Inspirational words by our own Fr. Thomas Leitner. His homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent:
Lk 9:28-36 Gen 15:5-12.17-18
Phil 3:17 – 4:1
Focus: The transfiguration story shows us Jesus’ Divine glory.
Function: It is a consolation for us, as it was for his first disciples, for the times in the valley, the times of pain and of hardship.
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
In movie theaters and on television, we so often see previews of new movies or TV shows. These usually aren’t sufficient for us to understand fully what this movie or show is all about. But they sometimes arouse our interest and stir our desire to see more of the movie or show.
Today’s gospel is a preview of a very special kind. To Peter, John and James, Jesus’ Easter glory is revealed. In Luke’s gospel, it’s only on two occasions that Jesus asks a group of disciples to go with him to a particular place for prayer: here on mountain of transfiguration, which is usually identified as Mt. Tabor, and later in the Garden of Gethsemani.
The Tabor experience happens just at the right time for the disciples. It is a preparation for things to come. Jesus ministry in Galilee is almost over. He has made the first prediction of his passion. In the passage preceding the transfiguration story, Jesus points out to the disciples for the first time that whoever wishes to come after him must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow him. After our passage, Jesus starts his journey to Jerusalem.
The topic of the three persons’ conversation in the vision is Jesus’ exodus, which he is going to accomplish in Jerusalem. The Greek word ‘ex-hodos’ means ‘way out.’ It is the way out of the city and up the hill of Golgotha. But the Exodus is, at the same time, the people of Israel’s way out of Egyptian slavery through the Red Sea’s dangerous waters into freedom. The word ‘exodus’ here points to the whole Paschal mystery: the one once in Egypt and the new one that is going to enfold now: it is a way through death to life.
Moses and Elijah are great O.T. persons who show something about who Jesus was and about what he did. Moses was the lawgiver; Jesus brought a new law of love to God and neighbor. Elijah was the greatest O.T. prophet; Jesus surpassed the prophets’ message by proclaiming God’s special love and care for the poor.
The whole experience is overwhelming. Peter is confused; he wants to build booths like at the festival of Tabernacles; he wants the feast to endure. But the vision ends—still God’s presence, indicated by the cloud, continues. God’s voice from the cloud makes Jesus known as God’s chosen Son and summons the disciples to listen to him.
The season of Lent is an invitation to follow Jesus more closely. It’s a time of repentance and conversion, but also of accepting anew the salvation and redemption that come from God through Jesus Christ. Like Peter, John and James, we, too, need Tabor in order to be able to endure Gethsemani and Golgotha.
Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, the transfiguration story reveals to us Jesus Divine glory. It’s a consolation for us, as it was for his first disciples, for the times in the valley, for times of pain and of hardship.
This Sunday is a good opportunity to recall the Tabor hours of our life. Most of us can remember moments when we felt God’s closeness in a special way, during a retreat or worship service may be, or when a child was born, or during a mountain hike.
Of course, there were also other times, times when we, in one way or the other, had a share in Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and in his way of the cross.
In order to experience God’s closeness we need, like Peter, John and James, prayer times in the company of Jesus, personal prayer times, but also times of communal worship. The center of the Church’s communal prayer is the celebration of the Eucharist, where Jesus is really present, where we can listen to him, to his word, and where he strengthens us with his body and blood.
Indeed, Tabor hours are necessary in order to stir our interest in heaven and to keep our hope for it alive. “Our citizenship is in heaven.” “The cross and the bearing of the cross we can accept only if we know that they are not the destination and the end, but just the way in order to reach the glory,” one spiritual author writes. The waiting period of this earthly life … can only be endured if we know that Christ—and we with him—have to suffer in order to so enter into his glory.” AMEN.
Fr. Thomas Leitner, OS