06 August 2017Transfiguration

Homily from Father James Gilhooley

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord: Bringing the Mountain Down

If you ever go to Brekenridge, Colorado, you will see a large, round topped mountain overlooking the village. That's Mt Quandary. It's a 14,000 footer, and a rigorous but make-able hike, even for someone like me. I remember climbing Quandary one summer. I had to get up early to get onto the trail by 7 am. It's about a five hour hike, but thunderstorms start rolling in during the early afternoon, so you have to get up the mountain by noon and only spend a little time on the summit. When I did it, I really hated to turn around and leave the mountain. The view was spectacular. You could see the peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park to the North. You could see Pike's Peak to the Southeast. But I didn't want to become a human lightning rod, so I started down by one and was safely below when the storms hit the peak a couple of hours later. When I got to the bottom I had a Rocky Mountain High. I felt a real rush knowing that I had done it. For the rest of my stay in that area, I would look up at Mt. Quandary and feel that same rush, that same high, in more meanings than one. Peter, James and John felt a huge rush on the top of a mountain in today's Gospel.

They saw Jesus there, transformed, or transfigured. His face shown like the sun. His clothes were dazzling white. Moses and Elijah were also there. "It is good for us to be here,” Peter said. "Let us pitch some tents for everyone, so we can hold on to this experience.” But they couldn't do that. They had to leave the mountain, and rejoin the people of the world, people searching for the mountain, people searching for the experience of God. The rush the disciples felt on the top of that mountain was infinitely better than the one I felt after climbing Mt Quandary, but not better than the feelings I have had and hopefully you have had when we sense the Presence of the Divine, the Presence of Jesus among us and within us. Sometimes we feel this Presence during a Parish Mission, or during a retreat.

Sometimes we feel this Presence in Church during one of the peak celebrations of the year, Christmas, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday. Sometimes we feel this presence at special prayer events like the Taize Services, Eucharistic Adoration or XLT, the Life Teen praise, worship and adoration services. Or sometimes it will come during what might seem to be a routine event, like daily Mass (as though Christ's offering Himself on the Cross for us could ever be routine.) But what happens between the rushes, between the experiences? If we just live to go from one experience to the next, we'll live in two world, the nitty gritty world of everyday life with its problems and trials, and the wonderful world of the retreat, service etc. Besides, not everyone has these experiences or has them in the same intensity. Not having these experiences does not mean that we don't treasure the Presence of God. St. Theresa of Avila wrote that she went thirty years feeling empty and dry. St. Theresa of Calcutta wrote something similar. She said that for many, many years she never felt God's Presence, but He was there all the same. Religion must be more than those wonderful experiences we may or may not have.

The very word religion comes from the Latin, religo, and means being tied to God. If we Catholics are serious about our faith, we need to be tied to Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives. We frustrate ourselves if we are holy on the mountain and everything but holy when we leave the mountain. We become bitterly disappointed when we look for feelings instead of for God. We need to nourish the Presence of the Lord and we need to bring this Presence to others. But how can we do it? How can we nourish His Presence in our daily lives and bring His Presence to others? That is why we have the Eucharist. That is why we have the Scripture, the Word of God. That is why we have the Mass. We receive the Eucharist to unite ourselves to Him who is our Love and to build up our commitment to Him. We read Scripture to make His Word a Living reality in our lives. We celebrate the Mass to be united again to him at the Last Supper, on Calvary, at the Resurrection. We have to worship Him daily in our homes. We need to receive Him at least once a week in communion.

We need the Eucharist. And we need to trust in Him. We need to have faith that if we are open to Him, He will draw us closer to Himself today than ever before and use us as instruments to draw others to Himself, even when we don't feel His Presence, perhaps, especially when we don't feel His Presence. The Presence of the Lord, whether we feel it or not, is not ours to hoard. Christ did not come to the world to create a selfish clique of people who turn in upon themselves in all things. He came to the world to bring His Joy, His Happiness, His Peace and His Presence to all people. A religion that closes in on itself, is not religion at all.

