Homily for February 20th, 2005.
Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.
Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.
2 nd Sunday Lent A
“Going up a high mountain”, more than geography or a mountain hike. In the Bible, the mountain serves as an image for the place where God and human beings meet; where some human beings have such an intense experience of God that they will be marked by it for the rest of their life. It will not last, but it will sustain them once they come down the mountain and have to face again the challenges of day-to-day life.
That is also true of Jesus. Don’t forget he is on his way to Jerusalem; it is the place where he will face the dreadful experience of being rejected, of being deserted by his closest followers, of feeling abandoned by the God in whom he placed his trust, of being disfigured on the shameful cross. Considering what lies ahead it is impossible for Jesus to face all that without that momentary intense experience of God that is captured in the transfiguration scene. What breaks through for a brief moment is the radiance and glory of his resurrection. (Jumping the gun on the resurrection). While Jesus will be disfigured, it is even more certain that he will be transfigured by God being present to him.
Why is this story placed on the second Sunday of Lent? One of the features of Lent is that we are asked to take an honest look at ourselves, at our lives, at our world. Most likely we will discover that there is a fair amount in ourselves and in our world that is not pretty, that is in fact out of joint and ugly, that is disfigured. It is a real struggle to remain hope-filled in a world – and in a church – of fear, of scandal, of violence, atrocities, of evil. Where do we go with all that stuff, with all those disfigurements?
We go with that stuff to the disfigured – transfigured Jesus. The Christian faith holds that in his suffering and dying, in his disfigurement Jesus has taken all forms of disfigurement that are so much part of our world upon his shoulders and he has let himself be crushed by them. But this same Jesus has been filled with God’s glory, he has been raised from the dead, we say. It means that he has triumphed over all forms of disfigurement and ugliness.
On our Lenten journey to Easter we can, with confidence, bring all our disfigurements to the crucified and risen, the transfigured Jesus. That is a good thing, because if we were to be left alone with them, we would have good reason to wonder whether, in the end, life is not stupid after all. But holding on to the disfigured – transfigured Jesus it is possible to remain hope-filled in a world – in a church – beset by fear, scandal, violence, pain, brokenness, stupidity.
The story of the transfiguration of Jesus holds a promise. The promise is that we will be liberated from all our disfigurements, that we too like Jesus will be transfigured, that we are called to share in his glory and radiance. It is a promise that is meant to sustain us in the midst of our very real disfigurements; they will not have the last word.
It is a promise that comes from a faithful God who has not remained at a safe distance from the human story with all its disfigurements. In Jesus he has become Emmanuel, God-with us. We help each other cling to the promise of this faithful God.
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