Lent 2 Sunday C - Transfiguration

Lent 2 SUN
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Michel de Verteuil
 General Comments

Though we usually refer to this incident as the Transfiguration, Jesus’ appearing in glory was only the first stage of the experience the apostles had with him on the mountain. In your meditation then, feel free to enter the story at any stage, and even to remain with any part of the story that touches you, although you might also want to identify with the entire experience taken as a whole.
In verse 28, Jesus takes his three followers up the mountain to pray, and this is a symbol of the withdrawal that must take place before he can be transfigured.
In verses 29 to 31 the transfiguration is described as something that happened to Jesus himself first, before it was seen by the apostles. Note two points that are specific to St Luke’s account:
• the change happens while he is praying;
• Moses and Elijah were speaking to him about his passion.
Verses 32 and 33 give us Peter’s response. St Luke stresses that it was because he saw them leaving that he wanted to make the tents.
In verses 34 and 35 we have a sharp contrast: the apostles who were covered by a cloud, now experience the glory of Jesus, not visibly but through a heavenly voice.
Verse 36 is a brief and sober conclusion to the episode.

Scripture reflection
Lord, commitment to a noble cause involves a long and painful journey:
– to practice non-violence in all our relationships;
– to work for social transformation according to gospel values;
– to live the evangelical counsels.
There is a first glorious moment when we are led by our leader up a mountain
– aspects are changed and ordinary garments become brilliant as lightning;
suddenly our great predecessors are with us
and they are talking to us about the great victory that will soon come to pass.
It is wonderful for us to be there, and we want to make tents for ourselves.
But we do not know what we are saying,
because the words are barely out of our mouths
when a cloud comes and covers us with its shadow
– obstacles arise, we start to quarrel among ourselves, and some drop out.
We feel a terrible fear as we go into the cloud,
but we need not be afraid because within that cloud we find our commitment.
It is as if from the cloud a voice comes from heaven
assuring us that we have perceived a personal call from God, and we must follow it.
From that moment on, we know that we can stand alone,
and we feel no need to tell others what we have seen,
because we no longer need their approval.
Lord, we who are leaders of communities, of families, of parishes, or the country,
we spend too much time and effort talking about love, respect and loyalty.
Teach us to do like Jesus, to take our community with us
and go up the mountain to pray together,
so that as we pray we may see the glory that is within us.
Our aspects will appear changed and outer appearances which seemed shabby
will become brilliant as lightning.
Then suddenly we will become aware that we are in communion with our ancestors
and we are preparing ourselves for the crises that we are about to face.
Lord, we remember today all those who will be attending parish missions during the coming week.
Often, they will come heavy with sleep and burdened with worries;
we pray that they may keep awake and see the glory of Jesus
and all the saints standing with him, so that they will say to him,
“Master, it is wonderful for us to be here.”
Prayer means yearning for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of his word, for knowledge of his will and for capacity to hear and obey him. “…Thomas Merton
Lord, help us not to be content in our prayer with glorious visions
which make us feel wonderful to be there.
Teach us rather to yearn for deeper prayer,
for your cloud to come and cover us with shadow
while we enter into it, fearful and trembling,
and then, for your voice to come from that dark cloud, as we remain totally silent
and experience that we must listen to the precious word you have spoken.
Lord, in our modern world, we have lost the art of listening to people.
Teach us to wait for another with reverence,
putting aside our prejudices, our personal plans and expectations,
as if a cloud has come and covered us with shadow,
and we have gone into the cloud with utter poverty,
knowing only that we must listen to this precious child of God
whom he has chosen out of all humanity to stand before us at this moment.
Lord, we thank you for deep experiences:
– moments of intimacy between spouses;
– an insight that changed our whole way of thinking;
– the times we feel at one with ourselves and with all creation.
After such experiences, we are like the three disciples
– we keep silence and can tell no one what we have seen.
Before I understood prayer, the mountains were nothing but mountains, and the rivers were nothing but rivers. When I got into prayer, the mountains were no longer mountains, and the rivers no longer rivers. But when I understood prayer, the mountains were only mountains, and the rivers only rivers. “  …Zen saying
Lord, take us along that journey by which Jesus takes us with him up the mountain
and we see glory; then we hear your voice saying he is your Son, the Chosen One,
and then after the voice has spoken he is found alone with us.
secret
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Thomas O’Loughlin,
 
Introduction to the Celebration
As we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter, we recall today the experience of the first disciples on their journey to the first Easter in Jerusalem. On a high mountain they beheld for a moment the glory of Jesus and heard the Father’s voice saying ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One, listen to him.’ Let us now reflect that, forgiven our sins, we may behold Christ’s glory in this celebration, and let us ask the Spirit to help us hear Christ’s voice in our lives.

