Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent
RECAP OF LENT – We are now at the Second Sunday of Lent. Before any of us know it, we’ll find ourselves celebrating the Triduum and preparing for glorious celebration of Easter. Today would be a good time for us to pause and ask: how are we doing with our Lenten penances or practices? Let’s seriously reflect on that and be completely honest with ourselves. Are we doing what we said we would? Or, have we grown lackadaisical in those efforts?
If you’re anything like me, this Lenten journey has been quite a challenge. Personally speaking, there have been so many occasions where I have failed to keep my Lenten promises. And in those moments, the temptation is to simply give up. We might say to ourselves: “I have failed miserably at doing this; what’s the use of even trying anymore?” So often we are harder on ourselves than we should be. But, if we look at our failures through the lens of God, we might be challenged to think in a little bit of a different way.
INTRODUCTION – In our readings today, we hear about the importance of faith, more specifically the importance of faith in Christ. Everything that we’re observing throughout this season and really everything that happens in our lives depends on faith in Christ. Jesus reveals to us the meaning of Lent, He reveals it’s purpose. And He shows us how He wants to be our light, to be the light to shine in our hearts.
EXAMPLE OF ABRAM – The First Reading from the Book of Genesis tells us the story of Abram – who, we know, would later become Abraham, our father in faith. It’s a story that most of us are familiar with. Abram sets out for a land of blessing based on a simple promise from God. He is told that he would be the father of a great nation, a nation that would become the fatherland of all the nations. His name would become renowned and he would be remembered for generations.
In giving him that promise and asking him to follow, the Lord gave no detailed instructions, He simply tells Abram to leave his kinsmen and set out. Abram had no idea what he was getting into; he knew nothing about what resources would be available on this land; he didn’t know all the dangers that existed for the journey. He was challenged to take it on faith. And he responded. In the Letter to the Hebrews, we’re told what made that response possible: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go” (Hebrews 11:8).
Faith. Abram’s faith in God changed his life. And that faith was something that would sustain him throughout that journey. Even in the end, Abraham only caught a glimpse of that promise. He would not and did not see its fulfillment – that would only happen in Christ.
CHRIST IS THE FULFILLMENT – In the passage that we hear today from St. Paul’s second letter to St. Timothy, Paul reminds us that Christ has always been at the center of God’s plans for humanity. Jesus has always been the fulfillment of the promises that the Father made to Abram and his descendants. Jesus has always been the foundation of those promises made to the people of Israel as they would journey in the desert for 40 years searching for the Promised Land. Jesus has always been at the center of the New Covenant that would come to be established with us as His followers. That continues to be the case today. Christ is at the center of all those promises that God has made with us as Christians; He has been even before we became aware of it. In Jesus, everything is revealed, everything is made manifest. We see that in an explicit way in the Transfiguration.
TRANSFIGURATION – The Lord’s closest disciples – Peter, James, and John – are invited, they’re handpicked to accompany Jesus up the mountaintop. In that moment, they receive a glimpse of His divinity and glory; they are given a foretaste of the glory that is to be revealed by Jesus. In this instance, Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem,” a detail which we receive in Luke’s account of this experience (Lk 9:31). A cloud covers Him and a voice from heaven says: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Mt 17:5).
In the Transfiguration, the Passion of Christ is revealed as the means by which Jesus will “enter into His glory” (Lk 24:26). The presence of Moses and Elijah, who themselves had seen God’s glory on a Mountain, confirm that the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah’s sufferings; they confirm that Christ’s Passion is the will of the Father. So, this represents one of the most pivotal moments in the life of Christ, in the lives of His disciples, and in the life of the Church.
There is a beautiful quote from the Byzantine liturgy on the importance of this moment for Jesus and His disciples. It says:
You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father.
Peter, James, and John start to see who Jesus truly is in the moment of the Transfiguration. They start to have a better understanding of what His mission is to be. But they also begin to see what the fulfillment of the Lord’s promises will look like. They get a glimpse into the future of our own reality as Christians. Christ being transfigured before them is an indication of what is to come for us when we are transfigured and are able to enter into the glorious splendor of the Kingdom of Heaven.
WE ARE BOUND FOR HEAVEN – We are a people who are bound for Heaven, that is the promise that God offers to us. We only have to strive for holiness, strive for righteousness, strive to cooperate with His grace in our lives. The God of the Universe desires for us to be with Him for all eternity. He wants us to experience our own Transfiguration, to be able to enter into the glorious splendor of His Kingdom. As we see with the story of Abram, through all of the prophets, through all of the struggles that the people of Israel endured, through the sending of Jesus into the world…God has been working from the very beginning, after the Fall of Adam and Eve to make that a reality for us. Everything He has done and everything He continues to do has been about making it possible for us to return to communion with Him. And that will not stop until the time that Jesus returns in glory.
CONCLUSION – Until then, we must have faith. We must continue turning to the Lord when our faith is tested, asking for an increase in His grace to make it through our own challenges, challenges that we sometimes become so aware of during our experience of Lent. So wherever we are in our relationship with the Lord, whatever things we might be struggling with in this moment, may we always remember that the Lord is with us. He is always with us. He is working for our good and will never stop working for our good. Let’s ask the Lord today for a renewed sense of faith in that promise for us and be encouraged by God’s presence in our lives.
Photo: Mosaic of the Transfiguration in the Church of the Transfiguration in Galiliee. Photo by Itamar Grinberg. Wikimedia Commons. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.