Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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Second Sunday of Lent - 2007

Dear friend, this Sunday we have the major theme of the Transfiguration of our Blessed Lord. Don’t just dwell on the transfiguration theme. Try to link the theme to all the readings including the Psalm. Therefore I have given a short introduction to all the liturgical material, which will help you to prepare your homily well.

Genesis 15,5-12.17
You promise some one something and you fulfil if you are a righteous man or woman. Papa promises a bycicle to the son if he were to get good marks in the school. Mom promises her daughter a good dress if she were to get a first class in her exams. Well, promises kept really strengthen relationships.

The first reading contains a particularly momentous episode in the history of all Jews and Christians:  God is giving to Abraham the promise of Offpring and of Land.  Abraham accepts this promise of God in a spirit of faith.  This faith of Abraham is an act of trust in a promise which, from the standpoint of humans, could never be fulfilled.  The text says that in reply to Abraham's faith God "reckoned this act to Abraham as uprightness".  That is to say, this act is added to Abraham's existing integrity of life and submission to the divine will, the aspects of human existence which make a person pleasing to God.  The passage concludes with an allusion to an ancient ritual involving a "covenant" or legal arrangement with God which solemnizes His relation with Abraham.

Psalm 26[27]
The responsorial psalm takes up the reading from the standpoint of Abraham and shows how we should center our faith on God alone so that we too can have our integrity of life and submission to the divine will reckoned by God as something which is pleasing in His sight.

18Philippians 3,17 – 4,1
The passage from Paul's Letter to the Philippians warns against taking the things of this world as the most important things in our lives.  For us Christians the real home is heaven, and the things which should be most important even in our lives here below are the things that really help us come closer to God and neighbour. From above God will come to transfigure our earthly bodies into copies of his glorified body.  Our task here in this world is to transform the world and make it a better place to live.

Luke 9,28b-36
I met a lady in our parish who is totally disfigured because of a fire accident in her home a few years ago. She actually suffers a lot due to the weakness of her skin that tries to cope up with the fluctuating weather conditions. But I can still see her beatiful smile whenever she comes to talk to me. I can imagine her pain, sorrow, her fears, but the heavenly smile she carries with her. I am convinced that she is totally transfigures from within her heart, to accept such difficult situations in life

Transfiguration in our Daily Lives: Examples
You transfigure, while disciplining yourself.

Once a young boy came to me asking how he could study. I told him that he needs to work hard, read, byheart and then write. Well, the boy returend after his exams and said to me that his exams went on very well, and he wrote all the answers.

A fat man asked me how he could reduce weight, and I replied him saying that he needs to walk daily 45 minutes, and take less food at night and then avoid fat filled food. What a transformation, he comes back after a month to show that he had lost more than 8 kilos.

Once a young man by name Norbert asked me how he could overcome the vice of anger. I told him that there is no medicine for anger. He needs to work at it. I told him that he will never succeed in changing the world. He needs to accept certain realities as they are and change wherever he can bring a change without violence. I told him that he could not certain of his own habits over night. So there are people around us who have certain habits that anger us, and we cannot change them over night. He writes me through email that he is a better person now.

This is I call transfiguration in our daily life. No one can help us, we need to help ourselves.

The Transfiguration event is the culmination of what Jesus and the three disciples experience on their way to this Holy Mountain. This was the second mountain in the life of Christ, soon after the preaching experience on mount of Beatitudes. There would be another one, the third, would lead him to the most painful experience of his life, Crucifixion. Between the first and the last there is the mount of Tabor. There are three important moments in this entire episode. The first is going up the mountain; the second is staying on the mountain; the third is coming down the mountain. All these three moments were an intense and interconnected experience of all the four: Jesus, Apostles Peter, James and John.

Going Up the Mountain
Jesus was a man of creativity. He did at times take certain initiatives that were confusing to the minds of the apostles. This time it was climbing the mountain. Just imagine when someone asks you to climb a mountain with you; what would be your reply? Oh, I do not have time, I have to do this thing and that thing, and I have no strength, I feel so tired and have no enthusiasm, let us climb it on another occasion etc. etc. Jesus literally insisted that they climb the mountain together.  Probably it was hard for Jesus to convince especially Peter. We find here a company of Apostles who are young, old and energetic and also ambitious. If you recall well, John and James came with their mother to claim special privileges with Jesus. Peter wanted to be the first and also the most important one. He was also a man of emotions; he would jump into to the sea to go towards Jesus. He would say to Jesus “depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner”; he is the one who also promised that he would never part company with Jesus. Promises, promises and promises, and what else? He was the one who denied Jesus and ran away from his company. Don’t you think this band of apostles selected were of many complications? Yet Jesus chooses them to be with him on his journey to Mount Tabor. He wants them to be close to him when he has something very intimate to share with His Father.

