March 8, 2020 – Second Sunday in Lent
I will be delivering the following homily today at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis:
Readings: Genesis 12:1-4, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, and Matthew 17:1-9 (The Transfiguration)
*Note: If you would like to hear this homily as delivered, go to: http://www.spxparish.org/resources/homilies/sermon/174-march-8-2020-homily
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”
Like many of you, I have a very full calendar. One result of having such a calendar is that I have become quite protective of my occasional blocks of unscheduled time. When something unexpected arises to fill that unscheduled time, I don’t respond well (or so I’m told).
The worst-case scenario is when an event or an appointment is on my calendar, but for some reason I have forgotten about it or I have looked at the wrong date. In reality the event is scheduled, but in my mind, I am free.
Then my phone beeps an appointment reminder, or my wife reminds me, or an event suddenly rushes back into my memory.
Perhaps I had forgotten that it was my night to go out and serve the homeless. Or the appointment with an engaged couple for marriage prep we scheduled weeks ago is tonight. Or I am reminded that I promised Shirley I would drop by the nursing home to visit her. These are all good things, and if they are on my calendar and on my mind, no problem. However, good things or not, if for some reason they are not on my radar, they are intrusive. I can actually resent these obligations.
Ironically, it is on just such occasions that something powerful or transformative seems to happen. God reminds me of the beauty of the work I am called to do.
When I suddenly remembered it was my night to serve the homeless, I left the house resenting this obligation. After three hours of looking into the eyes of the homeless and being in solidarity with fellow human beings in need, I was humbled. Hearing their gratitude and listening to their stories, I was strengthened and affirmed. Christ was revealed to me and I was overwhelmed by the privilege of doing this work. I returned home no longer resentful but nourished and enriched.
It is good that I was there.
I entered our house and saw four plates on the dining room table. Why were there four plates on a night I had thought was unscheduled? That’s when Carol reminded me that we were meeting with one of our engaged couples for marriage prep. I immediately resented the obligation and got cranky.
Two hours later, I felt blessed. The couple was so appreciative that we took the time to be with them. Their answers to our questions gave us hope for the future; they were real and honest. They sincerely looked forward to a sacramental marriage and willingly embraced the obligation each would have to get the other to heaven. I was inspired. Christ was revealed to me in the love and intentionality of this young couple.
It is good that I was there.
I was already on my way home when my phone beeped and a reminder message popped up on the screen – Visit Shirley. I have shared stories of Shirley in the past, so I won’t go into too much detail. Let’s just say that when she lived next door to me, Shirley was not the most delightful person to be around. Living in a nursing home has not exactly brightened her personality. I turned my car around. I was not going to enjoy a brief period of free time, but would be visiting Shirley instead – and I resented it.
The visit with Shirley was oddly uplifting. She was almost personable. Her glass was half full that day. She was appreciative and asked about me and how I was doing. The visit ended with Shirley telling me that I was the only person that cared about her and how much my visit meant to her. Christ was revealed to me, shining through the heart of a lonely old woman.
It is good that I was there.
I wonder if this was the case with Peter, James, and John. Was this a scheduled trip to the mountaintop? Or was this another case of Jesus spontaneously saying, “C’mon guys, let’s go pray.” Did they secretly roll their eyes and think to themselves, “This is not on my calendar” or “Why can’t we just pray here?” Did they resent the invitation?
The trip to the mountaintop, however, proved to be transformative. They saw Jesus transfigured. They experienced a range of emotions including joy, awe, wonder, humility, and even fear. Christ was literally revealed to them by God himself.
Peter captured their gratitude with the simple words, “It is good that we are here.”
It is good that we are here – today…in this church.
Perhaps you came to church eagerly and enthusiastically; it was scheduled and planned for as it is each week. Some of us may be here reluctantly or skeptically, perhaps prodded by others. Maybe some of us are thinking of other things we could be doing or would rather be doing and may even resent the obligation to attend Mass.
Whatever state we find ourselves in, it is good that we are here.
This Mass, and every Mass, is transformative. Jesus is transfigured, or transubstantiated, right before our eyes. Wheat wafers and altar wine become the real Body and real Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Christ is revealed to us not only in the Eucharist, but also in the Word of God spoken to us through the scriptures, in the person of our presiding priest, and in one another – the communal Body of Christ.
Each time we come to Mass, we have the same experience that Peter, James, and John had on that mountaintop nearly 2,000 years ago – Christ transfigured and Christ revealed.
There are, however, two small differences between our experiences. First, I question whether or not we feel the same level of awe and excitement that the three disciples felt on that mountaintop. I can’t help but feel we take the beauty and wonder of the Mass for granted. That should never be the case when experiencing the revelation of Christ – it should bring only joy and the childlike anticipation of our next opportunity.
The second difference is what we are told at the conclusion of our experience.
Jesus told Peter, James, and John, “Do not tell the vision to anyone…”
Jesus directs us, “Go tell everyone!”
It is good that we are here.