2nd Lenten Sunday C (28 Feb 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Over 25 years ago the Transfiguration played a powerful role in my annual retreat, so powerful I’ve never stopped feeling it. I reflect with you on one element as you continue your Lent. In the scene we just heard in the gospel I noticed on my retreat that the shadows of everyone were long. It was late in the day.
Several Lents later I noticed that day dimming into night features in today’s first reading from Genesis. When two scripture selections share a feature, especially selections read together as today, we ought to take notice. Long shadows are not merely my fancy. Luke ended the transfiguration scene and began the next with the words, On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him.1
Elsewhere gospels remind us that Jesus often prayed well into nights, and he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. On the mountain they glimpsed Jesus in glory with the two pivotal prophets of Judaism: Moses, the one who introduced the people to God and who was the measure of all prophets2; and Elijah, whose return people anticipated.3
A bright night, a light shattering darkness, expressed in poor human language divine glory. A bright night, a light of no human making shattering darkness, gives us a feel for God’s saving purpose. The Psalmist gave it a personal texture: The Lord is my light and my salvation. St. Paul gave it cosmic importance: our citizenship is in heaven where our lowly human body will give way to a glorified body, that is, we will participate in Jesus’ resurrection.
The thought of that exhausts me! If you’re like me, then trying to choose to act as if the Lord is my light and my salvation and to treat the world with a respectful freedom because I am only passing through on my way to our true destiny exhaust even more! Yes it was getting toward night on that mountain, and even without glimpsing Jesus’ glory so that Peter and his companions [who] had been overcome by sleep, [became] fully awake, Peter, the entrepreneurial fisherman-leader, may have already thought it wise to spend the night.
Many liken Peter’s murmuring to point to anyone’s reluctance to leave behind a glimpse of glory for one’s daily responsibilities. I suppose. Yet, the gospel is clear: Peter did not know what he was saying. That suggests he did not know what he and his companions beheld to want to do more than to sleep. Glory eludes us all. We might paraphrase Peter’s thoughts in our language this way: “Jesus, this brilliance is awesome, you with Moses and Elijah! Let me sleep on it to figure it out.”
We all know we do process things in our sleep. We also know that some things our minds need to process make our sleep restless. I think the divine voice, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him”—alone not the prophets, became the taproot giving new life to Peter and his companions, helping them harness their restlessness and redirect it into energetic ways to proclaim Jesus, dead and risen, the glorious messiah, who is the pioneer and perfecter of our salvation.4
Lent reconnects us with Jesus, our source of glory, now lived in part and for which we ardently hope. Lenten practices rescue us from the restlessness of impatience, intolerance and indecisive Christian living and redirect our energies so others will glimpse at least life live in a less limited way and may even possess more surely Jesus’ promise: his cross is our glory.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow the life of the Trinity to bathe you in light, inviting you into their glory. Ask Peter, James and John to present you to Jesus. Simply be in Jesus’ presence, holding a crucifix or the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we have in our homes, to help you. Ask for the grace to be in his presence often to let Jesus settle you and redirect your restlessness, fear or indecision into energy to proclaim his gospel. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Its phrase, in heaven, points not to a place but a way of being, which is even more ready to extend forgiveness than to welcome it.
- Luke 9.37.
- Deuteronomy closed, extolling Moses as unequalled: Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. He had no equal in all the signs and wonders the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and against all his land, and for the might and the terrifying power that Moses exhibited in the sight of all Israel (34.10-12).
- A few verses earlier, Jesus was connected with this tradition that Elijah would reappear. See Luke 9.8.
- See Hebrews 2.10.
Wiki-image of Transfiguration illuminating an 11th Century gospel-book is in the public domain.