From The Connections:The epic film Les Miserables, based on the Victor Hugo novel and the international stage sensation, is a story of grace and redemption, of compassion and mercy.
The story begins with a simple but profound moment of forgiveness. Jean Valjean has been imprisoned for stealing a small loaf of bread to feed his sister’s daughter. Paroled after 20 years of hard labor and brutal treatment, Valjean is a broken, bitter man. He is desperate for work but no one will hire a parolee. Cold and hungry, he is taken in by a kindly bishop. During the night, Valjean steals the bishop’s silver plate and flees, but he is quickly taken into custody by the local police. The constables bring Valjean to the bishop’s residence and ask the bishop to identify the thief and his silver. Indeed it is his silver, the Monseigneur says — but the bishop explains that he gave Valjean the silver. He thanks the police for bringing Valjean to him because he was concerned that Valjean forget to take the valuable candlesticks, as well.
Valjean is stunned by the bishop’s extraordinary kindness and forgiveness. The bishop only asks Valjean to use the silver to re-create his life and return God’s goodness to others. “God has raised you out of darkness,” the bishop blesses Valjean. “I have bought your soul for God.”
It is a moment of transformation for Valjean, who rediscovers within himself the love and mercy that led him to steal bread for his hungry niece. As he turns the cache of silver into a fortune that will benefit many, Valjean comes to realize that “to love another person is to see the face of God.”
The kindness of the bishop is a moment of transfiguration for Valjean: As the three disciples behold the divinity that radiates from the vision of Jesus on the mountaintop, Valjean realizes the ember of God’s goodness that has continued to burn within him despite the brutality and cruelty of his two decades in prison. That same touch of divinity exists within each one of us, as well: God is present within us, animating us to do good and holy things; guiding our steps as we try to walk justly and humbly in the ways of God; enlightening our vision with wisdom and selflessness to bring the justice and mercy of God into our world. The challenge of discipleship is to allow the love of God within us to “transfigure” despair into hope, sadness into joy, anguish into healing, estrangement into community.
From Fr. Jude Botelho:
In the first reading we have the example of Abraham, a man who believes in the promises of God. At a late age, when one would rather settle to a retired life he is ready to move on to the land that is promised to him. When he has no child he is ready to believe in God’s promise that his children will be as numerous as the stars of heaven! His faith is rewarded. Today’s reading tells us that while believing in God’s promises Abraham asks for a sign and God’s first covenant is made to Abraham. Life is full of promises; we make and others make promises to us, but often these are quickly broken. However, God’s promises are never broken. He is faithful because He is our God, the faithful one!
Precious stones have a magical quality about them, as anyone who has visited the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels, can testify. One such precious stone is the exquisite and priceless blue topaz. Blue topaz is chemically a silicate of aluminium, which of itself has no beauty or brilliance. But under great pressure and heat exerted over millions of years, this dull opaque silicate is transformed into a transparent crystal with a remarkable blue colour and clarity. -Today’s readings tell us about other striking transformations. In the first reading from Genesis, not only is Abram’s name changed by God to Abraham, but his whole destiny is changed as he now becomes the father of many nations. In the gospel, Luke describes the transfiguration of our Lord in the presence of his disciples: “As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning.” We too can be transformed!