Homily notes
1. This gospel challenges all the easy reductions that we make about Jesus: Jesus the inspiring teacher, Jesus the compassionate preacher, Jesus the friend of the poor. He is all these, but he is also the One who comes from the Father, the One who, we believe, was prepared for by the prophets, the One who stands at the centre of history. The transfiguration calls us to expand our religious horizons.
2. But the story has a curious comic element: the Lord of history is transfigured with these earlier prophets each side of him, and Peter wants to set up a campsite! This shows the intimacy with which the human and the divine are present in Jesus: he is with his friends and interacts with them; he is present in the glory of God. All handy distinctions such as ‘high christology’ versus ‘low’, or ‘immanence’ versus ‘transcendence’ are seen as too tied down to the limits of our understanding by this scene: God is always greater, and what we can say about God is what we can see in Jesus.
3.Preaching must not try to ‘explain’ this scene, nor even to ‘expand’ upon it. Rather the scene calls for our minds and imag­inations to dwell on it and seek to make its ‘picture’ of the ad
vent of God our own. So give a bit of the background that the first audience would have known, and then let imagination seek greater depths.
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3. Sean Goan
The story of the transfiguration is told each year on this Sunday. This is because in each of the gospels it comes after Jesus has warned his disciples for the first time that he will be rejected in Jerusalem and suffer the ultimate penalty. There are, therefore, two aspects to the story of the transfiguration. One is that it affirms Jesus’ identity as the beloved of God despite the shadow of the cross that now hangs over his ministry. The second is that it serves as a reminder to the disciples that their task as they accompany Jesus on the road to Jerusalem is to really listen to him. This puts our Lenten efforts into the right context as the sole purpose of the season is to bring us to a closer relationship with Jesus and to understand more fully the meaning of his passion, death and resurrection.
listen to God

Reflection
Abraham is often called the father of faith, and attention is paid to his unquestioning willingness to do as God asks him. However, the story from today’s reading shows that he also had doubts. This incident takes place at night, which may be symbolic of his desire to know how and where God is at work in his life. His doubts do not put a distance between himself and God; rather they are the impetus for a new stage in the relationship. All of us who are on the journey of faith experience times of doubt and darkness, but often these can be the very times God will show himself to us in unexpected ways. The events of Holy Week will demonstrate this in the fullest way possible.
entering mysteries

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Donal Neary S.J.
The real Jesus
hidden depthsThings are not always as they seem. Underneath a church that I worked in, are a series of underground passages that go on for about a mile! People are the same – when you are talking to someone and they tell you they are very ill, or recovered from addiction, you see more to them. Or you may find out that someone you thought little of visits an elderly person every week. People are not always as they seem. The mountain visit was the same: the apostles saw Jesus – son of God, radiant in prayer, and in the middle of it all the Passion was announced. They saw the person behind the face.

The big truth of Jesus is that he is intimately united to God the Father. So following him is not just action, but prayer that leads to action. We say someone is a great Christian – he or she helps the poor. Christianity is more – it is also prayer and the Eucharist. While we are thankful for the good lives of many people, we also can say that the full Christian life includes prayer and Mass.
It also involves community – the three were called to witness and help each other remember the Lord Jesus. Community brings the word of God alive in a real way. The community of the Church brings us to fuller faith.
tearful prayerPrayer leads to action for others, and action leads back to prayer. We can be so close to heavenly things that we are no earthly good! Lent brings us into this mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord – we are part of this, and we try to make life a grace for others. We can transfigure the lives of others, or disfigure. Let’s be people of the transfiguration.
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From the Connections:

THE WORD:
Luke’s account of the transfiguration is filled with First Testament imagery (the voice heard in the cloud, for example) that echoes the Exodus event.  In Luke’s Gospel, the transfiguration takes place after Jesus’ instructions to his followers on the cost of discipleship.  To follow Jesus is an “exodus” through one’s own desert to the Promised Land, through Jerusalem to the empty tomb, through death to life.  In offering to build three booths (or shrines) to honor Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter and his sleepy companions do not understand that Jesus’ exodus does not end with the glorious vision they have witnessed.  It is only the beginning.
 
