2 Sunday of Lent, Year C
Gn 15:5-12, 17-18; Phil 3:17-4:1; Lk 9:28b-36
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong. It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand.
However, if readers like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar, it would be greatly appreciated by the author whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
In order for his passion and death not to overwhelm the apostles, especially Peter, James and John who would witness his agony in the garden of Gethsemani, Jesus took the three to the mountain and was transfigured before their eyes. The apostles’ reaction to Jesus’ transfiguration was worth our attention. First, they were enthusiastic about the transfiguration. Therefore, Peter, representing the twelve exclaimed: Master, it is good that we are here (Lk 9:33). Wanting to treasure the experience of the transfiguration, Peter asked Jesus’ permission to erect three booths there to contemplate his glory. They did not realize it was not time for them to stay up there on the mountain yet. They had to go down the mountain again. What did they have to go down the mountain for? They had to go down the mountain to bear witness to the Lord, to suffer and to die with him first before they could enter his glory. Therefore, when a cloud covered the glory of Jesus, they were fearful.
We, Christians, living our faith might experience something of a transfiguration in our lives, though in a much smaller scale. To attend a good retreat, to hear an inspiring sermon, to make a pilgrimage to a holy site, to make a sacrifice for the love of God, to help a destitute person, we might be excited at the call to holiness. We might be touched by good examples of holy men and women. We might feel good with those religious feelings and experiences. We want to live a holy life. We want to dedicate ourselves to serve God and humankind. Religious literature describes such phenomenon as ecstasy or rapture.
However, those unusual religious feelings and experiences as such do not guarantee holiness. Yet some people want to seek religious feelings and experiences all the times. If they have already had religious feelings and experiences, they want to seek more. In other words, they addict to religious feelings and experiences. They allow religious feelings and experiences to control their lives of faith.
Therefore, they are quick to go to some places where a vision or a would-be miracle is reported. They go to religious gatherings where they can express their religious feelings and experiences: crying and hugging, holding hands in order to get emotional support. Their religious curiosity is to want to have religious feelings and experiences. When their religious curiosity is not satisfied, they blame religion, which they think does not provide them with religious feelings and experiences.
Sometimes we hear people complain that religion does not help change anything in their lives. They demand God to be transfigured before their eyes, i.e., to work some miracles for them to see before they can put faith in him. Today we must come to realize that religious feelings and experiences are only good to the extent that they can be an initial point for our conversion, or a starting point for establishing our close relationship with the Lord.
To wish to have too much religious feelings and experiences, or to depend too much on them is a sign of immaturity in faith. We cannot expect God to give us some kind of religious feeling, or to perform some miracle for us to see as a condition to follow him and to practice our faith. In today’s reading from the book of Genesis, Abraham teaches us a lesson on perseverant faith. Although he knew nothing about the land, he would go and although he was already seventy-five years old, he put his absolute faith in God, in his promise (Gn 15:5-6).
We should keep in mind that not all the apostles saw Jesus’ transfiguration, but only three. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told those who saw the transfiguration: Do not tell anyone of the vision until the Son of Man rises from the dead (Mt 17:9). The Gospel of Mark tells us about the apostles: They kept this word of his to themselves (Mk 9:10. Finally, the Gospel of Luke tells us: They kept quiet, telling nothing of what they had seen at that time to anyone (Lk 9:36). That means the three apostles who saw Jesus’ transfiguration did not tell the other apostles about the transfiguration. And the apostles who did not see the transfiguration of Jesus accepted suffering and the cross.
For practical application, if we have religious feelings and experiences, or get excited at the call to holiness, it should be a joy and we must be thankful. However, we should not let our faith depend on religious feelings and experiences only, but on decision: decision to follow the Lord, decision to put our faith in action even if we do not feel like it, even if we do not get high on religion. Only decision that matters, because our decision will determine our faith life.
Prayer for perseverant faith even without religious feelings:
Oh Lord Jesus, Son of the living God!
You are glory of the saints and hope of the Christians.
As the three apostles saw the glory of your transfiguration,
may I be aware of your presence in this life
and your glory in the life to come. Amen.