Fr. Jolly’s Homily for Sunday, March 8, 2020

2nd Sunday of Lent- Transfiguration of Jesus

The purpose of life is transformation. Bible says ‘Christians are being slowly transformed into the image and likeness of Christ’. It is like the transformation of a butterfly: caterpillar – cocoon – and finally, a Monarch butterfly. It is beautiful! Through the disciplines of fasting, praying and almsgiving, hungering for such transformation, let’s celebrate the Mass today!

 

Almost 32 years ago, the word of the Lord came to me and said “Go forth from the land of your kinsmen and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.”  These were the words my heart was hearing when I left my home at the age of 15 to go to the seminary.   Of course, there was the excitement of going to seminary and taking a big step in my journey of life. But, at the same time, there was also the fear of the unknown and especially the missing of the comfort of home.  I had to cut down my relationship and communication with my family to a couple of times a year. It meant strict discipline, prayer life, and formation for almost 12 years. I had to give up several of my favorite routines and habits. As result, I can say that I became a blessing not only to myself and my family, but to the Christians throughout the world.

In today’s first reading from Genesis 12:1-4a, God’s word came to Abram with a command, “Go forth from your country and your kinsmen and your father’s house.” There was a lot of difference in going forth for Abraham. It was a time when, no mail, or e-mail, or phone, or cellphone or no plane or train was available. Going forth meant, that is it. It was very important in those days, stay at your father’s house and continue the family business and tradition. That is when the Lord is calling Abram.

God is calling Abram to a loyalty and a commitment that transcends even his family ties, the most important of all relationships in the ancient world.  When Abram showed the willingness, courage and commitment to follow the Lord, Abram became a blessing; not only to himself and his household but to the whole world. Abram became Abraham; Abraham became the father of believers. He is respected and venerated by the followers of three world religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  He is the founding father of the nation of Israel.  He is gloriously mentioned 308 times both in the Old and New Testaments.  He is a man whose life changed the course of world history.

What does the meaning of “go forth” look like in our life? It means different things to different people. Being a priest for almost 20 years, I think back on the journey thus far and see how truly blessed I am.  But all these blessings came when I took the pain to go forth from my comfort zone, and then  was willing to go through tough discipline and formation in my life. There have been so many challenges, so many difficulties, sufferings, and many times I have felt disappointed.  But the Lord was present in the midst of my difficulties, in the midst of my sufferings, in the midst of everyday hustle and bustle of life. It was true with Abraham too. You wouldn’t believe what he had to go through.

Many people easily get caught up in the wanting to stay comfortable, to stay in the land of our kinsmen, or, as Peter tells Jesus in the Gospel, “Lord it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  Think of everything that would not have happened if I had decided to stay at my home. Think of everything that would not have happened if Abram had decided to stay with his kinsmen. Think of everything that would not have happened if Peter would have set up three tents.  Think of how many people would not have had the opportunity to meet Jesus; how many people Peter and the other apostles would not have been able to disciple to and introduce to Jesus.  No, Jesus doesn’t set up tents- He is always moving forward, always embracing more people and inviting them into relationship with Him.  How are you doing so far in this Lenten journey?  Are you moving forward with Christ, continuing to prepare your heart for the resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday?  Have you become stuck, wanting to stay in your old habits, maybe even your own pattern of sin? How hard it is to give up our addiction and follow Jesus to the unknown. But when you have the courage, determination, dedication and willingness to do the sacrifice, you become a blessing not only to yourself and your immediate family but to the rest of humanity.  “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  Where is Jesus inviting you today? As followers of Jesus we are all called to a wider mission than just self-preservation.

The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance. Biologists call it metamorphosis (derived from the Greek), 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 cocoon or larva 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 elderly 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 this simple prayer right from the beginning, I should not have wasted my life.”

Brothers and sisters, our challenge during this Lent is not to change the whole world or husband, wife, children and so forth. It is to change ourselves. When each and every one of us do that, we become a blessing and the whole world becomes a heavenlike place. Have a blessed Lenten journey!

While praying, Jesus was transfigured into a shining figure; full of Heavenly glory. The transubstantiation in the Holy Mass is the source of our strength.  In each Holy Mass, our offering of bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine.  Hence, just as the transfiguration strengthened the Apostles in their time of trial, each Holy Mass should be our source of Heavenly strength against our own temptations and a source of renewal of our lives during Lent.  In addition, communion with Jesus should be a source of daily transformation of both our minds and hearts.  We must also be transformed by becoming humbler and more selfless, sharing love, compassion, and forgiveness with others. But in our everyday lives, we often fail to recognize Jesus when He appears to us “transfigured”; hidden in someone who is in some kind of need.  Jesus will be happy when we attend to the needs of that person.  We must see Jesus in every one of our brothers and sisters, the children of God we come across each day.

Each Sacrament that we receive transforms us.   Baptism, for example, transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven.  Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit.  By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. By receiving the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick in faith we are spiritually and, if God wills, physically healed, and our sins are forgiven.

During the time of transfiguration a voice came from heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him”. At the end of your Lenten journey, will you have enough transformation that God can look at you and testify “this is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter?