anders, Jesus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), p. 24.] Churchill knew he was in the presence of a real hero. So did the disciples. In fact, they knew they were in the presence of Someone whose significance went beyond celebrity, even beyond heroic. He was their Lord, their Master, their King. If we are wise, Jesus will be our Lord, our Master, our King. If we are wise, Christ will be our Hero, too. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
12) “Let me build three booths here” Do you remember how President Reagan insisted he had done the right thing after he visited the cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany, despite the fact that it contained the bodies of at least twenty-nine Nazi SS soldiers, and later, as if to offset the visit to Bitburg, made a pilgrimage to one of the concentration camps? His argument, supporting his contention that he had done a good deed, was based on what he learned about the manner in which the German people actually make pilgrimages to some of the death camps to keep alive the terrible memory in adults and make children realize how awful those camps were. Graphic and gruesome photographs and news stories of the atrocities, uncovered after the Allies liberated them, are posted in prominent places so no one will ever forget. “Let me build three booths here” was Peter’s way of marking the spot of Jesus’ Transfiguration so no one would ever forget. v
13) The shepherd’s pipe once played by Moses: John Killinger tells the legend about “the simple shepherd’s pipe once played by Moses when he kept his father-in-law’s flocks. When the pipe was discovered, many years after Moses’ death, it was decided that it should be put on display for the benefit of his admirers. But it looked far too common for such an important purpose, so someone suggested that it be embellished by an artist. A few centuries later, when the pipe was given a new home in an upscale museum, a committee said it needed improving yet again. So, another artist was employed to overlay it in fine gold and silver filigree. The result, in the end, was a breathtaking piece of art, a marvelous sight indeed. It was so beautiful, in fact, that no one ever noticed that it was no longer capable of the clear, seductive notes once played upon it by Moses.” [God, the Devil, and Harry Potter (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2002), 162-3]. How do we tell what voices to listen to, whose advice to take, what directives are important, and what we should just let fall on deaf ears? In today’s Gospel text, the Divine Voice from the enshrouding Cloud offered Peter, James, and John simple, straightforward words: “This is my Beloved Son, listen to him.” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) Into Thin Air: A few years ago, a book was published that described a different kind of mountaintop experience. It was Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air. It was his description of a disastrous expedition in which he took part – a climb up Mount Everest. Mount Everest is the highest point on earth, rising 29,029 feet above sea level. Hundreds of people have died trying to scale its slopes. On May 10, 1996, climbers from three different expeditions attempting to reach the summit of Everest found themselves in a traffic jam as they approached the final ascent. An unexpected storm suddenly came up, claiming the lives of eight of the climbers. Jon Krakauer was in one of those three groups. The title of his book, Into Thin Air, comes partially from an experience he had on top of the mountain. As he was beginning his slow descent back down the mountain, Krakauer became concerned about his oxygen supply. He was going to stop and rest for a few moments while he waited on others who were still making it to the top. So he asked Andy Harris, a guide with another team with whom he had become close friends, to turn down his oxygen supply, so as to conserve it for the trip back. Harris turned the knob on the back of his pack, and Krakauer sat, to wait for the rest of his team. There atop Everest, Krakauer says he had this moment of absolute clarity as he gazed out over the craggy peaks of the Himalayan Mountains. After a difficult journey up, he felt in control for the first time on the trip. And then . . . his oxygen ran out. You see, his friend Andy Harris had turned the knob in the wrong direction: he hadn’t turned it down, he’d turned it up. The moment of absolute clarity that Krakauer experienced was the result of an oversupply of oxygen‑rich air. His feeling of control was an illusion. [Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air (Villard Books, 1997)]. That moment of terror for Jon Krakauer is comparable to what Peter, James and John felt as the mountain on which they stood suddenly became enveloped by a Cloud, and they heard a Voice from that Cloud. They were terrified. Jesus said to them, as he often had to say to them, “Don’t be afraid.” