Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. Dí Souza

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Second Sunday of Lent
February 17, 2008 Year: A
Gen. 12:1-4; 2 Tim. 1:8b-10; Mt. 17:1-9
Called with a holy calling

First Reading...
"The Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran." [Gen. 12:1-4]
 

Second Reading...
"Brothers and sisters: Join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.

This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." [2 Tim. 1:8b-10]
 

Gospel Reading...
"Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

Then Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.'

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!'

When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Get up and do not be afraid.' And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, 'Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.' [Mt. 17:1-9]
 

Incident:
Today cosmetic surgeries are a normal procedure to enhance oneís personality. At times these surgeries expensive can also distort oneís appearance. I met a lady who had a plastic surgery and now she is fighting in the court for compensation for distorting her face. She claims Rs. 10,00,000 as compensation because the doctor who had promised her that her face would be more beautiful had in fact disfigured it. She is suffering and is unable to come in public. Yet, I encouraged her to face the reality. Well, she has coped with the situation to a certain extent frequenting some counseling sessions.
 

Of course modern markets encourage us to transform ourselves into beautiful persons. What is being beautiful? Is it not being beautiful inside our being, in our soul than being beautiful in our appearance? There was recently a program in NDTV about appearances. Yes, majority were convinced that the external appearance gave them a sense of confidence and security. But, what about the inner assurance? Can we get that just being beautiful for a while? The truth is that when you live with a person or persons for a few days, donít you reveal yourself fully who you are on the inside? 

Lent invites us to be transfigured from inside out. 

The account of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ as recorded here in Mark (parallel passages are found in Matthew 17:1-3 and Luke 9:28-36) is a demonstration to three witnesses that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be. In all three accounts of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, we are given the names of the three disciples who accompanied Jesus and who stood as human witnesses to the glory that was Christ's. There were also three heavenly witnesses, Moses, Elijah, and the voice of God from heaven. Therefore, the Old Testament law of three witnesses required to attest to any fact (Deuteronomy 19:15) was satisfied both in earth and in heaven.

The word "transfigured" is a very interesting word. The Greek word is "metamorpho" and it means to transform, literally or figuratively to metamorphose, or to change. The word is a verb that means to change into another form. It also means to change the outside to match the inside. The prefix "meta" means to change and the "morphe" means form. In the case of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ it means to match the outside with the reality of the inside. To change the outward so that it matches the inward reality. Jesus' divine nature was "veiled" (Hebrews 10:20) in human form and the transfiguration was a glimpse of that glory. Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ displayed the Shekinah glory of God incarnate in the Son. The voice of God attesting to the truth of Jesus' Sonship was the second time God's voice was heard. The first time was at Jesus' baptism into His public ministry by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ was a unique display of His divine character and a glimpse of the glory, which Jesus had before He came to earth in human form. This truth is emphasized for us in a passage in the Apostle Paul's letter to Philippians. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form (morphe) of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form (morphe) of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11).

The Son of God came to earth in the form of a man to be the true servant of God and to gift mankind with the greatest gift ever given, eternal life. The transfiguration of Jesus Christ was a visible sign in the presence of reliable witnesses of the reality of the power of God and the glory, which is Christ Jesus

The traditional location of the Transfiguration is on Mount Tabor, which is about a six day walk from Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus had been with His disciples prior to this event.  In Caesarea Philippi, Peter had said to Jesus with faith believing, "You are the Christ, the Son the living God." (Matthew 16:16)  After this declaration Jesus confirmed its truth, and told His disciples that it was not yet the time for them to tell others that He was the Messiah and He began to share that He must go to Jerusalem to suffer, be killed and be raised again to life on the third day (see Matthew 16:21).  The disciples were saddened and somewhat disillusioned by this news.  Peter even tried to rebuke Jesus and prevent Him from allowing such terrible things to happen, but Jesus rebuked Peter for his carnality.  Peter and the other disciples expected that since Jesus was the Messiah, His glorious Kingdom would be imminent.  But Jesus taught that first comes suffering, then comes the glory and the reward (Matthew 17:24-27).  Later, Peter finally learned this lesson and his epistle reflects it (see 1 Peter 1:6-8, 11; 4:12-5:11).

The disciples closest to Jesus, Peter, James and John, were likely the oneís most saddened by the news of His coming death, and they were the ones Jesus chose to come with Him to the mountain and witness His glory.  It must have been a great encouragement to them.  As Jesus was praying and having communion with God His Father, His appearance changed drastically.  The three men watched with amazement and awe as Jesus shone with heavenly brightness, so much so, that there was no adequate earthly description for it.  In Markís Gospel the brightness is compared to exceedingly white snow, or something cleaner than anything possible on earth.  Lukeís description says Jesus was white and glistening, and we read from Matthewís account, that Jesusí face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as light.  Many years later when the risen and glorified Lord Jesus appeared to John on Patmos he described that His "countenance was like the sun shining in its strength" (Revelation 1:16b).

On the Transfiguration mount, the drastic change in Jesusí appearance occurred when He was praying and having communion with God.  To a lesser degree the countenance of Moses had also changed when he had been in the presence of God (Exodus 34:29, 30).  What is on the inside shows on the outside, like when Stephen, the first Christian martyr was testifying to the truth, his face was like that of an angel (Acts 6:15).

As Jesus was praying in this glorious state, Moses and Elijah appeared in some visible form, talking with Jesus about His soon coming departure that He would accomplish in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31).  God the Father had revealed to them what would happen to Jesus.  Their words were surely meant to strengthen Jesus for the trials and suffering He willingly was soon to endure.

