Sunday, March 5, 2023

Transfiguring Our Lives: Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent 2023


The Transfiguration of Jesus, Ivanka Demchuk,via the Catholic Art Institute.

My dear brothers and sisters,

In my homily last week I pointed out how the presence of God the son is perceptible in the Old Testament. Last week I pointed out how the Tree of Life, and its fruit, in the garden of Eden were in fact the presence of the Cross and Jesus – i.e. God the son, in the same garden.

This week, through the words of St. Paul in his second letter to Timothy, we see apostolic confirmation of my words. Allow me to paraphrase the words of St. Paul who said that God

saved us … according to … the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our saviour Christ Jesus

St. Paul is saying that God’s grace, through which we are saved, was bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, that this grace was always present, that Jesus was always present. However, this was made manifest, or plain for all to see, only through the appearance, or the incarnation, of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

This Sunday, the readings once again offer us a way to see how the grace of God the son was present even before his Incarnation. For this, we need to begin our journey of discovery by listening once again to the words of the Gospel.

then from the cloud came a voice that said,
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him."

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, why is it that God the Father was so pleased with his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ? What exactly had he done, to be so “beloved” of God the Father?

The Gospel reading for today does not answer this question, but as with so much in the scripture, the answer is provided in the Old Testament, and more particularly in the first reading for this Sunday.

The first reading begins with God asking Abraham to do something:

Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father's house to a land that I will show you.

God the father made a similar request to God the son, go forth from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. And the Son did so, and this obedience pleased God. Of course, it was not only this obedience that pleased God, but the way he lived his life, from infancy, into adulthood, until finally he was obedient unto the Father to give up his life on the cross.

Now, if there is one thing about our God, it is that he is consistent, which is why the promise he makes to Abraham, he makes also to Jesus. Let us listen again to the promise that God makes to Abraham if he went forth from his father’s house as God requested him.

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.

And this is what God the Father does to his Son as well! He makes of Him a great nation – his mystical body becomes the Church – and the Church, as we well know contains spans the globe and contains peoples of every race, tribe and nation. As He promised to Abraham, God the Father ensured that the name of His son becomes great so that it is a blessing, the person through whom all the communities of the earth find the blessing of salvation.

St. Paul, puts this eloquently in his letter to the Philippians:

though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
 but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
     he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

 Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
  so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

So what? What should I do?

Jesus came so that we too may be sons (and daughters) of God. If we listen to his Son, we too can be sons of God in whom he is well-pleased.

So what do we have to do to be like Jesus? St. Paul tells us in today’s reading:

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

What is, or what are, the hardships, of the Gospel? For this we can refer to the words of the psalm today: be upright, be trustworthy, love justice and right. Fear God, and trust in him. Living in contemporary Goa, and India, none of this is easy. In fact, it would be easier to not be upright, trustworthy, just and righteous. However, we must trust that God will give us his strength. And if we use this strength we will become like his son, and live in union with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.

(This homily was first preached in Concanim at the Sunday vigil mass on 4 March 2023, and then in English at the 10 am Mass on Sunday, 5 March 2023, in the parish church of St. Thomas, Aldona.)

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