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
Today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus went with Peter, James and John up the mountain to pray. Perhaps, while it is necessary to spend time alone in prayer, it is equally important that we spend time in community prayer. Firstly Jesus is transformed in a moment of prayer. Prayer can and does transform our lives in more ways than we can dream of. The passage reminds us that the mountain, for the Israelites symbolized the abode of God. It is while He prayed that the aspect of his face changes and his clothing becomes brilliant, He is transformed and suddenly He is in the company of two men: Moses and Elijah who are conversing with him. Secondly, when He is transformed He is not completely cut away from what he is immersed in. There is still that mission that He has to fulfill and He is reminded of that mission by the two figures that are seen with Him, Moses the symbol of the Law and Elijah the symbol of the prophets. Both these had tasks to fulfill: one, to proclaim the Law, the other to utter the words of Prophecy. Both did not fulfill completely the mission given to them, but Jesus would now be fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. He would pass from the slavery of the law to the Kingdom of His Father through His obedience unto death. When God enters our life he does not transform the situation we are in but transforms us so that we can deal with the situation. Peter’s impulsive suggestion to the Lord that they build three tents perhaps points to our very human need to hold on and to prolong the good times. We want the good moments to last and we don’t want to face the reality that life is made up of the good and the not-so-good moments as well, they are all part of God’s plan for us, and if we are ready to relish the good we have to be prepared to face the unpleasant as well. On the other hand the idea of building a tent could remind us that our life and our faith is a journey, where nothing is permanent. Lastly the Gospel tells us that from the cloud came a voice saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen one, Listen to Him.” Yes, Jesus is the well beloved Son of the Father. But we too can hear the Father saying to us “You are my chosen one!” We can hear this voice because God has made a promise, he has made us a covenant, but more than inheritors of the covenant, we have the privilege of being His sons and daughters and He never goes back on His choice! With confidence we can face any trial and carry any burden because we will always be the favoured ones, thanks to Jesus through whom we can call God our Father!A name called in loveMaude and Harry have been married for fifteen years and their relationship is limited to newspapers exchanged at breakfast-table and weather reports noted at dinner-table. Maude spends her days lingering over the housework because she dreads the time when she has nothing to do. Harry works long hours and says he is too tired to talk in the evenings – so they settle for drowsy boredom in front of the television. Maude never hears Harry call her by her name; only as “you”. One day Maude’s friend, Mabel, arrives and tries some advice: “Maude, take a look at yourself! You’re always going around with a colony of curlers in your head and tripping over your face. You’re a mobile mess, dear. What you need is a new hairdo and a new outfit – then Harry will notice you. Tomorrow, we will go shopping.” Next day, Maude spends hours at the hairdresser and at various stores. Mabel is enthusiastic about the results, and after their long day they return to wait for Harry. When the key turns in the lock Maude stands up feeling foolish. When Harry comes in, he stops; he looks at his wife and when he sees her he realizes what she has done. He moves over to her, takes her in his arms, and calls her name over and over again. When that happens, Maude becomes radiant and aglow. She is transfigured – not because she has a new outfit but because this is the first time in years she has heard her name called in love.
Denis McBride in ‘Seasons of the Word’
Seeing him differentlyA movie called Mask is based on a true story of a 16-year-old boy named Rocky Dennis. He has a rare disease that causes his skull and the bones in his face to grow larger than they should. As a result, Rockey’s face is terribly misshapen and disfigured. His grotesque appearance causes some people to shy away from him, and others to snicker and laugh at him. Through it all, Rocky never pities himself. He feels bad about his appearance, but he accepts it as a part of life. One day Rocky and some of his friends visit an amusement park. They go into a “House of Mirrors” and begin to laugh at how distorted their bodies and faces look. Suddenly Rocky sees something that startles him. One mirror distorts his misshapen face in such a way that it appears normal – even strikingly handsome. For the first time, Rocky’s friends see him in a whole new way. They see from the outside what he is on the inside: a truly beautiful person. -Something like this happens to Jesus in today’s gospel. During his transfiguration, Jesus’ disciples, for the first time saw from the outside what he is on the inside: the glorious, beautiful Son of God.
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’
To God Alone the Glory
On the margins of many of his masterpieces, Johann Sebastian Bach jotted down the words: ‘To God Alone the Glory.’ Although Bach was one of the greatest German organists of the 18th century, few besides his family and pupils knew of his genius in musical compositions. At his death in 1750, after a lifetime of total dedication, poverty and struggle, many of his priceless works were lost. Music lovers today owe the ‘rediscovery’ of Bach to Felix Mendelssohn. As a young boy he was enraptured by Bach’s manuscript of the St. Matthew Passion. At the age of 20, he gave a private performance of it. As a result Bach’s genius was widely acclaimed. May we be ‘re-discovered’ through the affirmations of those who believe in us and love us!
