12 March 20172 Lent

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
2 Lent
Second Sunday of Lent - Matthew 17:1-9

A child saw a dust-covered book. He asked what it was. His father replied, "That's God's book - the Bible." The boy replied, "You better return it to God because nobody here reads it." If our Bible is in good shape, we are not.

The Transfiguration was among the very few exhilarating moments in the career of Jesus. His was hardly a cake walk. It was one tough existence. We have a nasty habit of confining His horror moments to His last days. That judgment comes from not reading the Gospels.

The Transfiguration is so familiar to all of us that it has lost its original bang. We have to take off our wraparound sun- glasses. The scales of over-exposure must be peeled from our eyes in order to take a fresh look.

Our Leader was finishing an eight month tour of one night stands in the provincial towns of Galilee. He was eating nothing but junk food at greasy spoons. He considered Himself lucky when He got it. He was sweltering in the 100 plus degree heat and freezing at night under the stars. He was not sleeping. He was staying one step ahead of the cops. His audiences were receiving Him coldly.

Shortly before this account opens, the Teacher had told the twelve of His approaching death. They went into a downer. They had thought the glory days were coming. They had visions of twenty year service and retirement as monsignors on pension, clergy discounts, work on their golf swing, etc. And now this announcement. Who needed it?

Then Jesus took them on a three day forced march southward from northern Palestine. He had to wear a no-nonsense face. He feared a mutiny or suspected they would slip away after dark. That they did not reveals the love that already bound the apostles to Him. For them Jesus was Teilhard's smile of God. Exhausted, they wound up at Mount Tabor situated near Jesus' hometown of Nazareth. The mountain runs up about 1800 feet. It is almost a straight ascent. When I was there, tourist buses could not reach the top. One had to go up in an eight cylinder auto. Imagine the physical condition of Jesus. As a boy said to me, "Jesus was no wimp."

He loved mountain tops. They brought Him closer to His Father. Christ elected Peter, James, and John to join Him. The other nine, left at the base camp, were happy they had not been drafted. They were looking for a shady tree, a cool breeze, and a stream to do laundry and chill red wine. They needled the three drafted ones with the message, "Tell us about it tomorrow, fellows." Their clothes sticking to their skin, the four finally got to the top about 4 PM. They were running on empty. The apostles had one thought: sleep. Jesus chose to pray. As Peter climbed into his sleeping bag, he mumbled, "Everyone has his own idea of a good time." In the early AM hours, the mountain top exploded as though hit by a nuclear weapon. The apostles were basket cases. Their Employer, "was transfigured before their eyes." He had removed His disguise. This was no carpenter. This was God. This was His Big Bang.

When Jesus put on a show, it was not low budget. The Big Bang must have been something spectacular. He deserved Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards for best show on a mountain top ever.

The apostles were witnessing Moses and Elijah passing on the torch to their Leader. The Father was saying to Christ's followers, "You have been brought up to listen to Moses, Elijah, and their peers. Up to this point, they were my advance men. But now it is my Son you will listen to. He is numero uno. Him I appoint as your new Commander in Chief."

Next day Peter, James, and John came down that mountain jumping from rock to rock with the agility of boys. They were on a high. Their Jesus had proved to be a big winner. Their arduous climb in the sauna heat had paid off.

Heaven for them now would be forever spelled h-o-m-e. We move into the second week of Lent. And, if you are off to a good start, bravo. Like His apostles, the Teacher has much to tell you at the mountain top. If you have yet to begin the climb, you can play catch-up. Jesus will toss you a rope and pull you up.

Reflect on Elizabeth Vanek: "The Transfiguration is not just an indication of Christ's divinity; it also reveals our potential to become divine." We can achieve "deification." Blow the dust off your Bible. Don't allow it to be the least read best seller of all time. Be a Bible reader, says Kenneth Woodward, and not just a Bible owner. 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
2 Lent
Second Sunday of Lent: The Call of Abraham, the Call of Faith

The first readings for the Sundays of Lent this year focus on Old Testament figures. You might remember that last Sunday the reading focused on Adam and Eve. This Sunday the figure from the Old Testament is Abram. Next Sunday it will be Moses. Then David, the week after that Ezekiel and finally, on Passion Sunday, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. The message implied here is that Jesus Christ incorporates in himself the entirety of God's dealings with his people. Jesus is the New Adam, who does not turn from God as the first Adam did. He is the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham. He is the Successor to Moses. He is the Son of David. He imparts the Spirit upon men as Ezekiel did in the vision of the Valley of Dried Bones. And He is the one who suffers and dies for us as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah.

