Homily — 2nd Sunday Lent A Feb. 17, 2008
Jesus led them up a high mountain by themselves, and He was transfigured before them.
The Church reads this Gospel of the Transfiguration every year on this Second Sunday of Lent, primarily because the Tradition is that the Transfiguration took place 40 days before Jesus’ death on Good Friday.
But it is also fitting that we read this Gospel today, because the Transfiguration is symbolic of our Lenten Journey.
In today’s Gospel, Peter James and John leave their world and it’s comforts behind for a while, and go off alone with Jesus on a strenuous journey.
And in Lent, you and I also hopefully have to some degree left the comforts of the world behind, and have also set off alone with Jesus on a strenuous journey of daily repentance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
In the Gospel, after this initial work-out of climbing up a high mountain, Jesus is Transfigured before Peter James and John — He shines brighter than ever before them.
And so it is with us during Lent — after a few weeks in the wilderness with Jesus, away from our normal comforts; after of few weeks of strenuous prayer fasting and almsgiving, we reach a summit, and Jesus starts to be transfigured in our lives — He begins to shine brighter than ever before our eyes.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to Peter James and John, conversing with (Jesus). Through this overheard conversation, the Scriptures began to come alive to these three Apostles; they saw how the Books of Moses and the rest of the Old Testament related to Christ.
And once Jesus begins to shine in our hearts, the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, begin to open up to us, we like Moses and Elijah see how they all relate to who Jesus is and the moral way Jesus wishes to live.
And next, as we start becoming Transfigured ourselves by our Lenten Journey with Jesus, we begin to share Peter’s desire to pitch a tent and stay up on this high mountain with Jesus forever.
But notice what happens next in the Gospel:
Peter and James and John are feeling closer than ever to Jesus; they are so glad that they made that strenuous journey to experience this.
But then, behold, a cloud cast a shadow over them, and they no longer saw Jesus. And Matthew says they were very much afraid.
The Gospels don’t say how long the cloud hung over them. Maybe it was a few seconds, maybe it was several hours. Maybe Peter James and John frantically searched around in the cloud trying to find Jesus, like Mary and Joseph searched around for the 12 year old Jesus when they lost Him in the Temple.
Maybe Peter James and John started to despair of finding Him again, or maybe they were tempted to stop looking for Him in the cloud and go back down the mountain and back to their old lives.
But the three Apostles resisted all these temptations, and eventually they felt that familiar touch of Jesus upon them and heard His clear voice saying Rise, and do not be afraid.
And really, that cloud experience allowed Peter James and John to Rise higher in their faith than before; that cloud experience allowed them to be less afraid and more trusting of Jesus than ever before.
And my brothers and sisters in Christ, if all goes well with our Lenten journey, Jesus will hide Himself from us in a cloud for a while, where we won’t be able to see Him or hear Him or feel His Presence with us.
Being in the Cloud, which is also called the Dark Night of the Soul, can certainly be a scary thing. But Jesus sometimes hides from us in order to help us grow in Faith. In the cloud, we must rely totally on supernatural Faith Hope and Love, therefore we end up growing in these three most important virtues.
And the longer Jesus keeps us in the cloud, the holier and more faith-filled we will become. This is why many of the great saints, such as St. Therese the Little Flower and Mother Theresa of Calcutta, appear to have lived years in a Cloud of Dark, Spiritual Dryness, not feeling any consolation whatsoever in prayer, but still praying and hoping and believing and loving nonetheless.
For the great majority of Christians like us who are far from Major League Sanctity, Jesus in His mercy only gives us the Cloud in small doses. And after having tested us for a time in the cloud, He always then touches us and says to us “Rise higher than before, and do not be afraid, because all you have experienced on this Journey and on this Mountain has prepared you to now fully enter with me, into my Passion, Death & glorious Resurrection.”