Peter was so excited to see these great men of old, that He inappropriately made the suggestion of making three tents, one for each of them, likely so they could stay longer, and undoubtedly so Peter could speak with them too.  Peter may also have thought that this was the beginning of the Messiahís earthly reign as king, but this was not Godís timing.  God interrupted Peter by causing a bright, thick cloud to cover Jesus, Moses and Elijah, and saying very important words, similar to the words He spoke at Jesusí baptism:  "This is My beloved Son in whom I well pleased.  Hear Him!" (Matthew 17:5b; cf. 3:17)  God desires that we listen to and obey Jesus, for He is far greater than Moses, the great Law-giver, or Elijah the great prophet.  God wanted Peter to know that he could not put His Son on the same level of importance as Moses or Elijah.  Also, the important thing is not just seeing wonderful sights and having great experiences, but what is more important is hearing the Word of the Lord.  God emphatically commanded that we listen to Jesus!

When the cloud lifted, Jesus stood alone.  The three disciples had fallen in fear on their faces when they heard the voice of God, but Jesus touched them and told them not to be afraid.  Then Jesus told them not to tell anyone about what had happened, until after He had arisen from the dead.  Some people had already tried to forcibly make Jesus king, and if the people were told about what Peter, James and John witnessed, then they might once again be carnally minded and try to do it again, but it was not the plan of God at this time.

From the Transfiguration we see three great Testimonies about the Greatness and superiority of Jesus:

  1. God the Father authenticated the Divinity of Jesus by His audible voice.

  2. Moses and Elijah representing the Law and the Prophets testified by their presence that Jesus was from above and He was the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.

  3. The three disciples were eyewitnesses of Jesusí glorious deity.  This experience had a great effect on these disciples and their testimony of it had a great effect on all the others to strengthen their faith.  Peter never forgot it.  In his epistle he recalls the Transfiguration saying: "we were eyewitnesses of His majesty." (2 Peter 1:16b).  Likewise, when John wrote his Gospel, he recalled: "we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." (John 1:14)  In fact, Johnís whole Gospel emphasizes the Deity of Jesus and the glory of His Person (e.g. John 2:11; 7:39; 11:4; 12:23; 13:31-32; 20:31).

On the mount that day, we see represented and combined, the two Covenants of God.  The New Covenant represented through Peter, James, and John who would enter into this covenant through the work of Jesus; and the Old Covenant was represented by Moses and Elijah.  The Saints of old, must have looked with excited anticipation to Jesus - the fulfilment of the Law and the prophets (Luke 24:27; Hebrews 1:1) and the ushering in of the New Covenant of Grace through the work Jesus would accomplish.
 
The Transfiguration is a clear revelation from God.  It revealed:

  1. The Divinity of Jesus, "who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person..." (Hebrews 1:3)

  2. The Transfiguration revealed The plan of God for redemption and the importance and necessity of Jesusí crucifixion.  Moses and Elijah encouraged Jesus in the work He would accomplish for the salvation of the world.  The Law of Moses could not save anyone, nor could prophecies, but Jesus alone, of whom the prophecies spoke, was the Redeemer of sinful mankind.

  3. The Transfiguration revealed the superiority of Jesus over Moses and the prophets.

  4. It served as a pledge or foretaste of the future glory that Jesus would attain by obediently suffering and going to the Cross.

  5. It served as a dim picture of the glorious state awaiting the followers of Jesus, those who have been redeemed by His precious blood, will one day attain when our citizenship is in heaven.  For Jesus Christ "will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body" (Philippians 3:21). 

In the Transfiguration we see the King of righteousness in His glory; we see the glory of His Person, the glory of His kingdom; the glory of His Nature; and even the glory of His submission to the will and plan of God that He go to Jerusalem to suffer at the hands of evil men, yet we also see the glory of His power.  Jesus had the power to prevent His crucifixion, but because of His great love for mankind, He willingly suffered and bore the sins of the world upon Himself that we might have forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in heaven with Him.

The Transfiguration was a glorious revelation and a glorious experience for both Jesus and the three disciples to witness.  It had a glorious outcome, for in it we see that, even though Jesus was to die, the outcome was predetermined, for He would be the Victor over death and even be glorified in death.  Jesus is the glorious King indeed and He is worthy to be enthroned on our hearts and be King over our lives.

   Click here for other Sunday Homilies 

A New book from Fr. Rudy :
Short review of the book: This book is an out come of a serious exegetical study on the important words and texts from the writings of St John of the Cross. The study deals with a short life and writings of the mystic and then does a complete study on GOD, MAN and WAYS to EXPERIENCE GOD. The book is available at: St. Joseph Church, Near Holy Cross Convent School, Mira Road East, Thane Dt. Maharashtra State - 401 107, India. Books can be ordered through email: rudyocd@yahoo.com or rudyocd@gmail.com

The cost of the book is Rs. 125/- pp.xviii + 234, The Title of the Book is: THE DYNAMISM OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH - An Exegetical Study on St. John of the Cross, author: Dr. Rudolf V. D' Souza, OCD, MA. PhD.

Dear friend, my homilies will be posted on Thursdays and you can benefit them and if you need more resources, you could contact me on rudyocd@yahoo.com or rudyocd@gmail.com

Let us make this ministry fruitful one so that the Word of God becomes a source of joy for me and for you and help people become more aware of its riches. You are also welcome to share your feedback with me. Thanks and God bless. 

 

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