Hi everyone - and thanks for checking in! Here’s my homily for the SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT - March 16, 2014. The readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031614.cfm Thanks for reading, sharing the blog and all of your feedback! God Bless - Fr Jim
"What is it going to take to get this into your head?"
I don’t know how many times I heard that phrase growing up. And the more I think about it, not just in one place. Teachers used that phrase with me. Coaches used that phrase with me. I thought my parents had invented that phrase. My brother’s used a slightly different variation using other words but the meaning was pretty much the same - What is it going to take to get this into your head.
Looking back at the times I heard that growing up, often times I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t want to do something, I was bored, I had something else in mind. And the "this" that they were trying to get into my head could have been anything. My little league coach is trying to "get into my head" how to cover first base in baseball. Unfortunately, I was still angry that I’m not the starting pitcher, wondering why Frank Pasquale was picked (even though part of me knew that I couldn’t really pitch, but that’s another story) Next batter, I screw up the same way I had done before and I hear my coach somewhat exasperated screaming, "What is it going to take to get this into your head!"
My teacher going over the difference between "there" and "their." Actually sitting with me trying to explain the difference between the two words and I’m not there myself - I’m staring at the clock waiting for lunch. I’m pretty sure she muttered, "What is it going to take to get this into his head" when she graded my test paper.
My parents, well I’m sure that they could probably write a book on the times, instances and occasions that they shared those words with me and my brothers. In reading this Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus, I could imagine Jesus wanting to say to Peter, James and John - What is it going to take to get this into your head?
Quick recap here - these guys following Jesus were, at a minimum, confused. Somehow Jesus was able to touch their hearts; He compelled them to drop everything and follow Him. In this time with Him, they’ve witnessed=2 0healings, they’ve seen Jesus walk on water, they’ve heard Jesus teach. They think they know who he is - "You are the Christ," Peter accurately proclaims about Jesus just a few passages before this Gospel.
But they still have their preconceived ideas, of what Christ would do for them, in mind. They’re thinking that they can’t wait to see God fulfill his promises as he restores his people, and stick it to the Romans and everyone else who’s mistreated the Jews over the years.
Then Jesus drops this bomb shell - he’s saying something about "suffering and dying." Huh? This same guy that healed that leper? This same guy that performs miracles? How could this be? It doesn’t make sense to them. And after Peter protested that, Jesus kind of gave him a smack down (actually he called him Satan...) and said - look - if you’re with me, you need to take up your cross and follow me.
Not exactly what they had in mind. The Messiah was supposed to come and save them, not lead them to gruesome, painful deaths. So as Peter, James and John are walking up the mountain with Jesus, I could imagine they had a few doubts. "Maybe this guy is simply crazy" - "Maybe all those people who’ve been doubting him, the Pharisees and all those other religious leaders, have been right" - "Maybe we’ve been foolish all along to follow this Jesus..."
You can almost imagine Peter trying to work up the courage as he walked up the mountain for some alone time with Jesus, trying to pull his thoughts together to say to him - "You know, I gave up a lucrative fishing business to follow you - what’s the deal here? Messiah’s aren’t suppose to die. And if that’s what’s going to happen to you - which is bizarre and bad enough - um, what’s going to happen to us???"
It’s just then when this Transfiguration of Jesus happens. Jesus is transformed before their very eyes - these two important figures from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, appear and talk to Jesus as his bodily appearance is glorified. They don’t realize it, but they are getting a sneak preview of what the Resurrection of Jesus will look like. Oh, yeah, and then the voice of God comes from a cloud overhead saying, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him."
What’s it going to take to get into their heads that Jesus’ glory will only come after he has suffered through the passion, died and risen from the dead? In fairness to the three of them, a lot of us have difficulty believing in the idea of someone "rising from the dead," even after Jesus has already done just that; I can only imagine how much harder it would have been to comprehend it before it had happened.
But here’s the thing I think the Transfiguration was trying to do for them. In giving them the glimpse of the future - of experiencing, for a moment, what Jesus would be like after his Resurrection, it was meant to give them the hope they will need when things go very, very bad - for Jesus and for them. Experiencing this humble, meek man - whose gentleness and love call out to people to follow him - to see him transfigured in a flash, where prophets (dead for how many years) are alive and conversing with him - to see Jesus radiating in a supernatural light (the best they can do to explain it was his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light) - and then, just as quickly, there he is again, walking in his beat-up sandals, saying, "Let’s go back down the mountain - oh, and don’t tell anyone about all this, it would just confuse them." They needed this memory to sustain them for what was to come.
He wants to get into their heads that this is better - God is here with you. God’s no longer speaking through a flaming bush to Moses, he’s no longer speaking through a prophet like Elijah. Did you hear the voice of God saying, "This is my beloved Son" - Jesus is saying: I am all that you need... listen to me, trust me.
Jesus says that to us today, too. Don’t all of us come to Mass with so many questions, so many fears and anxieties. We are looking for answers. We want to know "everything’s going to be alright," or "somehow things will work out," "that God is listening to me." Following Jesus Christ - day in and day out can be far from easy - and sometimes it can seem even becoming more complicated than things were before. From our lenten practices (remember no meat on Fridays to working up the nerve to going to confession for the first time since well the first time I went!) To moral questions and struggles - I see my friends going getting drunk, and they seem alright and even to be having fun - why do I forgo it because I have that "Catholic guilt" - To - life-changing thoughts: I know I came to school to study this, but I think God’s calling me to do something else... To life-struggles that we carry on our lists of intentions: someone is sick, someone has died - To all of those things - its understandable for us to cry out looking for a sign, looking for answers, for clarity, for certainty - for assurances to that cry summing it all up: God where are you????
Which is why so early into the season of Lent, we have this Gospel of the Transfiguration. This Word of God - in this Eucharist is meant to remind us to raise our eyes and see no one, and nothing "but Jesus alone." In a sense we’re up that mountain. And it is here that Jesus takes a simple piece of bread and a cup of wine and it becomes his body and blood... about which he says "take and eat. By our receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, into our lives - we too become God’s beloved Sons and Daughters. God the Father as we gather here, as we receive Him calls us by name and says "You are my beloved Son - You are my beloved Daughter in whom I am well pleased."
He wants us to be reminded of that and renewed in that as we go through this Lenten Journey. He wants us to know he is with us and how he remains with us. Are we ready not just to get that 'into our heads', but into our hearts and lives, as well?