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) “I just want to hold on to the ball as long as I can.” Some of you who are baseball fans, remember former major league catcher and TV personality Joe Garagiola. Garagiola is a great storyteller. He tells a story about baseball legend Stan Musial. Musial came to the plate in a critical game. The opposing pitcher in the game was young and nervous. Garagiola was catching, and he called for a fastball to be pitched to Musial. The pitcher shook his head. He didn’t want to throw that pitch. Joe signaled for a curve, and again the pitcher shook him off. Then he signaled for a change-up. Still the pitcher hesitated. Garagiola went out to the mound to talk to his young pitcher. He said, “I’ve called for every pitch in the book; what do you want to throw?” “Nothing,” was the pitcher’s reply. “I just want to hold on to the ball as long as I can.” Well, who can blame him? Musial was a legendary hitter. And that’s the way many of us are living — holding on as long as we can to our grudges, holding onto our resentments, holding onto our fears. Why? Because we’re afraid to let go. Listen, friend. Jesus is here today, and he is saying to you, “Don’t be afraid.” Don’t be afraid. Listen to his voice. This day can mean the beginning of a new you. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) Missing the point: Once upon a time, a man took his new hunting dog on a trial hunt. After a while, he managed to shoot a duck and it fell into the lake. The dog walked on the water, picked up the duck and brought it to his master. The man was stunned. He didn’t know what to think. He shot another duck and again it fell into the lake and, again, the dog walked on the water and brought it back to him. What a fantastic dog – he can walk on water and get nothing but his paws wet. The next day he asked his neighbor to go hunting with him so that he could show off his hunting dog, but he didn’t tell his neighbor anything about the dog’s ability to walk on water. As on the previous day, he shot a duck and it fell into the lake. The dog walked on the water and got it. His neighbor didn’t say a word. Several more ducks were shot that day and each time the dog walked over the water to retrieve them and each time the neighbor said nothing and neither did the owner of the dog. Finally, unable to contain himself any longer, the owner asked his neighbor, “Have you noticed anything strange, anything different about my dog?” “Yes,” replied the neighbor, “Your dog doesn’t know how to swim.” The neighbor missed the point completely. He couldn’t see the wonder of a dog that could walk on water; he could only see that the dog didn’t do what other hunting dogs had to do to retrieve ducks – that is to swim. The disciple, Peter, was good at missing the point at the theophany of Transfiguration as is clear from his declaration: “I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) The Transfiguration: Rabbi Abraham Twersky tells a story about his great-grandfather who was sitting with other rabbinical scholars studying the Talmud when it was decided to take a break for refreshments. One of the groups offered to pay for the refreshments, but there was no one who volunteered to go for them. According to Twersky, in his book Generation to Generation, his great-grandfather said, “Just hand me the money, I have a young boy who will be glad to go.” After a rather extended period, he finally returned with the refreshments, and it became obvious to all that the rabbi himself had gone and performed the errand. Noticing their discomfort, the rabbi explained: “I didn’t mislead you at all. You see, many people outgrow their youth and become old men. I have never let the spirit of my youth depart. And as I grew older, I always took along with me that young boy I had been. It was that young boy in me that did the errand. “ (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) Film: Phenomenon –Transforming Light: In the film, George Malley is a simple, pleasant, and popular man who lives in a small town where he fixes cars and experiments in growing vegetables in his garden. He turns 37 and after his birthday celebration, he is knocked unconscious by a bright light in the sky that falls towards him and explodes. When he comes to, he has been transformed. His I.Q has soared, and he develops telekinetic powers. He begins to speed-read and is able to translate for the local doctor when he is treating a non-English speaking patient. The townspeople are puzzled because George has always been so ordinary. A scientist interviews and tests him. George is apprehended by the FBI who are suspicious about his amazing knowledge and contacts. Meanwhile, his friends support him; so does Lace, a furniture maker with two small children whom George begins to court. Eventually his physical condition deteriorates, and the FBI keeps him in custody in a hospital. He escapes and returns to Lace, and we discover the reasons for his extraordinary intelligence before he dies. Lace mourns for George. A year later the whole town and his friends gather to celebrate his birthday as his memory and spirit live on. (Peter Malone in ‘Lights, Camera… Faith!’) As we journey in life, may we be transformed by touches of His presence! (Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) Finding God on the mountain? The 17th century English poet, John Donne, tells of a man searching for God. He is convinced that God lives on the top of a mountain at the end of the earth. After a journey of many days, the man arrives at the foot of the mountain and begins to