True religion lives in God's presence and brings this presence to others. But how are we to do this? The Old Testament Book of the Prophet Micah tells us how to live our faith. What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8. To do justice means that we treat others as God treats us. You remember the parable of the steward who was forgiven a great debt but who refused to forgive another man who owed him a pittance. The steward was condemned by the master because he was unjust. He did not treat others as God treated Him. On the opposite, the Good Samaritan is called justified because he brought God's mercy and compassion to someone who needed help, even though that person might have grown up being taught to hate Samaritans. To do justice means to bring to others the love and compassion we have received from God. Micah says that we are to love kindness. I am convinced that if anyone were to ask the original disciples what was Jesus like when they spent those three years with Him, they would have said, "He was kind.” I think about the woman caught in adultery. She was embarrassed. He was kind to her. I'm thinking about the little girl he rose from the dead–Tabitha. He told her parents, "She's hungry, get her something to eat.” I'm thinking about the way he reached out to Peter, a disciple who publically denied him three times. He was too kind to give up on Peter. Micah says that we are to walk humbly with our God.

We need to point to His presence in our lives and recognize how good He has been to each of us. We need to let people know that just as His Love has overwhelmed us, He will overwhelm them. We need to walk with Him humbly recognizing who we are: sinners that He is turning into saints. We need to be happy. We do not walk alone. He is with us always, until the end of time. No one wants to joint the First Church of the Perpetual Grouch. But people do want to be with people who are sincerely happy, people who know that God is with them. Usually at the start of the school year, teachers will ask children to write an essay or to talk about their summer. I challenge you, whether you are little children or are in Senior Show and Tell, or whether you are adults who have come to a realization of what truly matters in life, I challenge you and I challenge myself: Tell people about the mountain. Tell them about the experience of our Loving, Wonderful Savior. Speak to them in a language they can understand: Be Just, Love Kindness and Walk Humbly with God. If we have the courage to do this, we will bring the mountain down to the valley.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Spiritual Warfare Week 7: A Father Who Keeps His Promise (August 6, 2017)

Message: In Jesus you and I have a Father who cares - a Father who keeps his promises. This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Transfiguration. I want to place this feast in the context of our summer series on spiritual warfare. The last two Sundays we saw the high stakes of this war: that each person will either be rejected or become part of the great harvest. To obtain that prize, Jesus tells us, we must risk everything, sell all we have to gain the hidden treasure. Today we see good reason for risking all: In Jesus we have a Father cares for us. "This is my beloved son," says the voice from heaven. Through Jesus we become sons and daughters of the Father. We have a Father who keeps his promises. Dr. Scott Hahn illustrates the Father's fidelity with a story from the 1998 Armenian earthquake.

With a 6.9 magnitude the quake flattened buildings and killed some 25,000 people. In the chaos a man ran looking for his son. He couldn't stop thinking about the promise he had given so many times: "No matter what happens, Armand, I'll always be there." He reached the site of his son's school only to find a hill of rubble. At first he just stood fighting back tears, then took off stumbling over debris running toward the east corner where his son's classroom had been. With bare hands he started digging, pulling bricks and pieces of wall plaster. One of the bystanders said, "Forget it, mister, they're all dead." He looked up and replied, "You can criticize me or you can help lift these bricks." Only a few pitched in, and most of them gave up once their muscles began to ache. The man couldn't stop thinking about his son, so he kept digging for hours and hours. Twelve hours went by...18...24...36 hours...finally into the 38th hour he heard a muffled groan from under a piece of wallboard. The man grabbed the board, pulled it back and cried, "Armand!" From the darkness came a slight, shaking voice, "Papa?"

