Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Transfiguration and the Exodus of Jesus

Second Sunday of Lent, Year C
1. August the 6th we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. Yet every year on the Second Sunday of Lent, we proclaim one of the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration as part of our Lenten journey towards Easter. I have often wondered why Jesus only took Peter, James and John upon the Mountain to reveal His glory. Why did not Jesus take all the Apostles, or for that matter, all of the disciples, or everyone in those crowds which were constantly following Him? Maybe if all those people would have seen Jesus transfigured in glory, they would have put their faith in Him. But then again, the whole event might have led to great confusion. That is, the salvation Jesus won for us was not obtained on Mount Tabor when His radiant glory was displayed and He spoke to Moses and Elijah. No. Jesus won salvation by ascending the Mount of Calvary and dying on the Cross.
2. The Transfiguration itself is an event filled with signs meant to draw us to faith. Even though the apostles did not know how to handle it at the time, these signs would surely not be lost on them after they had received the Holy Spirit. For example, when Moses would come down from the mountain after speaking with God, his face would be radiant with reflected glory, so much so that he had to veil his face because it would freak people out. On the other hand, Jesus’ glory was not a reflected glory- it came from within His person.
3. Then there were the words which were heard from Heaven: This is my chosen Son; listen to him (Luke 9:35) remind us of Jesus’ Baptism. They are meant to evoke our trust in Jesus as the Lord. Moses was an instrument of God to bring His law to the People. But Jesus is the Son of God who is God’s Word. That same Word, given through Moses as Law, spoken by the prophets such as Elijah, is made flesh in Jesus the Living Word. Jesus is not one prophet among others, nor is He one lawgiver among many, nor is He one son of God among many sons of God. Jesus is the Word spoken, the Law given, the Son of God who gives us the power to be the adopted sons and daughter of the Most High God.
4. But the sign which interests me today is that Moses and Elijah spoke of the exodus which Jesus was going to accomplish in Jerusalem (see Luke 9:31). Exodus might be a curious choice of words in reference to the Passion of the Lord. But it would be good if we were to meditate on it. The Exodus event was when the Lord rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The Israelites could not rescue themselves, it was God who did it. The last plague, which would motivate Pharaoh to let the People go, was when all the firstborn sons of every person and animal in Egypt were killed in a single night. The sons of the Israelites, however, were preserved by the blood of the sacrificial Lambs which they put upon their door. In the Exodus event of Jesus, He, the Son of God, is sacrificed to bring freedom and life to all. Jesus becomes the sacrificial lamb whose blood gives us new life. Instead of putting to death the first born sons of the enemies of His people, God offers the life of His only Begotten Son so that even His enemies can become His children.
5. Maybe the Apostles meditated on the word Exodus. Maybe hope arose in their hearts as they approached Jerusalem in those final days before Jesus’ Crucifixion. It is certainly a word which we should ponder. What are those things which enslave us? How do we need to be liberated? What do we have that needs to be sacrificed so that we can enter the True Promised Land of Heaven? The Jews did not consider the Exodus from Egypt as an event merely of the past. It was and is an event which resonated throughout history. All the Chosen People are connected to that event as a direct and effective reality in their lives through the Passover Supper. So much more for us and the Exodus which our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished in Jerusalem through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. We are connected to this event through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the Mass. We are supposed to live Jesus’ Death and Rising, His Cross and His Glory. In fact there is no Glory without the Cross.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?

See the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
1. I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” (Isaiah 6:8). The calling which each Baptized person receives is marked by several characteristics. Maybe the most notable of these characteristics is its personal nature. We could look at the call of Isaiah the prophet which took place within a vision he had of heaven. Although the Lord seemed to ask the question of the whole Heavenly host who should be sent, Isaiah knew upon hearing that the Lord was speaking to him personally and that he had to respond.
2. Saint Paul too was spoken to in a personal manner. Jesus asked Paul why are you persecuting me? And then instructed Paul to go to Damascus where he would be instructed what to do. Saint Paul’s experience of Jesus was intensely personal and he received the Gospel directly from the Lord.
3. In the Gospel we observe the call of Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus spoke to them personally and invited them first to listen to His teaching, second to trust Him in casting their nets, and third to leave everything behind to follow Him. I cannot compare myself to these great prophets and apostles, but I would be lying if I did not admit that the Lord spoke to me in my heart to become a priest. Likewise throughout the seminary He confirmed my vocation- through the same voice which I heard not in my ears but in my heart. He also confirmed my calling through others whose task it was to help me on my path.
4. Although most people may not believe that God can or would speak to them in a personal manner, I believe He does just that. Of course, most of the time, Jesus uses the voices of others to speak to us. But the call to follow Him is no less personal. And if we get used to hearing His voice and not just our own, we will experience it.
5. Another characteristic of the call is that it is a call to holiness- to be like God Himself in whose image and likeness we were made. In other words, it is to be who and what we really are- the children of the Most High God. In receiving this call it is common to be made aware of our own unworthiness. Isaiah lamented his unclean lips, Saint Paul remembered that he was a persecutor of Jesus, Saint Peter fell to his knees and begged our Lord to depart for he was a sinner. The awareness of unworthiness may hit those who have discovered the one whom they should marry, I do not know. I do know that when I first accepted that the call to be a priest came from God, I was immediately filled with fear regarding my unworthiness. Time and time again the Lord had to reassure me. That is why the sacrament of Penance is so important. In any event, there was a saying in the seminary which fits all of us- God does not choose the worthy, He makes worthy those whom He has chosen.
6. God calls us not just from sin to be holy, but He also calls us from good things to better. Once Saint Paul became an apostle, his previous life as a rabbi was over. Saint Peter and his partners had to walk away from the greatest catch of fish in their career. God continues to call us to a deeper conversion and to make sacrifices. For example from the enjoyment of material goods to the giving of them for the sake of His kingdom. Or in the case of a married couple to commit to one another forsaking all others. Or in my case having to leave one parish family to love and to serve another.
7. The sacrificial part of the call might not even seem all that momentous. It might be returning a kind word instead of an insult, letting someone cut in front of us on the road, or listening to an elderly friend or relative tell a story we have heard many times before.
8. Although God’s call is intensely personal, it is not private. It is always for our good and the good of the whole Body of Christ which is the Church. When God calls, He does not force us. He did not force Isaiah, or Paul, or Simon Peter. Rather, the Lord desires the free gift of ourselves. The question we must reflect on is what we are going to do when we get it. I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8).