2nd Sunday of Lent (C)

FR TONY'S HOMILYRCIA LESSONSFAITH FORMATION LESSONS
SALVATION ARMY (2:42) Inspired by the Founder of The Salvation Army’s famous rallying call, this is a new reimagining of ‘I’ll Fight’ for 2020. William and Catherine Booth fought tirelessly for justice and for God’s will to be done. Will you?
FEATURED HOMILY ANECDOTE

“I’ll Fight, I’ll Fight,
I’ll Fight to the Very End”

William Booth (1829 – 1912) who became disillusioned with the political wrangling of the Methodists, left his church and started the Salvation Army, a Christian mission in the poverty-stricken East Side of London that reached out to the worst., declaring war on poverty and homelessness. Or, as William Booth said:

“While women weep, as they do now. I’ll fight. While children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight. While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end.”

That was over one hundred years ago. It seems like the kind of war all of us could get behind, the war on poverty, the war on homelessness.

Maybe it’s time for another William Booth… Discipleship is a matter of your heart. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,/Look full in His wonderful face,” as Peter did on the Mount of Transfiguration. He’ll give you a lift. He’ll give you a life.

NOTE: These words still reverberate today in 2022 with President Zelenskyy (who is Jewish) refusing an American offer to evacuate Ukraine, insisting that he would stay. “The fight is here,” he said.  He and many of the Ukrainian people are willing to die to uphold their home country, their freedom and democracy.

MORE HOMILY ANECDOTES


SCRIPTURE COMMENTARY

Readings Summarized

The readings for the Second Sunday of Lent highlight Jesus’ identity as God’s beloved Son (revealed at his baptism by John and Transfiguration) and confront us with the mystery of Jesus’ death on the cross. In order to experience the joy of Easter in this life and the joy and glory of the Resurrection in the next life, we need to face the Cross head-on. Each of the Synoptic Gospels contains an account of the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10; Lk 9:28-36). No such account appears in the Gospel of John, in which one might say that Jesus is somewhat transfigured as the transcendent Son of God on earth all the way through! The Transfiguration is also referred to in 2 Pt 1:18. The main theme of today’s readings is an invitation as well as a challenge to us to do what Abraham did — put our Faith in the loving promises of the merciful God — Who sent His Son to die for us and to transform our lives by renewing them during Lent. Our transformed lives will enable us to radiate the glory and grace of the transfigured Lord to all around us by our Spirit-filled lives. The three readings describe the spiritual transformation experiences of three of our heroes in the Faith, Abraham, Paul and, of course, Jesus.

FR. TONY’S HOMILIES

First Reading

The first reading describes the transformation of Abram, a pagan patriarch, into a believer in the one God (Who would later “transform” Abram’s name to Abraham), and the first covenant of God with Abraham’s family as a reward for Abraham’s Faith and obedience to God.

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Additional insights on the First Reading from Fr. Tony

The Church gives us the story of Abraham at the beginning of Lent for two reasons. First, we are called to have the same Faith as Abraham. Second, what Abraham did with Isaac foreshadows God the Father’s sacrifice of His only-begotten Son 1800 years later; this is what we are preparing to celebrate at the end of Lent. Abram (God later changed his name to Abraham), is presented as the first person since Noah to hear and heed the Voice of God. At God’s prompting, Abram moved his considerable holdings from the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) to a land he knew not (modern Palestine). As a reward for Abram’s trust and obedience, God promised him numerous descendants. He also promised Abram a land for himself and his family. When Abram asked for a sign that would seal this promise, God entered into a unilateral contract with him, using an ancient ritual of contract.  The parties who wanted to seal a contract would split the carcass of one or more animals, lay the halves on the ground, and walk between them, saying “May I be so split in half if I fail to keep the agreement we are sealing here.” Abram fell into a trance and witnessed the procession of the fire pot and torch moving between the carcass halves. This symbolized God’s presence and action.   As this was a unilateral contract between God and Abraham, Abraham was not asked to walk between the carcass halves. The Holy Spirit, through the Church, has chosen this reading for us today because the story of Abraham prefigures the unwavering Faith of Jesus Christ who strengthens the Faith of his disciples for the Paschal event of his passion, death and Resurrection glory. Today’s Responsorial Psalm, (Ps 27), provides words for us to express our own Faith in God  and in His unfailing love, the Faith that supported Abraham, Paul, and Jesus in their trials.