Anthony Castle in ‘Quotes and Anecdotes’
The young mother, with her little four-year-old son, called into the church. She was praying her prayers, while he was running around investigating everything in sight. He pointed out to a statue and wanted to know who that was. His mother told him that was Holy God. To another such question the mother said that it was Holy God’s mother. Finally, he made his way into the sanctuary, where the light was streaming through the stain-glass windows. He held out both his arms, as he moved backwards and forwards, fascinated by the colours that were reflected on his hands and clothes. He looked up at the windows and asked his mother who they were, and she said they were the saints. The following day, in play school, the teacher was telling the children about the saints. He got all excited, and wanted to tell her that he knew who they were. When asked who they were, his answer was very simple, and given with great confidence ‘They are the ones who let the light shine through’. –Today’s gospel gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ glory. But it also shows the possibility for every Christian, who is called to reflect the face of Christ to others.
Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth’
The ripple effect
In a study, researchers positioned themselves across from a pay phone and studied people who made phone calls. One of the first things they discovered was that almost everyone who makes a call looks in the coin return to see if any coins happen to be there. The behavior gave the researchers an idea. The next day they randomly put coins in the coin return slot so that some of the people who used the phone actually did discover money. The researchers then hired a young woman, with an armful of books, to walk by the phone at the exact moment that the subjects were hanging up. As the woman walked by with her arms full of books, she pretended to stumble and drop them on the ground. Astonishingly, the researchers observed that the people who found money in the slot return were four times more likely to stop and help the woman pick the books than the people who found no money in the return slot. They concluded that when we feel good, we tend to do good, which also means that the helping impulse is transferrable. In other words, if you do something good for another person, he or she is more likely to do something nice for someone else, causing a small gesture to result in a giant ripple effect. This illustrates what it means to be a light-bearer, a person transformed by the Light! -Start a giant ripple! Transfigure your world!
William Bausch in ‘40 More Seasonal Homilies’
The first reading from the book of Genesis speaks of the test of faith of Abraham the father in faith of all believers. In the story of Abraham and Isaac, Israel recognized its own destiny. How often Israel itself was laid on the altar of sacrifice entirely at the mercy of God. In the face of all tests the only saving attitude is that of Abraham: “Here I am Lord!” Living among the Canaanites who practiced human sacrifice, we see his agonizing effort to do what he thought God wanted of him. Abraham’s great faith was rewarded. As we enter deeper and deeper into the Lenten observances we need to realize that God is calling us to a profound surrender of our lives into his hands.
Victim or Victor
Charles Rayburn has been a victim of cerebral palsy since his birth. His only means of communication was an electric typewriter which he strikes with a stylus attached to a band around his head. In spite of his palsy, Charles Rayburn has published 37 articles in national magazines. One of his articles appeared in America magazine and dealt with the Stations of the Cross. Charles Rayburn is a living example of today’s reading about Isaac and Jesus. These three figures and the three readings are tied together by a triple theme –the theme of Sonship, death and deliverance.
- Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
John Updike wrote a short story called “Pigeon Feathers.” It’s about a young boy, David, who begins to have doubts about his faith. One night in bed David is thinking about his problem. Suddenly he decides upon a bold experiment. He takes his hands from under the covers, lifts them above his head, and asks Jesus to touch them. As David waits breathlessly, he thinks he feels something touch his hands; not sure if they have been touched or not. We can all relate to David in this scene. We too experience times when our faith seems to disappear or go behind a cloud. When this happens, we long desperately for a sign that God is real and that Jesus is the Son of God. Or to put it in another way, we long for a sign of Jesus’ glory, like the one Peter, James and John received in today’s gospel.
- Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’
Fr. Tony Kadavil:
Red Lobster's LobsterFest.
Popeye's Shrimp baskets.
7. The World of the Prophet
1: Transformation of minerals into pearls, gems and precious stones:
Precious stones like the diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire, are the most valuable of all commodities. The most expensive gem Alexandrite costs $30, 000 per carat. Pearls are less costly. All these precious stones are the result of years of transformation or transfiguration. But today’s gospel describes Christ’s instant transfiguration revealing his divine glory surpassing the beauty of the most expensive gems. Most pearls are produced by oysters or some other mollusks in both freshwater and saltwater environments. Natural pearls are formed when a foreign object enters an oyster’s shell. To defend the oyster, layer after layer of calcium carbonate (nacre) along with other minerals grow and form like onionskins around the particle. Gradually the foreign objects are transformed into pearls which are very rare and expensive. Like natural pearls, cultured pearls grow inside an oyster, but with human intervention. Shells are carefully opened and different shapes of beads are inserted. Over time, the inserted beads become transformed by coats of nacre, which makes a pearl appear to glow inside and gives it a beautiful shine. The most valuable gems come from crystallized minerals that have formed under heat and pressure deep inside the earth for millions of years. Diamonds are formed far under the earth where the heat and pressure are very intense. Under these conditions the carbon atoms line up perfectly and a diamond crystal is born. Today’s readings challenge us to radiate the glory of the transfigured Jesus by renewing our lives by the observance of Lent.
