Sunday, March 16, 2014

Second Sunday of Lent "A"

Today, the Second Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of the Transfiguration. John Paul II chose this story as his fourth Luminous Mystery, introduced in his October 2002 Apostolic Letter “On the Most Holy Rosary”.  The Holy Father said that the Transfiguration is the “mystery par excellence” the encounter between history, which is built every day – and the blessed inheritance that awaits us in Heaven”, where we will be in full union with Christ. It is a story of Hope in the midst of despair, light in the midst of darkness. 

There was a woman whose name was Susan who would frequent the soup kitchen in Newark – for food, for warmth – for friendliness. Susan had long black hair, maybe it was a wig –it was unkempt.  Her face was masked in mascara and lipstick – her clothes were tattered – and she wore slippers in the summer and the winter. She approached me often to have some conversation, but honestly I could not understand a word she said – her speech was babble. Susan lived on the streets as so many others do.  A few weeks ago, during a “polar vortex”, a chilling night, Susan sought comfort on a mound of snow not far from St. Augustine Church, where I serve when time allows.  This mound of snow in Newark was her mound of Calvary. On this mound - she was found in the morning, lying there, frozen. Her suffering on the street was over. It is a tragedy – where was that “light”, that hope in Susan’s life.

Our story begins with Jesus bringing his most trusted friends, Peter, James and John, to the top of a mountain. Why to a mountain? Mountains have always been considered “Holy places.” In Greek Mythology Mt. Olympus was the home of 12 gods, beginning with Zeus. Many Old Testament stories we are familiar with take place on mountains – where Moses received his vocation, where the ark rested after the flood. It is a place close to heaven. Mountains are quiet places - where the wind is the only voice heard – where we go for retreat, to seek a clear vision. I remember my first trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado – at 12,000 feet. The sky was steel blue, you could see for a hundred miles – and at night the stars covered the sky, tightly woven as a blanket. You never forget that experience of peace.

When Jesus and his disciples reached the top of the mountain, something mysterious happened. Jesus was transformed, transfigured, and changed. His face was like the sun, his clothes white as light. Let’s reflect on this aspect of the story a bit. JESUS shown like the sun, He is the “Light” of the world. Now, if we are made in God’s image – if we are to be “like” God, we too must be that “Beacon of Light” that shone on the mountain. We are reminded of this at the Easter Vigil Mass. The Church is dark – as our world is today. The altar servers distribute the lit candles - then we turn - with our candle, light our neighbor’s candle -  a sign that we, the mystical Body of Christ,  is called to be Jesus’ light in the world, the very face of Christ.

 Now Jesus, in His mercy, allowed the disciples to see “in Him”, the form of future glory, at the Resurrection. This was a preparation; not only for the cross that Jesus would bear, but for the cross his disciples – and the many crosses you and I will bear.

 The Transfiguration is a sign of Christian Hope – as Pope Benedict XVI said in his Encyclical “Saved by Hope“, even if life is arduous, it can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal.” This goal is Eternal Life. Through the testimony of the disciples – Jesus revealed to us what WE will become when we leave this earthly life. In the words of the Beloved Disciple John “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only” (John 1:14).

Then the disciples see Moses and Elijah. Moses, represents the law, Elijah, represents the prophets. The law AND the prophets point to Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. The disciples hear the voice of the Father “Listen to Him.” They are frightened.  The disciples do not immediately understand the meaning of all that is taking place – “Remember, at the crucifixion, John will be the only apostle at the foot of the cross – all the others will be hiding in the hills. It will all become clear after the resurrection – when Jesus appears to them in His Glorified Body. 

In this Second Sunday of Lent, let us ask Jesus to lead you and me to a transfiguration moment, a moment where we can see clearly, as if on top of a mountain – from that height we will see the incomprehensible injustices and sufferings in our world. From that height we will come to understand OUR role in inserting God’s love, his “light” in these dark places – not only the places where the children of God, such as Susan, roam the streets - but also in the dark places of troubles families, of addicted individuals – of the lost and lonely.  Let us share the good news with our brothers and sisters by acts of love and kindness, being the face of Christ in our world – sharing our Christian Hope.
God our Father, you have saved us and called us to a holy life.  In the transfigured glory of Christ your Son - strengthen our faith by confirming the witness of your prophets and by showing to us the splendor of your beloved Son. Help us to become heirs to eternal life with Him. Amen.

Deacon Brian J. Murphy

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