Responsorial Psalm

The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 91), points to Satan’s third temptation of Jesus in the desert as recorded in Luke’s Gospel.


Second Reading

The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 27) declares that Faith, singing, “I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” In the second reading, St. Paul argues that it is not observance of the Mosaic Law and circumcision that transforms people into Christians, and hence, that Gentiles need not become Jews to become Christians. St. Paul urges us to stand firm in our Faith and to live a life of discipleship with Jesus now, so that we may share in a glorious future later.

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Additional insights on the Second Reading from Fr. Tony

Among early Christians in several places there was a controversy about whether one had to keep the old Jewish law in order to be a follower of Christ. Saint Paul argues forcefully here that one does not have to do so. Those who say one must, are really “enemies of the cross of Christ,” because they’re acting as if the death and Resurrection of Jesus are not what save us; rather, they hold that keeping the Mosaic Law is what saves them. In particular, the Law required eating kosher food and having males circumcised. The food is what Paul alludes to in ridiculing their devotion to their stomachs, and the circumcision is what he means when he says they glory in their “shame.” St. Paul reminds us that the Christian journey of transformation is radically initiated at Baptism, but needs to be perfected day by day, until the end of time when “Christ will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” Transformed by love, grace, and Faith, Paul emerges from his conversion experience with a new heart, mind, and will. Totally given to Christ, he helps others to welcome that same transforming power of God into their own lives. St. Paul tells us that by Baptism we have become citizens of Heaven even though we live as expatriates here. When the Lord comes again, he will transform our mortal bodies into glorified bodies and complete the work begun in his death and Resurrection. The reading challenges us to welcome the transforming power of God’s love and to cooperate with the transforming power of God’s grace.


Gospel

In the Transfiguration account in today’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed as a glorious figure, superior to Moses and Elijah. The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to allow Him to consult his Heavenly Father in order to ascertain His plan for His Son’s suffering, death, and Resurrection. The secondary aim was to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of his Divine glory, so that they might discard their worldly ambitions and dreams of a conquering political Messiah and might be strengthened in their time of trialOn the mountainJesus is identified by the Heavenly Voice as the Son of God. Thus, the Transfiguration experience is a Christophany, that is, a manifestation or revelation of Who Jesus really is. Describing Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Gospel gives us a glimpse of the Heavenly glory awaiting those who do God’s will by putting their trusting Faith in Him.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

The objectiveThe Holy Spirit, through Church, invites us to reflect on Christ’s humanity by presenting the temptations of Christ on the first Sunday of Lent, But, on the second Sunday, by presenting the Transfiguration scene, the Church invites us to reflect on Christ’s Divinity. The Transfiguration of Our Lord, like Christmas, is a Christological Feast. In the Incarnation, the Divine enters the human condition. In the Transfiguration, the human shares in Divine glory. The Transfiguration of Our Lord on this Second Sunday in Lent gives those at worship a glimpse of the coming future glory of Christ on Easter. But it also reminds us that the only way to Easter is through the cross. The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to allow him to consult his Heavenly Father in order to ascertain His plan for His Son’s suffering, death and Resurrection.  The secondary aim was to make Jesus’ chosen disciples aware of his Divine glory so that they might discard their worldly ambitions and dreams of a conquering political Messiah and might be strengthened in their time of trial. Further, the Transfiguration enabled Jesus to present himself to the apostles as Israel’s redeemer, as had already been foretold by the prophets (St. Ephrem).  The Transfiguration established Jesus’ glorious identity as the beloved Son of God and placed His Divine Sonship in the context of Jewish expectations about the Kingdom and the Resurrection.  The Transfiguration took place in late summer, just prior to the Feast of Tabernacles.  Hence, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Transfiguration at about the time of the year when it actually occurred in order to connect it with the Old Testament Feast of the Tabernacles.  The Western tradition recalls the Transfiguration at the beginning of Lent, and then celebrates the formal feast in the same season, on August 6. (Some Bible scholars think that the transfiguration narrative has been influenced and informed by the early Christian community’s post-Easter Faith. Some even argue that the transfiguration was actually a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, which the evangelists anachronized into the period of his earthly ministry).

