Monday, July 31, 2006

Homily on the Transfiguration

August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. When Jesus led Peter, James and John to the top of Mount Tabor. He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white and he appeared with Moses and Elijah. The Father's voice was heard "This is my beloved Son, Listen to him."

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see. Without a living faith which is expressed in works of charity we can’t hope to please God. Because faith is a conviction about things that haven’t been realized yet, a conviction about things we hope for and are yet to be, it is a hard road. God does not spell everything out for us. He wants us to trust him.

Abraham who is our father in faith was called from among his people in Haram and called to make a long journey to an unknown land. It would be decades before the promise of the Lord would be fulfilled and he was granted a son, Isaac. He was an old man and his wife Sarah was thought to be barren. Abraham must have been tempted to lose faith in God’s promise to make of him a great nation. And this was the reason that with his wife’s permission, but against the law of God, he conceived a child, Ishmael, through Sarah’s slave girl, Hagar.

And when God finally did fulfill his promise to grant Abraham a legitimate son Isaac through Sarah, God asked him to prepare him for sacrifice. And Abraham who reasoned that God could raise Isaac from the dead followed God’s command. And God sent his angel to hold back his hand once he saw that Abraham was willing to make this sacrifice. Isaac had a son Jacob (Israel). Jacob had twelve sons who were the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. So our Lord eventually fulfilled his promise and made of Abraham a great nation.

But we can see it was no easy road. Even though God had spoken directly to Abraham in a way that he hasn’t spoken to you or me. For Mary too, the road was a hard one. It is true she was visited by an angel and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit who came in a cloud as God did at Mt. Tabor. But she had to undergo hardships and uncertainty. Suspicion that she had broken the law and engaged in premarital sex with another man while she was engaged, was punishable by death. Later on, a flight into Egypt, knowing Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Living the life of an ordinary woman of her time certainly was not an easy one. And finally watching, as her only begotten Son who the angel said would inherit the throne of his father David, dies on the cross.

When Jesus revealed the fact that he must die to Peter and the other apostles six days before the Transfiguration the apostles were extremely sad even though Jesus also revealed that He would rise again. This part didn’t sink in with them. Jesus realized what they were going through and so out of his compassion he gives his closest companions the gift of the Transfiguration. And so Jesus showed them himself in all his glory as he stands before God the Father in eternity. He also shows them God’s faithful servants who have gone before them and now share in the glory of God.

Each of us has had experiences in our lives that for us can be like the Transfiguration was for the apostles. An experience when we feel especially close to God. In my own life as a priest, there have been times when I’ve found out that something I did or something I said really made an impact on someone’s life.
These times compensate for the times when nothing seems to be going right, when people seem unresponsive and life seems wearisome.

Each of us should look back on our lives and try to recognize those times in our lives when we have felt especially close to God. Times perhaps that God didn’t intervene in a miraculous way, but nevertheless we felt his presence. We know he was there with either sharing our joy or our sorrow. We should think about these things when times get tough as they inevitably will for all of us. He doesn't promise us happiness in this life, but only in the next. This is true especially for those who are serious about living a Christian life. We should remember not only the ways that God has acted in the past, but have confident assurance that he will be faithful to his promises in the future. We can be confident that God will be faithful to his promises and that having taken us this far , he will never leave us. Our taskis to remain faithful to Him and follow the path he has marked out for us with courage and strength. Hard times maybe ahead but God will be right by our side as he was before.