Other weak voices began calling out as the young survivors stirred beneath the rubble. Shouts of bewildered relief came from the few onlookers who remained. They found 14 of the 33 students still alive. When Armand finally emerged he tried to help dig out his surviving classmates. Everybody standing there heard him as he turned to his friends and said, "See, I told you my father wouldn't forget us." Scott Hahn recounts this story in his wonderful book A Father Who Keeps His Promises. He concludes with this sentence: "That's the kind of faith we need, because that's the kind of Father we have." Today we join the three favored disciples as they walk with Jesus up that mountain. Perhaps it seemed like a pleasant hike, a break from work and stress. When they awoke from their nap, Jesus gave them a glimpse of his identity, "This is my beloved Son." In Jesus you and I have a Father who cares - a Father who keeps his promises. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Modern Matthew 17:1-9

The Gospel account of the Transfiguration is a very colorful one that conveys to us the meeting of Heaven and Earth and how the glory of Heaven powerfully touches those who enter into it. My suspicion is that the account of the Transfiguration falls far short in describing the reality and beauty of the event. This isn't the fault of Peter, James and John minimizing their experience, or the evangelist failing to adequately describe it, but rather the simple reality that the finite human mind cannot comprehend the fullness of what was experienced, let alone find the words to describe the indescribable. How can anyone adequately describe an encounter with God? Jesus took Peter, James and John to a mount top. These were three of the original apostles who left everything to follow Jesus.

They were invited to share in this glorious and somewhat intimate moment in which the infinite glory of Heaven broke through the finite reality of this world. Jesus becomes dazzling white and his face shines like the sun. Out of nowhere Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus and the three have a conversation of which we are not told its' subject. The Apostles know that something extremely beautiful and important is taking place and Peter says, "Lord, it is good that we are her.” He then offers to build three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. The Apostles seemed to be comfortable and did not want this moment to end. It was the voice of the Father that brought fear into their hearts. The message of the Father was a beautiful affirmation of who Jesus is, the same message the Father gave when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” What led to their fear? It could have been hearing a disembodied voice that probable surrounded them and filled them. A voice that they probably had never heard before.

Jesus comforts them and says to them a line that they will hear numerous times from him; "….do not be afraid.” For Peter, James and John, this was the mountain top experience that affirmed their closeness to Jesus, and prepared them for what was to come. They would not truly comprehend the significance of this until after the resurrection, and even then could never find the words to adequately express what they experienced. When someone has a powerful religious experience it is sometimes referred to as a mountain top experience. These are experiences in which God touches us and it seems that we are in Heaven.

They put our fears, anxieties, problems and struggles in the perspective that in God's presence they will be handled and in some way we will get through them. It is an experience that fills us with renewed faith and fervor, and with joy and hope. These are experiences that we sometimes seek, but that more often occur when least expected. It could be at a Mass while we struggle to be attentive, a Baptism or Wedding, or during the Sacrament of Confession. It could be while on a retreat or day of recollection, or listening to a song on the radio. It is not necessary to climb a mountain in order to have a mount top experience, all one has to do is be attentive so that we don't miss the time and place when God wants to enter more deeply into our lives. We might never find the words to describe our experience, but we will know that we had an encounter with God. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Feast of the Transfiguration

The Feast of the Transfiguration comes around every year on 6th August but we usually miss it because it most frequently falls on a weekday and is not a Holyday of Obligation. This year, however, this lovely feast lands on a Sunday and so we are able to give it a bit more consideration than usual. It is good that we do this because the Transfiguration is a very important feast yet all too often one which is forgotten. In the life of Jesus, the Transfiguration is one of the two occasions, called theophanies, where God the Father makes himself known. The other theophany is the Baptism of the Lord. Actually, the words of the Father spoken at both events is very similar, 'This is my beloved Son, he enjoys my favour.? Added here on the occasion of the Transfiguration are the words 'Listen to him.?

We can imagine that the Apostles Peter, James and John were quite bewildered at seeing Jesus bathed in light conversing with Moses and Elijah. This explains the intervention of Peter who suggests putting up three tents one for each of them, he clearly was quite confused by the whole business.

Then after it is over Jesus commands them not to tell anyone about it since I suppose he understood very well just how confusing it all would be. It is only in the light of the resurrection that the Apostles reflecting on this extraordinary incident must have realised its true significance.