The location of the Transfiguration was probably Mount Hermon in North Galilee, near Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus had camped a week before this wondrous event.  Mt. Hermon was a desolate mountain, 9200 feet high.  The traditional oriental belief that Transfiguration took place on Mount Tabor is based on Psalm 89:12. But Mount Tabor is a small mountain or a big hill in the south of Galilee, less than 1000 feet high, with a Roman fort built on it.  Hence, it would have been an unlikely place for solitude and prayer.   Moses and Elijah received God’s revelations on mountains. Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1-17). Elijah fled to Mount Horeb, and there, God spoke to him in “a sound of sheer silence” (1 Kings 19:12, NRSV; “a still small voice,” RSV 2 Catholic). It is those two men who appear on the mountain with Jesus and his companions.

The scene of Heavenly glory:   While praying, Jesus was transfigured into a shining figure, full of Heavenly glory. “In 1st century Judaism and in the NT, there was the belief that the righteous get new, glorified bodies in order to enter heaven (1 Cor 15:42–49; 2 Cor 5:1–10). This transformation means the righteous will share the glory of God. One recalls the way Moses shared the Lord’s glory after his visit to the mountain in Ex 34. So the disciples saw Jesus transfigured, and they were getting a sneak preview of the great glory that Jesus would have. (NET Bible notes).”

Moses and Elijah are seen with Jesus at the Transfiguration, because both of them had experienced the Lord in all His glory.  Moses had first met the Lord in the burning bush at Mount Horeb (Ex 3:1-4). The Transfiguration scene closely resembles God’s revelation on Mt. Sinai to Moses, who also brought along three companions and whose face also shone brilliantly (see Ex 24:1; 34:29).  After his encounter with God on Sinai, Moses’ face shone so brightly that the people were frightened, and thereafter, whenever Moses went into the Tent to consult the Lord, he had to wear a veil over his face when he came out (Ex 34:29-35). The Jews believed that Moses had been taken up in a cloud at end of his earthly life (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 4. 326). Elijah traveled for forty days to Mt. Horeb on the strength of the food brought by an angel (1 Kgs 19:8).  At Mt. Horeb, Elijah sought refuge in a cave as the glory of the Lord passed over him (1 Kgs 19:9-18).  Finally, Elijah was taken directly to heaven in a chariot of fire without seeing death (2 Kgs 2:11 -15).

These representatives of the Law and the Prophets – Moses and Elijah – foreshadowed Jesus, who is the culmination of the Law and the Prophets.  Both earlier prophets were initially rejected by the people but vindicated by God.  The Jews believed that the Lord had buried Moses in an unknown place after his death (Dt 34:5-6), and that Elijah had been carried to heaven in a whirlwind (II Kgs 2:11).  Thus, the implication is that, although God spared Elijah from the normal process of death and Moses from normal burial, He did not spare His Son from suffering and death. Peter, overwhelmed at the scene, exclaimed how good it was for them to be there.   His remark about three booths (or tents) may be a reference to the Jewish festival of Succoth, the most joyful of Jewish days, when booths were erected in which the people dwelt during the time of the feast and from which all kinds of presents and sweets came.  It commemorates God’s protection during the wilderness wanderings (Lv 23:39-43). As such the booths also symbolize a time of rest, which could be interpreted allegorically as the messianic rest.  Or they may be a reference of reverence, alluding to tabernacles to house the patriarchs and the Son of God.

God the Father’s Voice from the cloud: “In the Old Testament the cloud covered the meeting tent, indicating the Lord’s presence in the midst of his people (Ex 40:34-35) and came to rest upon the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of its dedication (1 Kgs 8:10).” (NAB notes). The book of Exodus describes how God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai from the cloud.  God often made appearances in a cloud (Ex 24:15-17; 13:21-22; 34:5; 40:34; 1 Kgs 8:10-11).   I Kgs, 8: 10 tells us how, by the cover of a cloud, God revealed His presence in the Ark of the Covenant and in the Temple of Jerusalem on the day of its dedication.  The Jews generally believed that the phenomenon of the cloud would be repeated when the Messiah arrived.  God the Father, Moses and Elijah approved the plan regarding Jesus’ suffering, death and Resurrection.  God’s words from the cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him,” are the same words used by God at Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:17), with the addition of “listen to Him.”  At the moment of Jesus’ death, a Roman centurion would declare, “Truly, this man was the Son of God” (Mk 15:39).  These words summarize the meaning of the Transfiguration, that on this mountain, God revealed Jesus as His Son — His beloved — the One in whom He is always well pleased and the One to whom we must listen. By the words “This is my Son; listen to Him!” Jesus is not simply presented to the apostles as the Son of God, but as God’s mouthpiece. This designation is especially significant in the presence of Moses and Elijah because it tells the apostles that Jesus is the voice of God par excellence—even compared with the Law and the Prophets—through his filial relationship with the Father. The experience is directed to the prophets as well, granting them a theophany in the person of Christ; Moses and Elijah had wished to see God in the Old Testament, and the Transfiguration of Christ fulfilled their wish.” (Andreas Andreopoulos, Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and Iconography, 48-49). While Peter’s suggestion to build three tents may have sprung from an enthusiastic desire to prolong such a wondrous moment of grace, it was probably prompted by the popular expectation (Zec 14:16), that the Messiah would appear in glory during the feast of Sukkoth (Tents or Tabernacles).  According to Dr. Watson, “the Transfiguration demonstrates the glorious value of Jesus’ suffering and death. This story reminds us that the extent of God’s love for us is revealed in the suffering and death of Jesus, which, though painted in hues of defeat and disgrace, is really an image of unimaginable victory and glory.”

The three transformations in our lives in our journey towards eternity: The first transformation in our lives begins at Baptism which washes away original sin, transforming us into children of God and heirs of heaven. The second transformation takes place through our victory over the trials and tribulations of life.  Every challenge, every difficulty, every moment of suffering is an opportunity for transformation and spiritual growth. The third transformation takes place at death.  Eternal life in Heaven, perhaps after a period of further transformation in Purgatory, is granted to those who have been found worthy.  A final, completing transformation or transfiguration will occur at the Second Coming when our glorified body is reunited with our soul.

The Catechism on transfiguration: In both the Transfiguration and the Gethsemane experiences, it is clear that the events are pointing to the Cross ahead, the way of suffering (CCC #555). Is it possible that we “miss” mountaintop experiences because we are not open to accepting the way of the cross that might be in our present or future? Jesus taught us to pray to our Father in heaven, “Not my will but thine be done.” As with Abraham and Jesus, prayerful listening is our own ‘mountain’ into the divine presence. Jesus always prays before the decisive moments and events in his life and mission, as well as before decisive moments involving his disciples. Can we imitate his trusting and humble commitment to his Father’s will (CCC #2600)?

APPLICATION

Life messages

Choose AS MANY AS TIME ALLOWS

(1) The “transfiguration” in the Holy Mass is the source of our strength: In each Holy Mass, the bread and wine we offer on the altar become “transfigured” or transformed (transubstanted) into the living Body and Blood soul and Divinity of the crucified, risen, and glorified Jesus. Just as Jesus’ Transfiguration was meant to strengthen the apostles in their time of trial, each holy Mass should be our source of Heavenly strength against temptations, and for our Lenten renewal.

(2) Each time we receive one of the Sacraments, we are transformed: For example, Baptism transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us temples of the Holy Spirit and warriors of God. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. (

3) The Transfiguration of Jesus offers us a message of encouragement and hope: In moments of doubt and during our dark moments of despair and hopelessness, the thought of our own transfiguration in Heaven will help us to reach out to God and to listen to His consoling words to Jesus: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased — listen to Him!” and so share the glory of His transfiguration.

4) We need “mountain-top experiences” in our lives: We share the mountain-top experience of Peter, James, and John when we spend extra time in prayer during Lent. Fasting for one day can help the body to store up spiritual energy. This spiritual energy can help us have thoughts that are far higher and nobler than our usual mundane thinking.

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Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

3) We need to be on guard against veiled temptations: Let us remember that even Spirit-filled, sanctified and vibrant Christians are still subject to the Original Temptation of Eve: “You will be like gods, knowing what is good and what is evil” (Gn 3:5). We are tempted to give ourselves godlike status and treat others as our subordinates. Consequently, we resent every limitation of our freedom and vigorously deny the fact that we are dependent on God and on others. We don’t want to be responsible for the consequences of our choices. We are also tempted to accomplish honorable goals by less-than-honorable means such as the use of lotteries to help schools, or casinos to provide jobs for Native Americans, thus setting traps for the most vulnerable members of our society. These are veiled temptations to accomplish good ends by bad means. We are also tempted to fraternize with people of questionable character. Our temptation to adopt pop culture in liturgical services can ultimately lead to trivialization of the worship service.

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 

CHOOSE ONE

# 1: 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, come on here, put your mother into that miracle machine immediately. It will transform her into a beautiful young lady.”

# 2: 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.”

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week.

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