climb it. At the same time God says to the angels: “What can I do to show My people how much I love them?” He decides to descend the mountain and live among the people as one of them. As the man is going up one side of the mountain, God is descending the other side. They don’t see each other because they are on opposite sides of the mountain. On reaching the summit, the man discovers an empty mountaintop. Heartbroken, the man concludes that God does not exist. Despite speculation to the contrary, God does not live exclusively on mountaintops, in deserts, or at the end of the earth, or even in some Heaven, – God dwells among and within human beings and in the Person of Jesus. – Staying on in the safety of the mountain is what Peter would prefer. During the Transfiguration, Peter and his companions get a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ Resurrection. They want nothing more. However, after they come down the mountain, they are told by Jesus that the glory they witnessed would be real only after he had gone through suffering and death. We too will share in his glory, only by sharing in his suffering and death. (Simon K. in The Sunday Liturgy; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) IT’S BETTER HIGHER UP!” There is a story told of a certain woman who was always bright, cheerful and optimistic, even though she was confined to her room because of illness. She lived in an attic apartment on the fifth floor of an old, rundown building. A friend visiting her one day brought along another woman – a person of great wealth. Since there was no elevator, the two ladies began the long climb upward. When they reached the second floor, the well-to-do woman commented, “What a dark and filthy place!” Her friend replied, “It’s better higher up.” When they reached the third landing, the remark was made, “Things look even worse here.” Again, the reply, “It’s better higher up.” The two women finally reached the attic level, where they found the bedridden saint of God. A smile on her face radiated the joy that filled her heart. Although the room was clean and flowers were set on the windowsill, the wealthy visitor could not get over the stark surroundings in which this woman lived. She blurted out, “It must be very difficult for you to be here like this!” Without a moment’s hesitation the shut-in, pointing towards heaven, responded, “IT’S BETTER HIGHER UP.” (Fr. Lakra). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) v
21) Transfiguration of a dreamer: Elizabeth Sherill, a veteran writer who suffers from an arthritic neck, writes about an eventful meeting that she and her husband, John, had with Berendina Maazel, an 81-year old widow who needs a motorized wheelchair to move more than few steps (cf. “Berendina’s Dream” in Guideposts magazine, February 2005, p.10-12). At the age of 17, during the German occupation of Holland where she was born, Berendina became ill with a strange malady that left her in complete agony. Totally paralyzed for six months, she almost died in a looted ward where her father, a doctor, worked. Later diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, her vicious illness would never allow her to have a single hour free of pain, for all her life. A gifted artist, Berendina is a tiny, bone-thin woman with a ravaged face, a crooked spine and terribly twisted hands. But there is a beauty about her, some quality that Elizabeth couldn’t define. When she asked Berendina, “How did you ever keep going?” The latter answered, “By hanging onto my dreams!” Her father told her that when God plants a dream, he also provides the strength to reach for it. Indeed, Berendina did not allow her malady to stifle her dreams. She did fulfill her dreams to go to art school, to work in her chosen field of stage design, to travel, and to get married. While recuperating at Los Angeles Orthopedic Surgery from yet another surgery, Berendina requested an aide to wheel her to meet the other patients. When she was brought to the children’s wing and saw the youngsters in wheelchairs, God gave her the biggest dream of all. The dream: to help provide the resources for handicapped children that had not been available for her. She fulfills this dream by painting and 100 % of the proceeds from her paintings benefit the work with children. Elizabeth’s final narrative seems to be a modern day Transfiguration account. “Berendina’s studio is at the rear of the house, about as far as she can walk. Night had fallen while we talked, but when we entered the studio it was like stepping into the sunlight. Radiant landscapes, vibrant flowers, soaring birds! What was the special feeling in that room? Joy, certainly. Beauty. Wellness – not a hint that the painter of these canvases had ever suffered a moment’s ill health. Yes, the room was alive! Alive like the woman who for 64 years has looked through pain to her dreams.” The Transfiguration account (Mt 17:1-9) proclaimed in the liturgical assembly on the Second Sunday of Lent is meant to illumine the Lenten spiritual journey of the Church toward the Easter glory. (Lectio Divina) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 21) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony for my website version. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604