HOMILY NOTES:
The season of Lent calls us to transfiguration - to transform the coldness, sadness and despair around us through the compassion and love of Christ Jesus.
The transfiguration of Jesus is a turning point in the Gospel: the beginning of a new exodus, Jesus’ difficult “Passover” from crucifixion to resurrection.  As his disciples, we, too, are called to experience the Passover and exodus of Jesus - an exodus from the impermanence of this world and our own sinfulness to the reign of God, a “passing over” from this life to the life of God.
That same touch of divinity that the three disciples see in Jesus exists within each one of us, as well:  God is present within us, animating us to do good and holy things; guiding our steps as we try to walk justly and humbly in the ways of God; enlightening our vision with wisdom and selflessness to bring the justice and mercy of God into our world. 
“God places us in the world as God’s fellow workers – agents of transfiguration.  We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so that there will be more laughter and joy, so that there will be more togetherness in God’s world.”  (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

“Les Miserables”
The epic film Les Miserables, based on the Victor Hugo novel and the international stage sensation, is a story of grace and redemption, of compassion and mercy.
The story begins with a simple but profound moment of forgiveness.  Jean Valjean has been imprisoned for stealing a small loaf of bread to feed his sister’s daughter.  Paroled after 20 years of hard labor and brutal treatment, Valjean is a broken, bitter man.  He is desperate for work but no one will hire a parolee.  Cold and hungry, he is taken in by a kindly bishop.  During the night, Valjean steals the bishop’s silver plate and flees, but he is quickly taken into custody by the local police.  The constables bring Valjean to the bishop’s residence and ask the bishop to identify the thief and his silver.  Indeed it is his silver, the Monseigneur says — but the bishop explains that he gave Valjean the silver.  He thanks the police for bringing Valjean to him because he was concerned that Valjean forget to take the valuable candlesticks, as well.
Valjean is stunned by the bishop’s extraordinary kindness and forgiveness.  The bishop only asks Valjean to use the silver to re-create his life and return God’s goodness to others.  “God has raised you out of darkness,” the bishop blesses Valjean. “I have bought your soul for God.”
It is a moment of transformation for Valjean, who rediscovers within himself the love and mercy that led him to steal bread for his hungry niece.  As he turns the cache of silver into a fortune that will benefit many, Valjean comes to realize that “to love another person is to see the face of God.”

The kindness of the bishop is a moment of transfiguration for Valjean:  As the three disciples behold the divinity that radiates from the vision of Jesus on the mountaintop, Valjean realizes the ember of God’s goodness that has continued to burn within him despite the brutality and cruelty of his two decades in prison.  That same touch of divinity exists within each one of us, as well:  God is present within us, animating us to do good and holy things; guiding our steps as we try to walk justly and humbly in the ways of God; enlightening our vision with wisdom and selflessness to bring the justice and mercy of God into our world.  The challenge of discipleship is to allow the love of God within us to “transfigure” despair into hope, sadness into joy, anguish into healing, estrangement into community.  
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From Fr. Jude Botelho: Transfiguration from Mk

In the first reading we have the example of Abraham, a man who believes in the promises of God. At a late age, when one would rather settle to a retired life he is ready to move on to the land that is promised to him. When he has no child he is ready to believe in God’s promise that his children will be as numerous as the stars of heaven! His faith is rewarded. Today’s reading tells us that while believing in God’s promises Abraham asks for a sign and God’s first covenant is made to Abraham. Life is full of promises; we make and others make promises to us, but often these are quickly broken. However, God’s promises are never broken. He is faithful because He is our God, the faithful one!

