Hi everyone, this is my homily for the SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT - March 20, 2011.  The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/032011.shtml.  Thanks as always for reading and your feedback!    Fr Jim

Tim Roach and his family

    When we take the Lord’s words seriously, it can become really scary.

    A man by the name of Tim Roach recently was in the news. Tim a devout Catholic, husband and father of two, is an electrician and has been unemployed since June of 2009. So here it is, a year and 8 months later.  His benefits are set to expire when he gets a phone call from his company offering him a job. He would be the foreman on a new building with a salary of $65 - $70,000 a year... The building would take at least 11 months to construct, offering him some stability that would be a welcome change from these 20 months.  It sounded perfect - almost like the answer to a prayer he and his family had been praying.

    Oh, but there was one thing about this job offer. The building was a new Planned Parenthood clinic. Now what is the 38 year old man - who as a devout Catholic, who is pro-life and knows that Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest provider of abortions in the United States going to do?

    When we take the Lord’s words seriously, it can become really scary.

    That’s as true today as it is for the apostles in today’s Gospel.

    Six days prior to this scene we just heard, where Jesus is transfigured before them, the Lord had explained to them what was going to happen next. They were heading back to Jerusalem where he was going to be rejected, tortured and killed. When Peter attempts to offer Him support saying “NAH - THAT CAN’T HAPPEN - WE WON’T LET IT,” Jesus who sees and knows their hearts rejects those noble, but in the end what he knows to be empty sentiments and calls Peter “Satan” and tells him not to be an obstacle in fulfilling God’s mission which is Jesus’ saving humanity.

    Fast forward to today’s Gospel. It’s a week later, Jesus brings Peter, James and John to this mountain where all these amazing things happen. He’s “transfigured” - or in other words - he appears in this glorious form.   Feebly defined with human words like “radiant,” “shining like the sun,” “white as light”.  Oh, and by the way - Moses and Elijah - two of the greatest Jewish figures from the Old Testament appear. That had to have been a major WOW moment for the apostles.  “This is cool!” - So cool, they don’t want it to end... “Let’s stay here - let’s build tents,” Peter says.

    Just then, the voice of God the Father is heard THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, LISTEN TO HIM. And here’s what’s interesting – they go from excitement to terror. The Gospel says, “They fell prostrate and were very afraid”. What was it that made them so scared? Sure, we can imagine they felt reverence for the Creator of the universe speaking and that would inspire what is often called “fear of the Lord.” But it was more than“reverence” - they were on the ground very afraid (images of cartoon characters with their teeth chattering outside of their mouths seem to come to mind).  Why would the voice of God make something so awesome and exhilarating, into something so frightening. I think that beyond the fact that this overwhelmed them on so many levels, it was what they heard from the Father that scared them.

    Here the apostles had been seeing, experiencing Jesus doing and saying things that 2,000 years later we treasure. Like the apostles, we want to stick with those good things. “Wasn’t it cool when Jesus turned water into wine...” (Have a feeling that would be an extremely popular miracle even today) But when Jesus talks about other things - like calling his followers to deeper conversion, deeper commitment; like when he tries to prepare them for His impending passion and death... then there’s often times debate, confusion, disbelief, even rejection on the part of humanity.

    Maybe the fear that gripped the apostles was the reality that - yeah this IS GOD and they had to take what he was saying seriously. They had to stop rationalizing things in their minds, trying to figure out what the Lord meant, what loopholes they could apply. They had to stop focusing just on the things they liked to hear and experience, and really listen to Him.

    And if they truly listen to Him, then,

    - those words were calling them to stop living with their minds focused on this world,

    - those words were calling them to turn away from sin - not in a “yeah I know it’s a bad thing” that is said with a shrug saying “what can you do...” but truly to take sin seriously and to hear his words telling us to turn away from them are a matter of life and death...

    - those words were calling them to truly empty themselves - give themselves completely to the Lord
    all of those words have to be listened to... Have to be heard. Have to be followed.

    Maybe the fear that laid them out on the ground terrified was what they had heard 6 days earlier. When Jesus told them what He would face in Jerusalem really was going to happen. Jesus was serious about it and was asking them to come, to continue to follow with Him.

    When we take the Lord’s words seriously, it can become really scary.

    Yet one of the things that makes this version of the transfiguration so beautiful is how St. Matthew recounts it.   As the disciples remain somewhat frozen in fear, we hear, But Jesus came and touched them, saying ‘Rise and do not be afraid.And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
    Looking into the eyes of Jesus, and Him alone, they found the strength they needed to get up... To continue on with Him to Jerusalem. And when they would fail as they would continue to do in their journey with Jesus – stumbling even after Easter, after the Ascension, it would always be (and still is) in turning their eyes back to Jesus alone in those moments that would remove the fears, the doubts, the lies that have the ability to convince his followers that they cannot do whatever it is the Lord calls us to do.

    For the unemployed electrician, Tim Roach, he has been threatened with being fired for turning down the job (which would mean he’d lose his benefits immediately rather than in a few weeks); he has been tempted to pretend there’s not an issue, “Well - we’re not sure that abortions will actually take place there” a co-worker argued...  All in an attempt to somehow make him find a loophole to set aside something he in his heart of hearts believes to be wrong. You can imagine friends and family even arguing with him using more fear to convince him to just “take the job... you’re an electrician, it’s not like you’re doing the abortions.” Yet Tim turned down the job immediately. His wife, put it this way - “In the last six months, we’ve learned to take our fears and worries and give them to God.  It’s really changed me and my faith.”

    Yes it can be scary for each of us when we take the Lord’s words seriously. We are surrounded by voices, influences, people who, whether they intentionally mean to or not, constantly stoke those fears and doubts.  Yet, we hear the Lord calling us this Lent to change, to conversion.   Maybe to confront a sin that we’ve become comfortable with.   Maybe it’s to honestly admit our powerlessness in the face of an addiction we’re struggling with and tell ourselves “I’m never going to be able to be able to combat that.”  Maybe it’s a call into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and realizing that in order for that to happen, I can’t live the same way, do the same things, be with the same people because they distract me from being with Him and listening to Him.

    What the disciples found on the mountain of Transfiguration and Tim Roach found in this difficult time is that it’s okay for us to have our fears. It’s human, normal for us, when we know we’re being challenged to grow and change, for us to resist.   But the reality is, we are left with two choices - to stay on the ground like the apostles riddled with fear, or to hear the Lord invite us to ‘RISE AND DO NOT BE AFRAID’ and take those words seriously...

1 comment:

augustine1121 said...

Excellent sermon Fr. Jim, I like the part about following God and how that can be scary. I liked how tied in the fear of the apostles when they saw Jesus transfigured. Thanks for also mentioning the heroism of Tim Roach. It was truly inspiring. Keep up the great work at MSU you are always in my prayers.

In Christ,