HOMILY – 2nd Sunday of Lent
Saint Leo’s Parish, Ashley
February 28, 2021
For all of the very sensational imagery of today’s gospel passage, the story of Jesus’ transfiguration is recounted almost identically in three of the four gospels – Mark, Matthew and Luke – and in the second letter of Saint Peter. Something significant happened on that mountain top that the writers of the sacred scriptures wanted us to know. Let’s talk about the Transfiguration for a moment.
In today’s gospel, Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus, at his invitation, to a mountaintop, where Jesus was transfigured – where he appeared in glory flanked by the two great figures from the Old Testament – Moses, the lawgiver – and Elijah, the prophet.
In that mountaintop experience, Peter, James and John were given a foreshadowing – a foretaste – of the glory that would be given to Jesus, following his resurrection. This foreshadowing of Jesus’ glory was important for his disciples as they tried to come to terms with Jesus’ consistent teaching that as Messiah, he would embrace a cross, suffer and die in order to fulfill his father’s plan and bring life and salvation to God’s people.
But why is this “foretaste” or “foreshadowing” of Jesus glorification and resurrection so important?
Simply put, this moment, for Peter, James and John was vital in order for them not to lose hope – something that we all need and understand in these challenging days, don’t we? We can endure a lot – a lot of sickness, suffering and disappointment – and all of the struggles that we have been facing during the last year in which our world has been enveloped by the coronavirus pandemic – as long as we have something to give us hope.
For the disciples, then, Jesus’ transfiguration was a hopeful sign that he would indeed rise. But his resurrection would come at a price – the cost of his life, given on the cross in loving service for the sake of the people his Father had entrusted to his care – you and me!. … And for his disciples, they slowly begin to see that their peace and consolation as followers of Jesus would also come at a price – the cost of discipleship.
After Jesus was transfigured and we see a glimpse of the glory that would be his following his passion, he comes down from the mountaintop and is immediately confronted with the reality of a suffering, broken world. People bring a possessed young boy to Jesus and, consistent with his entire life and ministry, he serves the people entrusted to his care and cures the young boy.
The glory that Jesus won and promises to his followers – you and me – is linked to his willingness to immerse himself in our suffering world. That’s the message of today’s gospel for all of us.
Therein, brothers and sisters, we begin to see the cost of discipleship. For those of us who seek the peace that comes from our faith in Jesus, love and service of our neighbor MUST be the mark of our lives also. It’s not enough for us to simply say that we have faith and to meticulously embrace rituals and recite prayers. We have to give our faith a life – we have to practice what we preach – we have to be the voice, the heart, and the hands of Jesus in our world today.
Thank God that so many have come to understand this reality and what it means to be an authentic Christian and disciple of Jesus.
Remember the words of the prophet Jonah proclaimed every year as the first scripture reading on Ash Wednesday. “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord your God.” … May the rending of our hearts and the service of our lives bring us closer to the Lord through the love and care that we offer to his children – our brothers and sisters who come to us in need.