Topaz
Precious stones have a magical quality about them, as anyone who has visited the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels, can testify. One such precious stone is the exquisite and priceless blue topaz. Blue topaz is chemically a silicate of aluminium, which of itself has no beauty or brilliance. But under great pressure and heat exerted over millions of years, this dull opaque silicate is transformed into a transparent crystal with a remarkable blue colour and clarity. -Today’s readings tell us about other striking transformations. In the first reading from Genesis, not only is Abram’s name changed by God to Abraham, but his whole destiny is changed as he now becomes the father of many nations. In the gospel, Luke describes the transfiguration of our Lord in the presence of his disciples: “As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning.” We too can be transformed!
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
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Today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus went with Peter, James and John up the mountain to pray. Perhaps, while it is necessary to spend time alone in prayer, it is equally important that we spend time in community prayer. Firstly Jesus is transformed in a moment of prayer. Prayer can and does transform our lives in more ways than we can dream of. The passage reminds us that the mountain, for the Israelites symbolized the abode of God. It is while He prayed that the aspect of his face changes and his clothing becomes brilliant, He is transformed and suddenly He is in the company of two men: Moses and Elijah who are conversing with him. Secondly, when He is transformed He is not completely cut away from what he is immersed in. There is still that mission that He has to fulfill and He is reminded of that mission by the two figures that are seen with Him, Moses the symbol of the Law and Elijah the symbol of the prophets. Both these had tasks to fulfill: one, to proclaim the Law, the other to utter the words of Prophecy. Both did not fulfill completely the mission given to them, but Jesus would now be fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. He would pass from the slavery of the law to the Kingdom of His Father through His obedience unto death. When God enters our life he does not transform the situation we are in but transforms us so that we can deal with the situation. Peter’s impulsive suggestion to the Lord that they build three tents perhaps points to our very human need to hold on and to prolong the good times. We want the good moments to last and we don’t want to face the reality that life is made up of the good and the not-so-good moments as well, they are all part of God’s plan for us, and if we are ready to relish the good we have to be prepared  to face the unpleasant as well. On the other hand the idea of building a tent could remind us that our life and our faith is a journey, where nothing is permanent. Lastly the Gospel tells us that from the cloud came a voice saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen one, Listen to Him.” Yes, Jesus is the well beloved Son of the Father. But we too can hear the Father saying to us “You are my chosen one!” We can hear this voice because God has made a promise, he has made us a covenant, but more than inheritors of the covenant, we have the privilege of being His sons and daughters and He never goes back on His choice! With confidence we can face any trial and carry any burden because we will always be the favoured ones, thanks to Jesus through whom we can call God our Father!
A name called in loveMaude and Harry have been married for fifteen years and their relationship is limited to newspapers exchanged at breakfast-table and weather reports noted at dinner-table. Maude spends her days lingering over the housework because she dreads the time when she has nothing to do. Harry works long hours and says he is too tired to talk in the evenings – so they settle for drowsy boredom in front of the television. Maude never hears Harry call her by her name; only as “you”. One day Maude’s friend, Mabel, arrives and tries some advice: “Maude, take a look at yourself! You’re always going around with a colony of curlers in your head and tripping over your face. You’re a mobile mess, dear. What you need is a new hairdo and a new outfit – then Harry will notice you. Tomorrow, we will go shopping.” Next day, Maude spends hours at the hairdresser and at various stores. Mabel is enthusiastic about the results, and after their long day they return to wait for Harry. When the key turns in the lock Maude stands up feeling foolish.  When Harry comes in, he stops; he looks at his wife and when he sees her he realizes what she has done. He moves over to her, takes her in his arms, and calls her name over and over again. When that happens, Maude becomes radiant and aglow. She is transfigured – not because she has a new outfit but because this is the first time in years she has heard her name called in love.
Denis McBride in ‘Seasons of the Word’

Seeing him differently
A movie called Mask is based on a true story of a 16-year-old boy named Rocky Dennis. He has a rare disease that causes his skull and the bones in his face to grow larger than they should. As a result, Rockey’s face is terribly misshapen and disfigured. His grotesque appearance causes some people to shy away from him, and others to snicker and laugh at him. Through it all, Rocky never pities himself. He feels bad about his appearance, but he accepts it as a part of life. One day Rocky and some of his friends visit an amusement park. They go into a “House of Mirrors” and begin to laugh at how distorted their bodies and faces look. Suddenly Rocky sees something that startles him. One mirror distorts his misshapen face in such a way that it appears normal – even strikingly handsome. For the first time, Rocky’s friends see him in a whole new way. They see from the outside what he is on the inside: a truly beautiful person. -Something like this happens to Jesus in today’s gospel. During his transfiguration, Jesus’ disciples, for the first time saw from the outside what he is on the inside: the glorious, beautiful Son of God.
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’ 