-------------------------------------2: The transforming vision of Elisha’s servant:
There is a mysterious story in II Kings that can help us understand what is happening in the transfiguration. Israel is at war with Aram and Elisha the man of God is using his prophetic powers to reveal to the Israelites the strategic plans of the Aramean army. At first the King of Aram thinks that one of his officers is playing the spy. But when he learns the truth, he dispatches troops to go and capture Elisha who is residing in Dothan. The Aramean troops move in under cover of darkness and surround the city. In the morning Elisha's servant is the first to discover that they are trapped and he fears for his master's safety. He runs to Elisha and says, "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" The prophet answers "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." But who would believe that when the surrounding mountainside is covered with advancing enemy troops? So Elisha prays, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." Then the Lord opens the servant's eyes, and he looks and sees the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-23). This vision was all that Elisha's disciple needed to reassure him. At the end of the story, not only was the prophet of God safe but the invading army was totally humiliated. The transfiguration scene described in today’s gospel was intended to have a similar effect on Peter and the other apostles who were really afraid for their master’s safety in the context of growing hatred against and opposition to Jesus.
---------------------------3: “Lord, give me the grace for transformation.”
The word transfiguration means a change in form or appearance. Biologists call it metamorphosis (derived from the Greek word metamorphoomai used in Matthew’s gospel) to describe the change that occurs when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. As children we might have curiously watched the process of the caterpillar turning into a chrysalis and then bursting into a beautiful Monarch butterfly. Fr. Anthony de Mello tells the story of such a metamorphosis in the prayer life of an old man. 'I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: “Lord, give me the grace to change the world.” As I approached middle age and realized that half of my life was gone without changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: “Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me; just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.” Now that I am old and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: “Lord, give me the grace to change myself.” If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.'
--------------------------4: The old farmer from the countryside who was visiting a big city for the first time with his son, stood speechless before the elevator of a big hotel, watching in wonder, as an old woman got into the elevator and, within minutes, a beautiful young woman came out. He called out to his son who was registering at the reception. “Son, put your mother into that miracle machine immediately. It will transform her into a beautiful young lady.”
-----------------------5: At the transfiguration Peter offered to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Jesus said, "And what about you, Peter?" And Peter replies, "Don't worry about me Lord, I got a better place in Jaffa."
---------------------6. Does a fast-food nation get the church it deserves, or demands . . . . a fast-food church? Not if Lent has anything to do with it.
From the Sermons.com
From the Sermons.com
Have you noticed that all the big fast food chains are touting their great new fish menus in the past couple of weeks?
McDonald's Fish McBites.Wendy's Alaskan Pollack sandwiches.
Red Lobster's LobsterFest.
Popeye's Shrimp baskets.
Economically it is a "down time." No big holidays this month and downright cold and wintery most places. The big chain restaurants are going to try and capitalize on anything they can. That includes Lent.
"Giving up" something for Lent has long meant, giving up rich goodies. Besides chocolate, red meat has always been near the top of that list. If you are old enough to remember those who only ate "fish on Friday," you can understand the sudden oceanic bent of McDonald's and Wendy's and other fast-food chains. If people of faith are "giving up" something for Lent, God-forbid that such a commitment should include "giving up" dining out at a fast food restaurant! Give them fast-food fish instead!
But Lent is not just a season of winnowing down, of doing without, of "giving up." In today's epistle text Paul reminds his readers that following Christ is about living as life as an advocate, as a positive force, not as an enemy, of the cross...____________________________
7. The World of the Prophet
What would you do if someone gave you one million dollars and then told you to come back as often as you liked and you could have whatever money you needed whenever you wanted? Just ask and it is yours. What if he told you to tell all your friends and they could also come and have a million dollars? Do you think you would tell your friends? Do you think you would show up regularly to receive more from this very wealthy and very generous person?
