Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Homily for The Second Sunday of Lent on the Transfiguration

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 for Abraham, even Though God spoke to Abraham, in a way he didn’t speak 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, a visit I made, 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, but especially those who are serious about living a Christian life. We remember not only the ways that God has acted in the past but we have confident assurance that he will be faithful to his promises. He will be faithful to his promises and that having taken us this far , he will never leave us, if only we remain faithful to Him and 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.

While we look forward to heaven, we must still be strive to create a more just and peaceful world. In their Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities the American bishops wrote "We are not a sect fleeing the world, but a community of faith called to renew the earth."

The Constitution on the Church in the Modern World reminds us that though we have our eyes set on heaven, it doesn’t make us less concerned with the things of this world but more. We are called by God to order the things of this world according to His plan. The document teaches us “we will find the fruits of our efforts on behalf of human dignity and brotherly communion again in the Kingdom of heaven, cleansed of sin and transfigured when Christ presents to His Father an eternal and universal Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace. "

The Transfiguration reminds us of the destiny God wishes for every human being - that they share everlasting life with him in heaven. Human life is sacred because we come from God and we are directed to God as our final end. No one has a right to take the life of an innocent human being. Only he is the Master of human life. Only God's ccan choose to take a life to himself. We must not dare to take a human life that God has created in his image and likeness, a person he commands us to love and one destined for eternal life.

Everyone has a role to play in overcoming the culture of death. God often uses a few to evangelize the many and the weak to shame the strong.

Cardinal John Henry Newman once said:

God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work
to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission; I never may
know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in a
great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He
has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall
be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not
intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

And as we pray God will draw us into the struggle to create a culture of life. We will use whatever talents, abilities and strengths we have to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Not that God needs us, we need to serve God. It is a privilege God grants us out of love to help us to be more like him. In this way he makes us worthy to share everlasting life with him and all the angels and saints.