Climbing the mountain is a comparison that can enlighten us. We climb always. We grow old and we climb the ladder of knowledge, we climb up in status in our community and we climb up in reputation and at times we climb up in our experience of God. All these things are very important. But there is one that is very essential; that is climbing the ladder of spiritual formation.

Climbing is a tedious task. It requires energy, patience and perseverance. We cannot climb up in our intellectual, spiritual and moral life without efforts. One thing we need to keep in mind, we should never give up. No matter what are the conditions, you continue your journey. If you are aware you will discover gradually that climbing will illumine your path. If you had an experience of climbing a mountain you could discover that as you climbed a mountain you could see better the areas surrounding the mountain, you have a better perspective, and you literally begin to feel that it is worth climbing, you feel refreshed and relaxed as you go up.

Climbing Together 
In our parish community we need to give up individualistic ways of life. When we become too egocentric we cannot hope to climb together. Gradually we develop a kind of crab mentality, i.e. pulling down those who are on their way up. That is what normally the crabs do when they are put in a vessel. When one climbs up the other pulls it down. Consequently we just live in the same vessel never being able to see better things of life. We need a network of being united in our effort to grow up. We can never be satisfied with what personally we achieve. We need the community for any step we take in our life. The moment we take a step alone, we will have to be sure that in all that we experience we will be alone. We can try our best to climb all together. Climbing signifies encouraging one another on the road to sanctity, holiness, love and service. We can face trials and temptations provided we can begin to share our deepest longings and intentions. Mother Teresa once said, “The biggest problem facing the world today is not people dying in the streets of Calcutta, and not inflation, but spiritual deprivation… This feeling of emptiness associated with feeling separate from God, and from all our sisters and brothers on planet earth”. “Loneliness”, she said, “is like the leprosy of modern times”. Mother Teresa was talking about the pain associated with feelings of isolation and separateness. These feelings are common to mankind. They can overtake any one of us in a heartbeat, even in the very midst of happiness and joy. Loneliness implies a lack of meaningful connection. For most people it is a familiar traveling companion. Even when we’re surrounded by people we know, we can feel separate and apart. Separate from what, we might ask? Separate from others, separate from ourselves, separate from the divine, separate from meaning, separate from love. Separate from a sense of belonging. When we climb the ladder of our life we need support and encouragement. We need guidance and compassion. All these values will never come to us from the blue.

Staying on the Mountain 
It requires tremendous strength to stay on the top. I do not speak here of staying on the top of fame, reputation, popularity and office. That could be easier. Here I precisely speak of staying in our vocation, call, prayer, sacrifice, self denial and holding on to the values of our life. Have you seen a farmer tilling the ground, waiting for rain, cultivating and expecting a good crop? That is what we call a Herculean patience. We all need to be like good farmers who have made patience a part of their life. They never give up. They get up early, work hard in the sun and rain, they feel one with the mother earth and they experience the joy of working at it. Have you seen a mother taking care of her baby? This also should make us learn a lesson. What an amount of patience, every moment of the day and night she will have to put up with the entire crying, falling, disturbing, dirtying etc. All is for the good of the child. Often we Christians seem to forget the realities of the world once we become a part of our daily life style. We never consciously think how a father or mother in a family has to stay on, being vigilant, alert and watchful of all the affairs of their daily life. This is literally called staying on.

Jesus now is on the mountain, with the three disciples. I am not very sure whether Jesus took to praying immediately. But that is what the Gospels tell us.  

While Jesus was praying, his whole body filled with light. It must have been a marvelous sight to behold. Only a few get that privilege. Prayer enlightens the one who prays and spreads the light to the one who is with praying person. When one prays there cannot be class conflict. There cannot be fights. There can be only awe and glory. When we pray there is always light. There cannot be darkness. Our being is enlightened. Praying is always a way to light. Jesus came into this world to bring light and He is the light. Now prayer can bring light to the darkness of our life. Praying community is an enlightened community. There is no darkness in it. Our parish community must become the lighted city which cannot be hidden.