In the reading for today from Genesis, Abram, or as he would later be called, Abraham, is presented as a model of faith. He had reached that age whereby he was respected as a wise and tried leader. He probably worked his way up in the governing council of the people of Ur of the Chaldees, his homeland. He was at that stage of his life where he should settle back and enjoy the fruits of his years of labor. Certainly, the last thing anyone would have expected a 75 year old leader to do is to set himself and his people off into a new direction. But that is exactly what Abraham did in response to God's call. It may not have seemed wise for him to lead his immediate family from their homeland. The talk of his progeny becoming a new nation would have seemed particularly foolish taking into account his age and the fact he had no children. But Abraham put his faith completely in God, and God worked his wonders through Abraham.

This is the type of faith that we are called to embrace. We are called to be different from those elements of the world that do not make God the priority. We are called to leave the security of trusting in our land, or our stuff, and to put our faith completely in God. We are called to be part of a new people, a new breed, who are radically different from the world. We are called to be holy, for that is what holiness is, being set apart for God.

Jesus, as the Man of Faith, trusted completely in His Father's plan for mankind with the faith of a human being who recognized His dependence on His God. This is the same sort of faith that you and I are called upon to embrace. He believed the scriptures that the Messiah would suffer, die and rise. The mysterious meeting on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, today's Gospel of the Transfiguration, strengthened His resolve to let God's plan take effect in Him. Moses represented the Law. Elijah represented the Prophets. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He discussed this with the foundations of Israel’s faith, Moses and Elijah. He would trust God to allow His Plan to be accomplished. And He would not let His disciples say anything about the vision until He had risen from the dead. For you cannot come to any sort of understanding of Easter Sunday unless you experience Good Friday.

We call out to Jesus today as the paradigm of faith. We ask Him for the courage to trust in God. We do not know how God is going to work out that unique reason for each of our existences. We do know that if we trust in Him, He'll find a way to use us to reflect His image in the world. We will not understand exactly what that image is until after we die. Then we will fully know ourselves as we are fully known by God. Still, if we trust in God, He will work in wonderful and mysterious ways through us.

"Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God," we heard in the second reading for today. It is tough being a Christian. We cannot be part of the pagan world. At the same time, it is wonderful being a Christian. We have been given a great gift of strength, strength that comes from God. Can we withstand temptation? Yes, God gives us this strength. Can we withstand persecution, mockery for our beliefs. We do every day, every time we watch TV, go to the movies, read the newspaper or have any contact with those who are closed to the spiritual. We would rather be mocked for believing than condemned to a hell of unbelief here and a terror of life without His love afterwards. We can bear our share of the hardship because He has given us the power to be holy. That is the Power of the Gospel Paul speaks about in Romans.

Today, as we do every day, but particularly during the season of Lent, today we pray for faith.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
2 Lent
Best Lent Ever Week 2: Create Life-Giving Habits
(March 12, 2017)

Message: Prayer changes everything so develop the life-changing habit of daily prayer. Pay attention to Jesus. Listen to him.

This weekend we begin the second full week of the Best Lent Ever. Before taking up the the question for this week, let's look at what we covered on Ash Wednesday and the First Sunday of Lent. On Ash Wednesday Jesus talked about the penitential practices - prayer, fasting and almsgiving: communication with God, self-discipline and generosity. That was Ash Wednesday, then last Sunday we saw how prayer changes everything - ten minutes of silence to listen to God can change everything. Today's question has to do with how to achieve that daily time of prayer. When was the last time you set out to intentionally create a life-changing habit? I encourage you to read (or re-read) chapter 21 of Resisting Happiness. Habits have power. Negative habits can ruin our lives and positive habits transform us. Matthew Kelly gives examples of negative habits: Procrastination - putting off hard tasks. Constantly checking email and social media. Eating when not hungry. Guilty as charged! During Lent we can make progress in overcoming destructive habits, including habits of the mind, such as worrying about things you have no control over or returning to feelings of guilt even after God has forgiven you.