To God Alone the Glory

On the margins of many of his masterpieces, Johann Sebastian Bach jotted down the words: ‘To God Alone the Glory.’ Although Bach was one of the greatest German organists of the 18th century, few besides his family and pupils knew of his genius in musical compositions. At his death in 1750, after a lifetime of total dedication, poverty and struggle, many of his priceless works were lost. Music lovers today owe the ‘rediscovery’ of Bach to Felix Mendelssohn. As a young boy he was enraptured by Bach’s manuscript of the St. Matthew Passion. At the age of 20, he gave a private performance of it. As a result Bach’s genius was widely acclaimed. May we be ‘re-discovered’ through the affirmations of those who believe in us and love us!
Anthony Castle in ‘Quotes and Anecdotes’

The young mother, with her little four-year-old son, called into the church. She was praying her prayers, while he was running around investigating everything in sight. He pointed out to a statue and wanted to know who that was. His mother told him that was Holy God. To another such question the mother said that it was Holy God’s mother. Finally, he made his way into the sanctuary, where the light was streaming through the stain-glass windows. He held out both his arms, as he moved backwards and forwards, fascinated by the colours that were reflected on his hands and clothes. He looked up at the windows and asked his mother who they were, and she said they were the saints. The following day, in play school, the teacher was telling the children about the saints. He got all excited, and wanted to tell her that he knew who they were. When asked who they were, his answer was very simple, and given with great confidence ‘They are the ones who let the light shine through’. –Today’s gospel gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ glory. But it also shows the possibility for every Christian, who is called to reflect the face of Christ to others.

Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth’

 
The ripple effect

In a study, researchers positioned themselves across from a pay phone and studied people who made phone calls. One of the first things they discovered was that almost everyone who makes a call looks in the coin return to see if any coins happen to be there. The behavior gave the researchers an idea. The next day they randomly put coins in the coin return slot so that some of the people who used the phone actually did discover money. The researchers then hired a young woman, with an armful of books, to walk by the phone at the exact moment that the subjects were hanging up. As the woman walked by with her arms full of books, she pretended to stumble and drop them on the ground. Astonishingly, the researchers observed that the people who found money in the slot return were four times more likely to stop and help the woman pick the books than the people who found no money in the return slot. They concluded that when we feel good, we tend to do good, which also means that the helping impulse is transferrable. In other words, if you do something good for another person, he or she is more likely to do something nice for someone else, causing a small gesture to result in a giant ripple effect. This illustrates what it means to be a light-bearer, a person transformed by the Light! -Start a giant ripple! Transfigure your world!
William Bausch in ‘40 More Seasonal Homilies’

The first reading from the book of Genesis speaks of the test of faith of Abraham the father in faith of all believers. In the story of Abraham and Isaac, Israel recognized its own destiny. How often Israel itself was laid on the altar of sacrifice entirely at the mercy of God. In the face of all tests the only saving attitude is that of Abraham: “Here I am Lord!” Living among the Canaanites who practiced human sacrifice, we see his agonizing effort to do what he thought God wanted of him. Abraham’s great faith was rewarded. As we enter deeper and deeper into the Lenten observances we need to realize that God is calling us to a profound surrender of our lives into his hands.