One possible motive commonly expressed by authors trying to explain the meaning of the Transfiguration is that it was intended to strengthen the Apostles as they faced the not far away events of Christ?s scourging and death. Some writers have expressed the thought that its purpose was to give the Apostles a glimpse of Christ?s glory so that they would realise that his suffering and death were preliminaries to something much greater. I?m not so sure about this explanation; especially as this revelation is only given to a very small inner group of Apostles. Surely all of the Apostles and even the wider group of disciples would have needed strengthening, so why weren?t they all present? And this explanation holds even less water once we recall that those present were forbidden to speak about it to their confreres.

The Transfiguration was clearly a moment of deep communion between Christ and the Father and the presence of the two patriarchs, Moses and Elijah, is surely meant to express the continuity between what Christ was about to accomplish and all the events of the Old Testament. The definitive intervention by God in the world through the sending of his only Son is therefore understood to be in direct continuity with all the other interventions by God in past history such as Noah?s Ark, the sacrifice of Isaac, the giving of the Ten Commandments and many others. It is surely also significant that Moses was present at the Transfiguration since we know that although he had led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and through forty years traveling in the desert he is not permitted to enter the Promised Land, dying as he does on Mount Nebo before the end of the journey. Here though Moses now makes his entrance into the Promised Land standing alongside Jesus, the one true Saviour of the World. He arrives at the very moment of the fulfilment of all God?s promises; the most significant and opportune time of all. Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, was also predicted to return again. He did not actually die but had left the world on a heavenly chariot and in the Book of Malachi it is prophesied that Elijah will return before the Last Day as the harbinger or herald of the Messiah. Well, here on the Mount of the Transfiguration he clearly fulfils this important prophesy.

My suggestion is that the events of the Transfiguration could not have been made known to a wider group because of the clamour and distraction that would have resulted. Imagine if it became generally known that Moses and Elijah had returned. The arrival of these two patriarchs of Israel would have caused such a commotion among the people that the message of Jesus would have become obscured and his work of salvation most likely jeopardised. No, I think that it was fitting that only the inner circle of Apostles were chosen to witness this extraordinary event; despite their confusion they were ones who could be trusted to say nothing until the appropriate time.

According to me and many others the Transfiguration is clearly meant to demonstrate Jesus? role as the connecting point between heaven and earth. He is the unique one who in his person can unite both of these realities, the heavenly and the earthly. It is his great work of salvation, which is about to be carried out on the Cross of Calvary, that will mark the breakthrough and provide the means by which God and man can be united. Here on the Holy Mountain the Apostles are given a glimpse of the true majesty and glory of Jesus. It is revealed to them once and for all that he is no mere mortal, nor even a man raised up to a special position. Here in his Transfiguration Jesus is revealed as the only true Son of God who is completely at one with his Father.

The Transfiguration is generally recognised as among the most significant moments in Christ?s life. It is on a par with his Baptism, his Death, his Resurrection and his Ascension. It is only a pity that it is not celebrated with as much deference and solemnity as those other great feasts.

It is interesting that Pope John Paul II when he established a new set of Mysteries of the Rosary called the Luminous Mysteries made sure that he included the Transfiguration. The five meditations of those new mysteries are titled: the Baptism of Jesus, the Wedding at Cana, Jesus? proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist.

Certainly, this feast gives us a great deal of fruit for meditation. In thinking about it we can consider a lot of different theological points. Firstly, we can think about God?s glory and how he wants to share it with us. We can then go on to contemplate the many interventions God made in the world as represented by the presence of Moses and Elijah. We can reflect on the role of the Apostles and the confusion they often experienced; but how they ultimately understood and proclaimed the entire message of Jesus. We can also realise that there is a time for being silent and a time for proclaiming God?s message. We can think too about the words of the Father approving Christ and his work as well as his instruction to us to listen to the words of Jesus.
This is indeed perhaps the most important lesson of all for us, that we should listen to Jesus because he alone has the words of eternal life. He alone can bring us salvation. He alone can provide us with true and lasting peace.

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