Peter was ecstatic. He uttered words of wisdom and he was lifted up from the ordinary sense of experience. He could not believe his eyes. He saw something which he had not seen. Perhaps he was not even aware what he was talking. On certain occasions in our life we become ecstatic. These are momentary experiences. When we are ecstatic we utter words perhaps do not mean anything. For example whenever we celebrate our birthday, or feast day or our jubilee we utter all praises to others. Nothing bad comes from our mind or mouth. All seems well. This experience is momentary. Soon the light will fade and we will be thrown into ordinary situation of life. That is the time we really live our life.

The booths 
What are these booths? When we are well grounded on a place then we think of booths. Booths signify security. But look at Peter, he is not bothered about himself or his companions, he wants build booths for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. This is the true spirit of any consecrated person. We need to build booths for Christ, and Tradition of the Church. Whatever we have, it is from the tradition of the Church and especially from the source of that tradition i.e., Christ. Do we really think of building booths for God? Not possible. The booths must be built in our heart and no where else.

The Cloud
There is a great significance to the cloud. Cloud is always identified with mystery. When we say the day is cloudy, we do not seem to be too happy about it. Here there was a cloud overshadowing the apostles. They were afraid. Don’t we have clouds in our community? Whenever we encounter strange situations and circumstances; whenever we find it hard to understand the other person in the community; when there are insecure moments of relationship; we seem to be in clouds.

The Voice 
The voice tells us not to listen to anybody but Jesus alone. Often in our life we try to listen to others rather than to the voice of Christ through the Word of God and through the liturgy. We are too much opinion centered and we become slaves to the gossips of the other members.

Fear and Trembling 
The Voice of the Father made the three disciples fear and tremble. That was the worldly fear. The voice of the Father evokes fear in us when are not fully God centered. When we are self-centered we are always afraid. Only Jesus did not fear. The voice of the Father can be heard on many ways. In the cry of our own community members, in the cry of our neighbors and neighboring homes, cry in poor families. The voice is soft and really vibrating.

Do not be afraid
The assuring words of Jesus strengthened the disciples. They were assured and cared for by Jesus. This is the true way of Consecrated life, to assure others. We need to be like Jesus assuring others in our community. We are called to fill others with courage. It is a sad experience that we who are supposed to be the happiest people, have become tragically the saddest of people. We who are supposed to be like Jesus trying to solve the problems of people; never succeed in solving our own problems throughout our life.  How can we then solve the problems of others, and instill in them the power of God? Jesus says “do not be afraid”. 

Coming Down the Mountain 
They came down the mountain after this marvelous experience of ecstasy, light, awe, and presence of God. Jesus did not allow them to continue in this experience. When we live in this world, heavenly experiences do not last long, because we are in the body. Spiritual experiences cannot be long lasting unless otherwise willed by the Divinity. We need to come down to ordinary realities of life. The daily life with all its challenges, risks, pains and sorrows is truly life of this world. When we are strengthened in the grace, we can come down to daily realities of life easily. We must be grounded on earth. When coming down the mountain Jesus strictly warned the disciples not tell about what happened on the mountain. He did not want a fantastic experience to prolong or advertised, rather asked them to keep it a secret until he is raised from death. He wanted to be real. Hence he tells his disciples that the Son of man must suffer and must die. Jesus came to die. We all look forward to live. That is the difference between us and Christ. Too many of us resist authenticity, preferring instead an airbrushed approach to the world. This is easy to do since we live in a time where our values and our vision of reality are influenced and shaped by images that are unreal and false. We watch popular television shows, and we come away thinking that everyone is supposed to be young, beautiful, thin, and rich. We have a false view of a world created by exhausted Hollywood values. We create fantasies for ourselves based on what I call “false reality.” Too many false things imbibed on a day-to-day basis and we eventually become stupid in our approach to realities of life. Reflect on the frustrations, joys, and sorrows of real life. When you are sitting around with nothing to do, and if your mind wanders, try to keep it from getting caught up in fantasies of perfection. Don’t get caught up in the sizzle; instead, focus on substance and reality. It is right before you, this very moment; don’t overlook it. This is what I mean “coming down the mountain”. We need to be practical and loving all the time. Community experience is coming down from our own ego, selfishness and become service minded as Jesus begins to serve the people after the Tabor experience. Look at the face of the one who does not like you, try to offer anonymous service in the community, try to keep things in order, help someone who is struggling with his/her responsibility. All these ways are a help to come down from the mountain. How beautiful our life would be if we were to do the work of Christ after the Tabor experience? 

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