Sunday, March 17, 2019
Today’s gospel is about the transfiguration of Jesus on the top of Mount Tabor. Jesus invites his closest friends, Peter, James and John, to the top of the mountain. While they were there, Jesus began to pray, and “his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.” Jesus was luminously transfigured and suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared, one on each of his sides. The two prophets conversed with each other about Jesus’ exodus that he would accomplish in Jerusalem. Then, just before the vision ended, the disciples heard a voice that said: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him;" and after they heard this voice the disciples found themselves alone with Jesus.
Today’s gospel reminds me of my favorite quote from our parish mission by John Donahue Grossman, he said: “Only the transformed can transform others.” It seems to me, this is the challenge of the gospel, the goal of Lent and the goal of life. We are called to be transformed by God’s love, to transform others, and therefore the world. When Moses and Elijah were conversing about Jesus’ exodus that would be accomplished in Jerusalem, they were talking about salvation. Jesus is the new Moses who leads humanity on an exodus journey away from the slavery of sin, and towards the promised land of salvation through his cross and resurrection. The transfigured and glorified Jesus is a preview of the resurrection that the disciples did not come to understand until after it took place. It is only after the resurrection and the infusion of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, that the disciples will be radically transformed by God’s love and thus able to transform the world.
Like the disciples, we are on this same journey during Lent as we move away from our sins and towards the resurrection at Easter. Lent is a time to listen to the Beloved Son more that speak. Separating ourselves from the things that keep us away from God is the desert itself. This separation must happen, in the silence of the desert where we can truly listen and allow Jesus to transform our hearts. Are we willing to respond to the knock on the door of our hearts that says, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Are we willing, like the children of Israel, to decisively leave Egypt - the place of our slavery to sin?
It is interesting to note how most people talk about how they want to transform the world, and perhaps over a few beers solve all of the world’s problems according to their own brilliant minds. However, very rarely do we see people talking about starting that transformation with themselves.
This is important, because a Christian that is not transformed by Christ’s love, is not going to inspire or transform anyone. It doesn’t matter how intelligent or educated they may think they are, it will not happen. Our brilliant human agenda without the life of the resurrection and an infusion of the Holy Spirit will not change a thing, and will certainly not save anyone.
May today’s Eucharist help us to allow Jesus to convert our hearts by following him on the exodus journey towards freedom, peace and salvation. Only then will our souls become luminously transformed by God’s love, and hopefully we will be able transform others along the way.
Sunday, April 21, 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
There is a country music song from the old days by Kenny Rogers called “The Gambler”. I remember this song because of the melody and because of its good and wise lyrics about a card player. My favorite line is: “You’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, and know when to run. You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table; there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”
These lyrics remind me of the today’s readings and gospel and of the experience of Lent that we just went through. We see The Gambler song in the disciples and Mary Magdalen. They knew when to hold them, when to fold them, when to walk away, and when to run, throughout their journey with Jesus. This was especially true for them during the final days of Jesus’ life with regard to his suffering, death and resurrection. The disciples were, without a doubt, holding on to their faith for dear life after the death of Jesus. Was their gamble of believing in Jesus as the Savior and Messiah a total waste after the crucifixion? It’s hard for us to imagine, even today, that death on the cross was actually the ultimate image of selfless love and of successes. Thankfully, the disciples hung in there until the dealing was done, as it were, when Jesus rose from the dead.
In the gospel, after Jesus’ body was put into the tomb, we see the disciple’s waiting, anticipation and uncertainty, suddenly morph into intense action. They definitely knew when to run. All of this action is in response to the empty tomb. The first to encounter it was Mary Magdalen. After she saw the empty tomb, she “ran” to tell the disciples. When Peter and John heard the news, they “ran” full speed to get to the tomb. And when they entered, they saw the burial shrouds and they remembered the word of Jesus (that they did not understand before), and began to believe. It is almost as if they had just crossed the finish line after a long race, and with their last burst of energy and breath, achieved final victory.
