Homily: From a Mountaintop to a New Direction

B026Lent2_1_cf03_4cGospel Summary

Today’s gospel brings us a story about the Transfiguration of Jesus on a mountaintop in the presence of his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John. The Transfiguration of Jesus has traditionally been interpreted as a light from heaven to show divine approval of his mission. It is far more likely that the light is coming from within Jesus as his face glows in a full awareness of the surprising nature of the mission that his heavenly Father has assigned to him. Now he sees clearly that his mission of salvation is through loving and ultimately dying for others. And so he turns his face away from the green fields and the welcoming crowds of Galilee, and leads His disciples back down the mountain and on to Judea, Jerusalem and the cross. (Demetrius Dumm, OSB)

Our first reading tells us the story of Abraham’s being tested by God. He is called to take his only son, Isaac, to a distant place and sacrifice him by the knife and then burning him on an altar which Isaac would help build. Abraham takes his son who helps carry the fire and the wood and off they go in a journey of trust. Upon arrival at a divinely-pointed-out hill, the overwhelming deed is set in motion.

At the very point that Isaac, who has been bound and placed on the altar, is about to be stabbed with the knife, the voice of the Angel calls to Abraham and saves his son. Abraham is named the ‘Father of Faith’ and a promise is made that, as he continues living in faith, his descendants who will increase through this same Isaac, and will flourish and possess a land of blessing.

In both cases, God’s disciples, Abraham and Isaac, Peter James and John, are led by God up a high mountain where they are exposed to extraordinary things. They all leave with their experience transformed and with their overwhelming questions about what all this was about.

They did not understand all this, but they kept on walking back down from this hill where they experienced such intimacy, And they when on ,living their lives, the patriarchs going on to build a great nation, and the apostles to follow Jesus on his Journey to salvation and to build a great church.

         Life Implications

Most of us Catholics orient our lives, in varying degrees, toward and away from the Eucharistic liturgy. We try also to be women and men who pray, even though that means different things to each of us. Abraham and Isaac have an extreme close call with God. Peter, James and John experience an unusual coming together and a communion. All five go off into the regular, back-down-the-hill living of their lives. Their faith seems to be strengthened, but at the same time their understanding seems to experience befuddlement. They would naturally be asking themselves about the “realness” of what had just happened.

In fact, for the disciples, the journey takes an abrupt turn, as Jesus, because of his vision, turns away from His ministry of healing in Galilee, and now goes immediately to Judea, Jerusalem and the Cross. That is often the real message; sometimes after prayer and interaction with God, we reevaluate our lives and the course it is taking. Then we set out in another direction.

One of the great joys of human intimacy is that it goes beyond reason. Devotion, prayer, liturgy are such calls to simple and honest closeness, but to try to figure it out flattens it out into a practice rather than a delight.

As with Abraham, Isaac, Peter, James and John, we go toward a time of being met by the Holy, given something special by the encouragement and comfort of God’s presence and then sent away, but always with the little question, “Was that really real?” “Was I talking to myself, comforting myself, judging myself?” Intimacy with God does not always lead to comprehending, but to the sending, the living, the transfiguring, or changing, because we are so very much loved.

Abraham, our Father of Faith and our brothers of faith walked down those hills with questions, doubts and wonderings about what in Heaven’s Name this all that was about?

Questions don’t dampen faith; they can spur us on to deeper answers, especially about the purpose of our life. Living our lives and doing God’s work is the proof of intimacy with God, even if it takes us in a different direction. And the risks are well worth taking.

The more we allow Jesus to come closer to us and within us, the more we, individually and as a believing, serving community, are transfigured and re-presented to the world. The world cannot adequately explain our living as carrying out his work. But even without clarity ourselves of understanding its meaning, we are carried to even greater heights of intimacy and trust.  (Larry Gillick S.J.   Creighton University)

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