Victim or Victor
Charles Rayburn has been a victim of cerebral palsy since his birth. His only means of communication was an electric typewriter which he strikes with a stylus attached to a band around his head. In spite of his palsy, Charles Rayburn has published 37 articles in national magazines. One of his articles appeared in America magazine and dealt with the Stations of the Cross. Charles Rayburn is a living example of today’s reading about Isaac and Jesus. These three figures and the three readings are tied together by a triple theme –the theme of Sonship, death and deliverance.
- Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
The second reading is obviously linked to the first reading. It shows us the depth of God’s love for us. God did not spare his only Son but gave him up for us. In Isaac’s place there was a ram that was offered to God. In Jesus’ place there was no substitute, such was the depth of God’s love for us. Paul reminds the Romans that with God on our side we have nothing and no one to fear. “When God acquits us who can condemn us?” We can never doubt the mercy and goodness of our God. In today’s gospel the account of the transfiguration gives us some insight into the mystery of Jesus, Son of God, the new Moses to whom we must listen. The transfiguration is an epiphany story. Epiphany stories were common in ancient writings about holy people. This is the earliest epiphany story about Jesus, where the veil is lifted and his apostles were given a glimpse of his future glory. The chief significance of this event was for Jesus himself. It was meant to confirm him in the course he had undertaken. But it also benefited the apostles, and it is this that Mark emphasizes. On the mountain Elijah and Moses appeared to them representing the prophets and the law respectively. Thus Jesus is seen as bringing the law and the prophets to fulfillment. We do not know what exactly happened on that mountain but it seems Jesus had an intense experience of the presence of God. He heard those marvelous words: “You are my beloved son.” On Tabor Jesus felt comforted and affirmed. He knew that the Father was pleased with him and would give him all the strength he would need to face whatever lay ahead. With God on his side he could face anything. At times life could be dark for us and we too need to hear those reassuring words: “You are my son the beloved, my favour rests on you!” People from time to time do affirm us, but their affirmation is conditional. “You are good but you need to change this behaviour…. You are good but only if you live up to my expectations!” Only God affirms us exactly as he affirmed his son Jesus. With him there are no terms and conditions, even if we are sinners and have failed him. We will always remain the well beloved sons and daughters of God. Jean Vanier has set up communities for the mentally handicapped. He tells how in one of these communities there is a man called Pierre who has a mental handicap. One day somebody asked Pierre, “Do you like praying?” “Yes”, he answered. “And what do you do when you pray?” the questionnaire asked. “I listen,” Pierre answered. “And what does God say to you? “He says, “Pierre, you are my beloved son.” Though we know and believe that God loves us, yet from time to time we need his assurance, we need the transfiguration experience. As Jesus began his journey to Jerusalem, he knew what was in store for him. He met with a lot of opposition from the religious leaders and ultimately they would put him to death. Naturally he would recoil from such a harsh experience. He needed to be affirmed and he ascended the mountain in the company of his disciples to pray and commune with His Father about the fearful future. Instead of giving up in fear he ascends the mountain to be closer to God. On that mountain the Father affirmed him. That same Father is waiting for us to come to him to be affirmed as his well beloved sons and daughters. Our problem is that as soon as we run into trouble our faith fails us. We think that God has abandoned us. But if we pray we will realize that God has not abandoned us, He is always with us. Like Jesus on Tabor we too can experience being affirmed by God, we too can be transformed by the power of his spirit, if only we let Him into our lives.

“Pigeon Feathers”
John Updike wrote a short story called “Pigeon Feathers.” It’s about a young boy, David, who begins to have doubts about his faith. One night in bed David is thinking about his problem. Suddenly he decides upon a bold experiment. He takes his hands from under the covers, lifts them above his head, and asks Jesus to touch them. As David waits breathlessly, he thinks he feels something touch his hands; not sure if they have been touched or not. We can all relate to David in this scene. We too experience times when our faith seems to disappear or go behind a cloud. When this happens, we long desperately for a sign that God is real and that Jesus is the Son of God. Or to put it in another way, we long for a sign of Jesus’ glory, like the one Peter, James and John received in today’s gospel.
- Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’
 
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ILLUSTRATIONS:

1: Transformation of minerals into pearls, gems and precious stones:

Precious stones like the diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire, are the most valuable of all commodities. The most expensive gem Alexandrite costs $30, 000 per carat. Pearls are less costly. All these precious stones are the result of years of transformation or transfiguration. But today’s gospel describes Christ’s instant transfiguration revealing his divine glory surpassing the beauty of the most expensive gems. Most pearls are produced by oysters or some other mollusks in both freshwater and saltwater environments. Natural pearls are formed when a foreign object enters an oyster’s shell. To defend the oyster, layer after layer of calcium carbonate (nacre) along with other minerals grow and form like onionskins around the particle. Gradually the foreign objects are transformed into pearls which are very rare and expensive. Like natural pearls, cultured pearls grow inside an oyster, but with human intervention. Shells are carefully opened and different shapes of beads are inserted. Over time, the inserted beads become transformed by coats of nacre, which makes a pearl appear to glow inside and gives it a beautiful shine. The most valuable gems come from crystallized minerals that have formed under heat and pressure deep inside the earth for millions of years. Diamonds are formed far under the earth where the heat and pressure are very intense. Under these conditions the carbon atoms line up perfectly and a diamond crystal is born. Today’s readings challenge us to radiate the glory of the transfigured Jesus by renewing our lives by the observance of Lent.