The way to overcome destructive habits is by crowding them out with life-changing habits. And where's the best place to start? You already know: by developing the habit of ten minutes of silence to listen to God.

In today's Gospel a voice from heaven says, "This is my beloved son; listen to him." Listen to Jesus. What matters in the long run - even more than the incredible experience of the Transfiguration - is listening to Jesus.

Abraham listened - as we heard in the first reading. In the Bible "listen" means not only to hear but to internalize and put into practice. He obeyed God. Sometimes we don't like word "obey." But remember its roots: "obey" comes from the Latin "ob-audire" meaning to listen or pay attention. By paying attention to God, Abraham becomes the source of blessing for all the communities on earth. Today Jews, Moslems and we Christians consider Abraham our father in faith. Abraham listened to the Lord's voice. He paid attention. He obeyed God.

God sometimes shakes us up so we will really listen to him. This happened with St. John Paul II. During World War II he resisted the Nazis by participating in an underground theater - and he dreamed of a future as a professional actor. God had other plans and he allowed the young man to experience something even worst than Nazi oppression: the death of his last surviving family member - his dad. He prostrated himself on the floor to pray. After what may have been an entire night in prayer, he stood. He knew what he had to do. His loneliness he would bring to an intensive relation to God. Daily prayer - sometimes 10 minutes of silence, usually much more - enabled St. John Paul to become one of the pivotal players of the 20th century and the new millennium. You and I might not change the course of world history, but we can change the course of our own life - and perhaps people close to us. We can develop life-changing habits. You know what I mean: regular exercise, eating healthy food, tackling the difficult job first. "Worst first" as they say.

It takes time - and persistence - to form life-changing habits. I'm 70 and still waiting for some to kick in. :) Matthew Kelly gives great insights on how to do it. One at a time. Start with prayer. Spontaneous prayer is great - thanking Jesus, asking him on behalf of others and yourself: short javelin prayers like "Help me Lord," "Dear God, I need you." "Jesus, I trust in you." Those short prayers have power, but even more important is sustained daily prayer - the habit of ten minutes or more of silence to listen the Lord. If you do it, it will affect every other aspect of your life. Prayer changes everything so develop the life-changing habit of daily prayer. Pay attention to Jesus. Listen to him. Start now: take out your Mass Journal or notebook and write one idea that will help you this week to become your best self. Then find those ten minutes of silence. Like St. John Paul God may surprise you. "This is my beloved son; listen to him." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
2 Lent
Second Sunday of Lent, Classic
Matthew 17: 1-9

Gospel Summary
The fact that Jesus takes his more intimate disciples to the top of this nameless mountain alerts us to the deeply personal nature of the episode to follow. When they arrive there, the appearance of Jesus suddenly changes. He is radiant with a light whose source is not identified. When Matthew notes that the face of Jesus "shone like the sun," he wants us to recall how Moses came down from Mount Sinai with radiant face after having spoken with God (Exodus 34:29). Matthew considers Jesus to be the new Moses who brings a new revelation from God.

It has been customary to attribute the illumination of Jesus to a beam of light from heaven intended to reassure the disciples who have just heard that the Messiah must suffer and die. However, most of the disciples are not present, nor do those few present seem to have been reassured and there is no mention of a light from heaven. It is far more likely that this illumination derives from within Jesus who, for the first time, comes to a full realization that God wants him to save the world, not by feats of power or by killing Roman soldiers (the human way), but by loving and therefore suffering and dying (the divine way). This would be then an ecstatic moment of discovery as Jesus becomes fully aware of the true nature of his messianic mission.

If that is so, it is entirely appropriate that Moses and Elijah should join him there, for they too had met God on a mountaintop and received a revelation that illumined their futures. The face of Moses glistened from the divine encounter on Mount Sinai and Elijah outran the chariot of Ahab after meeting God on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:46). Peter knows that he is in the presence of God and makes a generous but unnecessary offer to build tents for the others. Finally, when the voice of God is heard, the baptismal affirmation is repeated and significant new words are added: "Listen to him." This tells us that Jesus is now ready to teach the ultimate divine wisdom of salvation through loving and self-giving.

