Deacon Cornellís Homily


Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18
Philippians 3:17—4:1
Luke 9:28b-36


March 12-13, 2022, Second Sunday in Lent, Cycle C

I have always struggled with the story of the Transfiguration, or at least with the usual explanation that goes with it. The usual reason given is that Jesus wanted to shore up the three apostles so that their faith could withstand the coming test of Jesus' passion. That presents a problem in itself to me. If that was really the reason, it didn't work so well, did it? Peter, James and John didn't stick around any more than the others who were not brought up the mountain. Also, why would Jesus single out Peter, James, and John? Did they need more support than the others? Had they done anything more than the others so that they deserved to witness the transfiguration? But the really sticky question for me is why God doesn't just do something like the Transfiguration, on the evening news, or at half time during the Super Bowl, so that the whole world will know that God really exists? Or if God isn't into global miracles, maybe you or I could witness a Transfiguration-like miracle so at least our personal faith would be unshakable? In other words, if Jesus did that to bolster the faith of Peter, James, and John, wasn't that succumbing to the 3rd temptation he experienced in the desert that we heard last week: to use divine power to 'prove' he was the Son of God?

There are some commentators that suggest a different way of looking at the Transfiguration. They suggest that Jesus' glory was always present but others could not see it because of the layer of sin and disbelief that clouded their vision. For a moment Peter, Andrew, and John were able to change their perspective so that they were then able to see this glory, and hear the voice of the Father. Maybe it was the combination of the witnessing of the feeding of the 5,000, or reflecting on Jesus' question to them about who they thought he really was, and then his revelation that he must suffer and die, combined with the physical exertion of climbing the mountain with Jesus. In any case, for that brief moment as they awoke from deep sleep, they were able to see Jesus as he always is, in his divine glory.

This makes much more sense to me. It is such a human trait to think that we are seeing reality when in fact most of it escapes us. Everything we perceive is done so through filters that emphasize some aspects of the reality, deemphasize others, and completely hide others.

Lent is a time for us personally and as a community, a church, to try to open our eyes to the divine glory that fills our world. Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God is at hand. It has already entered into our lives but we cannot it see it most of the time because of our filters. The traditional Lenten practices of fasting, praying and alms giving are proven ways to help us strip away the blinders that prevent us from seeing things the way God sees them, the way they really are!

Today's readings of the Transfiguration and the mystic vision of Abraham in our first reading were not caused by God singling out Abraham and Peter and James and John for special religious experiences; Abraham and Peter and James and John were able to have those experiences because they had opened themselves to God in faith. Each of us can have the same experiences if we are willing to work on letting go of the attitudes and preconceptions that we have developed from our culture and the broken parts of our human nature. Fasting allows us to see that we do not have to live by food alone. God has given us spiritual nourishment that can let us see more clearly that reality is so much more than what we can prove or measure with our senses. Prayer focuses our attention on realities beyond what we see with just our senses, and in turn that frame of mind lets our senses experience a reality we often miss. And alms giving, especially in our culture which values accumulating possessions so highly, lets us experience the world as love sees it.

So let us enter into this season of Lent with determination and enthusiasm, knowing that fasting, praying, and increased acts of charity can open our eyes and hearts so that we too can see Jesus in his divine glory; we can see the evidence that kingdom of God is at hand. Then along with Peter we can say, "It is good for us to be here."

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