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2: The transforming vision of Elisha’s servant:  

There is a mysterious story in II Kings that can help us understand what is happening in the transfiguration. Israel is at war with Aram and Elisha the man of God is using his prophetic powers to reveal to the Israelites the strategic plans of the Aramean army. At first the King of Aram thinks that one of his officers is playing the spy. But when he learns the truth, he dispatches troops to go and capture Elisha who is residing in Dothan. The Aramean troops move in under cover of darkness and surround the city. In the morning Elisha's servant is the first to discover that they are trapped and he fears for his master's safety. He runs to Elisha and says, "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" The prophet answers "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." But who would believe that when the surrounding mountainside is covered with advancing enemy troops? So Elisha prays, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." Then the Lord opens the servant's eyes, and he looks and sees the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-23). This vision was all that Elisha's disciple needed to reassure him. At the end of the story, not only was the prophet of God safe but the invading army was totally humiliated. The transfiguration scene described in today’s gospel was intended to have a similar effect on Peter and the other apostles who were really afraid for their master’s safety in the context of growing hatred against and opposition to Jesus.

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3: “Lord, give me the grace for transformation.”

The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance. Biologists call it metamorphosis (derived from the Greek word metamorphoomai used in Matthew’s gospel) to describe the change that occurs when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. As children we might have curiously watched the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly.  Fr. Anthony de Mello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man.  'I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: “Lord, give me the grace to change the world.” As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: “Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.”  Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been.  My one prayer now is: “Lord, give me the grace to change myself.”  If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.'

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4: The old farmer from the countryside who was visiting a big city for the first time with his son, stood speechless before the elevator of a big hotel, watching in wonder, as an old woman got into the elevator and, within minutes, a beautiful young woman came out. He called out to his son who was registering at the reception. “Son, put your mother into that miracle machine immediately. It will transform her into a beautiful young lady.”
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5: At the transfiguration Peter offered to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Jesus said, "And what about you, Peter?" And Peter replies, "Don't worry about me Lord, I got a better place in Jaffa."
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6. Does a fast-food nation get the church it deserves, or demands . . . . a fast-food church? Not if Lent has anything to do with it.  

Have you noticed that all the big fast food chains are touting their great new fish menus in the past couple of weeks?

McDonald's Fish McBites.
Wendy's Alaskan Pollack sandwiches.
Red Lobster's LobsterFest.
Popeye's Shrimp baskets.  

Economically it is a "down time." No big holidays this month and downright cold and wintery most places. The big chain restaurants are going to try and capitalize on anything they can. That includes Lent.

"Giving up" something for Lent has long meant, giving up rich goodies. Besides chocolate, red meat has always been near the top of that list. If you are old enough to remember those who only ate "fish on Friday," you can understand the sudden oceanic bent of McDonald's and Wendy's and other fast-food chains. If people of faith are "giving up" something for Lent, God-forbid that such a commitment should include "giving up" dining out at a fast food restaurant! Give them fast-food fish instead!

But Lent is not just a season of winnowing down, of doing without, of "giving up." In today's epistle text Paul reminds his readers that following Christ is about living as life as an advocate, as a positive force, not as an enemy, of the cross...
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7. The World of the Prophet   

What would you do if someone gave you one million dollars and then told you to come back as often as you liked and you could have whatever money you needed whenever you wanted? Just ask and it is yours. What if he told you to tell all your friends and they could also come and have a million dollars? Do you think you would tell your friends? Do you think you would show up regularly to receive more from this very wealthy and very generous person?  

What would you think if you told your friends and they had you arrested? What would you think if people said you were an idiot for getting money from this generous person? What if people killed you for telling them about this person who was giving away free money? Would you expect people to accuse you of being narrow minded when you told people that they couldn't get free money from any other person? Would you expect people to say things like, "You know if we get our money every week, we won't really appreciate it?" Would you expect people to hunt down this very wealthy, very generous person and kill him?  