Life Implications
We Christians are asked to follow Jesus, not only by listening to his words, but also by sharing in his experience of human life as an opportunity for ultimate victory and freedom. We have heard with Jesus the liberating baptismal words, "You are my beloved child," and as we have grown in confidence we have learned to be a beneficent presence in our world within our limitations. However, the time soon comes when we begin to doubt whether building monuments or achieving status is really the purpose of life. Then, in middle age (sometime between the ages of 30 and 70 or so!), we are invited to the mountaintop for a transfiguring experience which will hopefully enable us to discover that brain-power and money-power, though very useful, are not nearly as important as love-power. Suddenly it becomes clear that being kind and gentle in an often violent world is the ultimate wisdom for us humans. Moreover, we discover to our relief that age is not an obstacle to being a loving, caring presence. Indeed, the touch of an octogenarian is often more tender than that of a 20-year-old. We also earn that true loving is always a kind of dying. However, after we die in countless small ways, we discover that our real dying is just the last and best opportunity to trust a gracious God who has illumined all our days. In this way, bright promise and luminous hope can conquer dark and frightening fear and despair. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Fourth Sunday of Lent, Modern
Lectionary 31, Gospel: John 9:1-41

Today is Laetare Sunday, the day when the opening antiphon for mass is taken from the final chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah: "Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her…” (Isa 66:10-11). The term Laetare, meaning "rejoice”, is the first word of this antiphon in its Latin version. The essential idea of today’s liturgy is that we reflect on the joy we sense as the days of Lent progress and the time of Holy Week and Easter begins to draw near. The celebrant at mass may wear special rose colored vestments today to highlight further this note of joyful anticipation. Arriving at true joy involves coming to terms with reality, seeing clearly who we are and where we stand, and the scripture readings for mass take up this theme of perception with some vivid scenes. First, we hear the account from the First Book of Samuel in which the great Samuel, whom the Bible is careful to identify as a "seer” rather than a "prophet,” was sent by God to Bethlehem to anoint the new king of Israel. When Samuel entered the city and encountered Jesse he saw the eldest and strongest of Jesse’s sons, Eliab, standing with his father. He thought to himself: "Surely the Lord’s anointed is here before him”.

Immediately, however, a word of clarity and reproof came to him: "The Lord said to Samuel: ‘Do not judge from his appearance….There—anoint him, for this is the one!’” (1 Sam 16:6-7). "The one” whom Samuel was told to anoint was of course David, who would later become the greatest of Israel’s kings and even a figure to whom Christ himself is compared, but whose beginnings were nonetheless shrouded in obscurity and dismissal.

The next image of vision and perception comes in the gospel, where we encounter the striking story of the man born blind. This is a long reading but I think it is important for the entire selection to be read at mass (John 9:1-41) instead of the abbreviated version because of the incisive nature of this powerful narrative. Everyone in this story comes to terms with reality for better or for worse: the man born blind both literally sees for the first time, and figuratively he "sees” the goodness and holiness of Jesus. The Pharisees "see” not only what Jesus did, but they perceive as well what it portends for their way of life and they respond with fear and anger, preferring the blind illusion of control over the frightening vision of freedom in Christ.

What this tells us is that it is not enough to see clearly; rather, when we see clearly who we are and where we stand we must also respond to our situation in a way characterized by the Christian virtues of humility, charity, and a desire for conversion. The man born blind "saw” that he had been given not only the gift of literal sight but that of new life in Christ. The Pharisees who denied their need for Christ—"They ridiculed him and said, ‘You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses!’”—ultimately refused the gift of new life and remained blind: "Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, "We see,” so your sin remains’” (John 9:28, 41). On this Laetare Sunday given to reflection on Christian joy, let us rejoice in Christ and his gift of new spiritual vision and new life, taking to heart St. Paul’s inspired words "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Eph 5). Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
2 Lent
Second Sunday of Lent
Sermon by Father Alex McAllister SDS

The readings today are all about calling. We hear about the call of Abraham in the First Reading, the call of Jesus in the Gospel extract and in the Second Reading St Paul speaks about the call of each Christian.

In the Book of Genesis, after the account of the creation, we are told how man fell into sin and drifted further and further away from God. It is a sorry tale. We are told about Cain and Abel, about the Great Flood and the Tower of Babel. All stories of selfishness and the sidelining of God.

But then there is a sudden change. God intervenes in the story and picks out Abraham, or Abram as he was then, and makes him the head of a chosen people and so begins God's great work of salvation which culminates in the Pascal Mystery.