Of course, after the Resurrection and Pentecost, the disciples sprang into action by spreading the good news that Jesus was who he said he was. This was the word that proclaimed that the cross had led to the Resurrection. It was the good news that Jesus is God, Lord and the long awaited Messiah! We see this in our reading from Acts, as Peter boldly proclaims: “We are witnesses of all that he (Jesus) did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem…. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.”
Lent was a time for us to hold on to our faith, to walk away from our sins, and to look into the empty tomb and believe. It was time to run toward Jesus. Now that we have crossed the finish line and are at Easter, a new race begins. It is a race that calls us to spring into action and proclaim the good news of who Jesus really is, not just as a historical figure, but also to us personally. Are we willing to share this experience with others? Are we willing to proclaim the good news of the Risen Lord with joy to a world that is dying for resurrection? May today’s Eucharist help us to run the race of life, as Christians, with the full intent of crossing the finish line of Easter and of eternal life. And may it give us the wisdom, as we journey toward Jesus, to know when to hold them, when to fold them, when to walk away, and when to run.
Sunday, April 14, 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Today’s feast of Palm Sunday can be an overwhelming one, as everything in the life of Jesus comes to a head. In the gospel we have triumph and victory, as Jesus is praised by the crowds when entering into Jerusalem as if he were the new King David. In the gospel we have, in essence, the first Mass, and the consecration of the Eucharist at the Last Supper; and, we also have betrayal, suffering and crucifixion. However, even in the midst of death, and the apparently failed mission of Jesus on the cross, mysteriously, there is hope. This is the hope of a converted heart that comes from the power of the resurrection. We get a glimpse of this hope in the Centurion. When the Centurion sees the way Jesus dies, he has a conversion of heart. He witnesses how Jesus dies, without any hatred or bitterness, and even forgiving those who put him on the cross. The Centurion glorifies God and exclaims, “This man is innocent beyond a doubt.” The Centurion’s response to God’s love saves him. His response is the lasting victory of the cross that goes far beyond the empty praises of the crowds on Palm Sunday, and even beyond suffering and death.
Today’s gospel invites us to follow the example of the Centurion in the way we respond to God’s love during Holy Week and Easter. How can we embrace Jesus’ love, and the life of the resurrection today? The good news is that the life of the resurrection begins today. This is the life that comes from the Theological Virtues that come directly from God, and these are: Faith, Hope and Love. These virtues are in themselves the life of the resurrection. From these virtues flow all the rest of God’s graces and gifts, among which are mercy, forgiveness, perseverance, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Another great sign of hope in today’s gospel is the Eucharist, in the scene of the Last Supper. In the Eucharist Jesus invites the disciples to embrace his love: “This is my body which will be given up for you.” Among God’s gifts none is greater than the Eucharist. Like Palm Sunday and Holy Week, everything comes to a head in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is for us—as it was for the first century Christians—the source and summit of our faith. The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus that grounds us as we move through Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter. In a similar way, the Eucharist grounds us for daily life. It infuses us with the life of the resurrection, the fount of joy and peace. May the Lord help us to persevere through Holy Week, and through the challenges of life, by way of the continual conversion of our hearts, and the Eucharist.
Sunday, April 7, 2019
In today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah we hear:
“Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” This is a great message for Lent as we try to let go of the past and make all things new.
We see this in the gospel when Jesus saves the life of the woman caught in adultery. He does this by making the crowd, that is ready to stone her to death, drop their stones by saying: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The bloodthirsty crowd disperses and when the woman is left alone with Jesus, he forgives her and tells her go and sin no more.
Today’s readings invite us to leave all those things behind that hinder us in the spiritual life and that keep us away from God. These things can be our pride, anger, unforgiveness, sins and even good things that we might be overly attached to.
We are invited to let go of the past, and allow the Lord to make all things new. Lent is a time for relying on Jesus and letting him transform us. Saint Paul realized this in his own life as we hear in our second reading from Philippians: “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him….”
May today’s Eucharist help us to let go of all the rubbish that keeps us away from God this Lenten season. May we enter deeper into the supreme good of knowing Jesus Christ, and of loving others the way he loves us. He is the only one who can save us and set us free; and the only one, through his cross and resurrection, who can make all things new.