Welcome to the world of the prophet. If you were to take my recent examples and replace the money with forgiveness, you would exactly describe the insanity that faces the prophet, the apostle, and all the messengers of God. God wants to cover us in His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation and for some reason, that makes people angry.

James T. Batchelor
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8. In the Form of a Man

The Hindu temple is built in the form of a man. The outer court raised on pillars and open on all sides is the human body, the inner court with its wide spaces is the human mind, the shrine room is the human soul. Man moves within himself into himself and there finds the presence of God.  

The Muslim mosque, too, is built in the form of a man. The central dome is man's head and the minarets are his hands upraised in prayer. Man comes to God through an act of adoration and submission. The Buddhist dogoba, too, is built in the form of a man. Its figure is that of a man in the posture of meditation: legs crossed the body erect, and the head held straight and unmoving. The approach to reality is by way of inner withdrawal from the world. 

The Christian church, too, is built in the form of a man, a man stretched out

upon a cross. And this has made all the difference. The church does not ask its followers to find their way, or to discover truth within. The church says one man, Jesus of Nazareth is that way, is the truth. He is life. We put our faith in him knowing  

Brett Blair
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9. Three Questions  

Jaques Maritain, the great French philosopher of the last century, said there were really only three questions that had to be answered: "Who am I?" "Where am I?" and "Where ought I to be going?" Jesus knew who he was, and where he was, and where he had to go. Lincoln knew. So have all great leaders and great men and women of faith known. Do we know? Or are we out of focus, our goals fuzzy and ill-defined? Our world is so insane, but not any more so than the world of Jesus. Most people in his day, went to work every day, and came home, and were pulled this way and that. And they didn't ask the big questions very often. We remember Jesus because he did.

William R. Boyer, As a Hen Gathers Her Brood
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10. Rejection and Refusal to Listen 

Robert Fulton, an artist and engineer was responsible in the early 1800's for putting sailing ships out of business. He made the steamboat a standard on the open seas. It is said that he presented his idea to Napoleon. After a few minutes of this presentation Napoleon is reported to have said, "What, sir, you would make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her decks? I pray you excuse me. I have no time to listen to such nonsense." 

Brett Blair
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11. The Old Mother Hen

Have you ever seen a chicken hawk go after its prey? The old mother hen is often aware of the presence of the hawk in time to gather her chicks under her wing. With a furious fuss she squawks till her brood is safe by her side. She fluffs out her wings and protects them with her own body. The chicken hawk dives and the old hen turns her body toward him and cocks a wary eye without moving from her children. The predator comes in again for the kill and the mother spreads her wings even wider. A third time he dives only to be thwarted by the determined self-sacrifice of the mother hen. She is too big to be a target and the chicks are too safe to be seized so he flies away.

Brett Blair
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12. Shelter

In Mission, British Columbia, a fellow by the name of Ike tells the story about his Grandpa's hen house which burned to the ground one day. Ike arrived just in time to help put out the last of the fire. As he and his grandfather sorted through the wreckage, they came upon one hen lying dead near what had been the door of the hen house. Her top feathers were singed brown by the fire's heat, her neck limp. Ike bent down to pick up the dead hen. As he did the hen's four chicks came scurrying out from beneath her burnt body. The chicks survived because they were insulated by the shelter of the hen's wings.

Richard J. Fairchild
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13. Compassion for the Suffering 

In England in the 1940s a young woman entered Oxford University with little focus. She had no idea what to do with her life. But she soon came under the influence of a colorful professor of English, a writer with a gift, named C. S. Lewis. She became a Christian through much of his influence.

She left Oxford, against the advice of friends and family, and began to study nursing. After five more years of rigorous training, she was certified as a nurse. 

But her story doesn't end there, for her questing Christian spirit would not let her rest with the way things were. You see, she ended up working on a cancer ward in a London hospital. Gradually, she came to realize that most of the doctors ignored the patients who were deemed terminally ill. As a result she watched many of them die virtually alone.

Greatly troubled she felt that Christian compassion needed to be expressed to these patients in a visible way...