This call of Abraham is the text of our First Reading today. There are some important things to observe. Firstly, it was God who chose Abraham, not Abraham who chose God. It is also vital to understand that God made this choice entirely of his own volition not because of anything Abraham had done. It was not for any merit or specialness on his part or because he somehow deserved it, but as a result of the simple decision of God.

Then God tells Abraham to leave his home and go to the land which he will show him. Abraham is already old but this is not seen as an obstacle by God. He tells him to leave everything behind and begin a journey, a great pilgrimage of faith.

And lastly, God blesses Abraham and all the generations after him; God promises his protection and tells him that they will be his special witnesses to the whole world. There is no hint that Abraham opposes any of these plans God has for him despite his age or the many difficulties he knew he would face; as its says, ‘Abram went as the Lord told him.'

This is powerful stuff. And after many years and all kinds of events and obstacles God's plan finally reaches its culmination in the life of Jesus and what he accomplished in Jerusalem in the tremendous events of his Passion.

Like Abraham Jesus too was asked to leave his home and begin a great journey. His homeland, of course, is heaven. And the journey is the great work he was to accomplish here on earth. God blessed Abraham and he blesses Jesus too. He blesses Jesus on two particular occasions. The first is at the very start of Jesus' ministry at his Baptism and the second we have before us as today and it takes place on Mount Tabor where he is Transfigured.

The two Old Testament figures who are seen alongside Jesus on the mountain, Moses and Elijah, are often thought to represent the Law and the Prophets. But they can also be seen as making clear what the work of Jesus really entailed.

He was to complete the work of Moses who brought the Chosen People into the Promised Land of Canaan and he is to do this by leading God's people into the Promised Land of Heaven. Jesus was also to complete the work of Elijah who worked so tirelessly to draw the people away from idol worship and lead them back to worship of the one true God.

The Second Reading is about our own calling and Paul tells us that, like Abraham, this call comes to us unbidden. It is not the result of any merit on our part. God simply chooses us. This is something that we need to constantly reflect upon.

First, we should understand that we have indeed been chosen. God didn't call everyone but he has called us. He has called us, as individuals, to faith so that we can be his witnesses. Perhaps he has placed us in believing families or he may have put a certain set of circumstances in our way which has led us to faith. But make no mistake about it, this is God's doing. He is truly working in our lives. He wants us to be with him and he has a special role for us. We are a crucial part of his plan for the salvation of the world. We also must understand clearly that there are no personal qualities that we possess which caused God to single us out so that he could bestow on us the gift of faith. Indeed, we might often think that it was precisely because we were nothing very special that God chose us. And we must further realise just what a blessing all this is for us. Often, we might see our faith as a burden, an obligation, perhaps even an inconvenience. But we would be quite wrong to view our faith in this way; it is no mere cultural hangover or the result of an historical accident nor is it something we just fell into.

We would be very mistaken to see our calling as anything other than a tremendous, if undeserved, blessing. As with Abraham, our journey of faith is a long one; it has many twists and turns, many complicated byways, peculiar detours and fresh starts. But this journey, this pilgrimage of faith, that we have undertaken will undoubtedly bring us many blessings and it will ultimately lead us to eternal life.

On the Holy Mountain our Lord was Transfigured. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light and the voice of God was heard in blessing and approval. This was the true nature of Jesus shining through. He let his glory be seen to the small inner circle of Apostles.

Something similar needs to happen to us; our whole life should be seen as a gradual process of Transfiguration. Our whole purpose should be to allow the light of God to shine through us. There are many things which can help us to do this. Attending mass regularly and making the reception of the Eucharist an integral part of our lives is, of course, key. Other things include daily prayer and sharing our faith with others; as well celebrating the other sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation which allows us to experience God's healing and forgiveness in a profound way.

Our family life is another area which we can transform by our practice of the Christian faith. Living a life of deep respect and love for each other means that we are putting the Gospel into practice in the very heart of our home.

As we negotiate the various events of our life, such as change of job, moving house, financial changes, health issues, sadness, or good fortune, we can allow them to be graced by God's love so that they become not just occurrences but part and parcel of our pilgrimage of faith.

If we live our lives in this way, then our eventual death becomes our last act of worship. It becomes the opening of a door leading us to the vision of Christ who will shine on us far more brightly than he ever did on that Holy Mountain.
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