This is my homily for 28 February 2010, second Sunday of Lent. Feel free to respond with comments. To view the readings, go to http://www.usccb.org/nab and click “February 28” in the calendar.
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18 | Psalm 27 | Philippians 3:17-4:1 | Luke 9:28b-36
[__01.] Just as big stars, athletes, and entertainers will be found on expensive furniture or in limousines so also will they be found surrounded by their entourages, their inner circles.
Such stars tend not to go out in public alone.
And, while the stars might prefer to keep the attention focused on themselves, sometimes, the lords of the manor must spend some time cleaning up after the servants.
This Gospel is one such example. Jesus is the Lord; and Peter, James and John are his servants, his entourage.
[__02.] The inner circle leans something that others will not know about for some some time until after the Good News is proclaimed.
However, the inner circle fails to recognize what’s really happening.
Before we dismiss Peter, James, and John, for their errors, however, let’s give them their place in the opening and closing credits:
• Peter, James and John climb the mountain;
• Peter, James, and John enter into prayer with our Lord.
• Peter, James and John put their friendship with Christ first … this is why they’re in the inner circle.
[__03.] But, on this particular day, the climb is about all they can handle. They must have be exhausted. A little while later, they are asleep. They have dozed off and are awakened by the dazzling white vision.
Peter, James, and John will also nod off into their dreams in the Garden of Gethsemani, in the agony in the garden. Maybe, they have not been getting enough rest.
For this Lenten season, one practical thing we might ask for – and work on – is also this restfulness, this restful spirit.
Peter, James and John demonstrate the opposite in restlessness. For ourselves, we could ask the Lord not only refresh us spiritually but also physically.
Ask the Lord to refresh so that we might not only praise him when we are meditating, but also praise him when we are studying, when we are with our friends.
Ask the Lord to refresh so that we may make good choices, wise choices about our friendships and our work. Ask him to rise with him to new life every day that we wake up.
It is good that Peter James and John put Christ first, showing that it’s not what you know it’s who you know.
But, in some ways, what they are also doing is trying to to figure out what Jesus wants to hear. Then, Peter, James, and John tell him that.
On the mountain, they see the dazzling white vision. In a rush of loyal feeling, they suggest the building of monuments: “Let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Luke 9:33)
[__05.] An very objective view of this statement might elicit a swift criticism.
Fortunately, “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness” (Psalm 103 : 8).
Neither the Father, Son, nor Holy Spirit jumps into expose their error directly.
[__06.] Their error.
What Jesus really wants them to see in this transfiguration as one step toward another glorification. What the disciples see now is the dazzling white; what they will later see is the Lord’s passion and resurrection.
This second transfiguration – from death on the cross to new life in the tomb – will be their salvation. This picture is much less attractive and glorious at first glance than the first transfiguration on the mountain.
It will take some time for the apostles to grasp.
On the mountain, they feel relatively prosperous and comfortable. And, the mountaintop experience of dazzling white brings the hope of future success. They want to capture the moment. And, they have new confidence in their well-connected friend Jesus.
[__07.] Their error is not exposed directly. Rather, the Lord tries to meet us where we are. Simply a voice from the heavens says,
“This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Luke 9:35)
[__08.] Peter, James, and John are trying to be humble servants, team players.
And, as they go through life, they will go the way of many entourages for their connected Jesus who is reviled by some very powerful people. And, in their continuing evangelization and struggle to make Jesus known, they will also be arrested, jailed, convicted.
But, in this case, they are not convicted for their crimes but for their Christian faith.
By that time, however, they will also understand that they are suffering for and with Christ.
We are called to do the same.
We are called to realize that our relationship with Christ does not depend on what we build or establish or prove. And, this relationship may bring conflict or trouble, trying to do the right ethical thing.
As Psalm 50 says, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” In other words, you need not build the tents nor achieve anything material.
[__09.] Our success also does not come about by telling others what they really want to hear.
And, our real contentment does not come by hearing what we want to hear.
Rather, our real contentment comes by opening ourselves to the challenges life brings.
And, our true contentment comes in humble service. This means, at least occasionally, hearing what we don’t want to hear and applying it to our lives. It may also mean saying a challenging word to another, doing so lovingly, saying even the thing the other person does not want to hear.
This will really bring us into the inner circle of a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.