Saturday, March 19, 2011

Eyes wide open

HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT, March 20, 2011:
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Moses, Jesus and an old man in a flowing white robe and long white beard went golfing. Moses went first and hit the ball. It sailed over the fairway and landed in the water trap. Moses parted the water and chipped the ball onto the green. Next, Jesus hit the ball. It went sailing over the fairway and also landed in the water trap. Jesus walked on the water and chipped the ball onto the green. Finally, the old man hit the ball. This time, it sailed over the fairway headed for the water trap. But, just before it fell into the water, a fish jumped up and grabbed the ball in its mouth. As the fish fell back down into the water, an eagle swooped down and grabbed the fish in its claws. The eagle flew over the green where a lightning bolt shot from the sky and barely missed it. Startled, the eagle dropped the fish. As the fish hit the ground, the ball popped out of its mouth and rolled into the hole for a hole-in-one. Jesus shrugged His shoulders, turned to the old man and said, “Dad, if you don't stop fooling around, we won't bring you next time.”

Jesus “was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” Take a moment to take in that sight. What must it have been like for the disciples to see something so incredible – Jesus is transfigured, glorified, wrapped in the mantle of God’s wonder – all in the sight of three simple fishermen, Peter, James and John.

As we enter into our Second full week of our Lenten journey, our liturgy gives us a reminder that our spiritual practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving are not meant to bring us down – but that they have glory as their goal; the same glory that the disciples experienced on the mount of Transfiguration. We remember that while we focus so much on the Cross during this season, it is a Cross that leads to the ultimate glory.

For Peter, James and John, this moment of Transfiguration was a defining moment in their lives. Up until now, they had seen Jesus in normal, everyday ways. Yes, He was a teacher unlike any they had ever experienced up until that point, but He had not yet really revealed His divinity to them. In this moment they saw Him in a new and spectacular way; they experienced this miraculous presence of Moses and Elijah; they heard most wondrously the very voice of God echoing from Heaven, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” And, from this moment, everything was different. From this moment, they began to see Jesus in a different light.

And it was an experience they would never forget. We know this from the Second Letter of Peter, where St. Peter writes, “With our own eyes we saw his greatness. We were there when he was given honor and glory by the Father, when the voice came to him from the Supreme Glory, saying, ‘This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased!’ We ourselves heard this voice coming from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.” This letter was written 35 years after the resurrection; shortly before St. Peter would also be crucified. He remembered this moment until the end.

While we may not have had quite the experience that Peter, James and John did; hopefully, we too have had some experience of transfiguration in our own lives. Hopefully, we have also had moments when, even for a split second, we seem to glimpse a reality beyond this one. These are moments when for an instant we see beyond the ordinary to something extraordinary - God’s true presence in our midst.

For me, the Eucharist is this moment of transfiguration par excellence. We gather in this church around this simple table and present mere bread and wine. And just as amazingly as on that mountain, it is transformed in our midst, transfigured into the very living presence of God. We begin with elements that are common, ordinary, mundane. We end up with something heavenly, extraordinary and miraculous. If our hearts and our spirits are well enough attuned; if we listen carefully, we too may hear a heavenly voice say, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The problem is that too often we don’t believe these experiences are real. Perhaps we forget that they have happened. Perhaps we close our selves off to the heavenly realm – only allowing ourselves to accept what can be seen, touched and verified. How sad this is. The reality is that Jesus is constantly revealing Himself to us. When our eyes our opened we begin to see that we live in a near constant state of Transfiguration. But, we are usually too busy or otherwise occupied to notice. We have stopped our hearts from hearing Him; seeing Him; allowing ourselves to ascend that mountain.

Jesus is calling us all today to leave this world behind; to ascend the holy mountain. He wants us to leave our earthly distractions that keep us from seeing His presence all around us. He wants to take us up to a high mountain alone with Him as he did with Peter, James and John. Our Lenten challenge is to shed away the things that blind us from being witnesses to Jesus’ miraculous presence all around us – so powerfully in the Eucharist, but also in our families, among our friends, in the faces of the homeless, the poor, the needy – everywhere we look, Jesus is there if only our eyes are opened.

As we prayed in our opening prayer, “Lord, open our hearts to the voice of your word and free us from the original darkness that shadows our vision. Restore our sight that we may look upon your Son.”

Yes, Lord, restore our sight that we may look and wherever we look, see you’re your Son.

May God give you peace.

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