What would you think if you told your friends and they had you arrested? What would you think if people said you were an idiot for getting money from this generous person? What if people killed you for telling them about this person who was giving away free money? Would you expect people to accuse you of being narrow minded when you told people that they couldn't get free money from any other person? Would you expect people to say things like, "You know if we get our money every week, we won't really appreciate it?" Would you expect people to hunt down this very wealthy, very generous person and kill him?
Welcome to the world of the prophet. If you were to take my recent examples and replace the money with forgiveness, you would exactly describe the insanity that faces the prophet, the apostle, and all the messengers of God. God wants to cover us in His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation and for some reason, that makes people angry.
James T. Batchelor
_______________________________________8. In the Form of a Man
The Hindu temple is built in the form of a man. The outer court raised on pillars and open on all sides is the human body, the inner court with its wide spaces is the human mind, the shrine room is the human soul. Man moves within himself into himself and there finds the presence of God.
The Muslim mosque, too, is built in the form of a man. The central dome is man's head and the minarets are his hands upraised in prayer. Man comes to God through an act of adoration and submission. The Buddhist dogoba, too, is built in the form of a man. Its figure is that of a man in the posture of meditation: legs crossed the body erect, and the head held straight and unmoving. The approach to reality is by way of inner withdrawal from the world.
The Christian church, too, is built in the form of a man, a man stretched out
upon a cross. And this has made all the difference. The church does not ask its followers to find their way, or to discover truth within. The church says one man, Jesus of Nazareth is that way, is the truth. He is life. We put our faith in him knowing
_____________________9. Three Questions
Jaques Maritain, the great French philosopher of the last century, said there were really only three questions that had to be answered: "Who am I?" "Where am I?" and "Where ought I to be going?" Jesus knew who he was, and where he was, and where he had to go. Lincoln knew. So have all great leaders and great men and women of faith known. Do we know? Or are we out of focus, our goals fuzzy and ill-defined? Our world is so insane, but not any more so than the world of Jesus. Most people in his day, went to work every day, and came home, and were pulled this way and that. And they didn't ask the big questions very often. We remember Jesus because he did.
William R. Boyer, As a Hen Gathers Her Brood
10. Rejection and Refusal to Listen
Robert Fulton, an artist and engineer was responsible in the early 1800's for putting sailing ships out of business. He made the steamboat a standard on the open seas. It is said that he presented his idea to Napoleon. After a few minutes of this presentation Napoleon is reported to have said, "What, sir, you would make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her decks? I pray you excuse me. I have no time to listen to such nonsense."
_________________11. The Old Mother Hen
Have you ever seen a chicken hawk go after its prey? The old mother hen is often aware of the presence of the hawk in time to gather her chicks under her wing. With a furious fuss she squawks till her brood is safe by her side. She fluffs out her wings and protects them with her own body. The chicken hawk dives and the old hen turns her body toward him and cocks a wary eye without moving from her children. The predator comes in again for the kill and the mother spreads her wings even wider. A third time he dives only to be thwarted by the determined self-sacrifice of the mother hen. She is too big to be a target and the chicks are too safe to be seized so he flies away.
In Mission, British Columbia, a fellow by the name of Ike tells the story about his Grandpa's hen house which burned to the ground one day. Ike arrived just in time to help put out the last of the fire. As he and his grandfather sorted through the wreckage, they came upon one hen lying dead near what had been the door of the hen house. Her top feathers were singed brown by the fire's heat, her neck limp. Ike bent down to pick up the dead hen. As he did the hen's four chicks came scurrying out from beneath her burnt body. The chicks survived because they were insulated by the shelter of the hen's wings.
Richard J. Fairchild
_________________13. Compassion for the Suffering
In England in the 1940s a young woman entered Oxford University with little focus. She had no idea what to do with her life. But she soon came under the influence of a colorful professor of English, a writer with a gift, named C. S. Lewis. She became a Christian through much of his influence.
She left Oxford, against the advice of friends and family, and began to study nursing. After five more years of rigorous training, she was certified as a nurse.
But her story doesn't end there, for her questing Christian spirit would not let her rest with the way things were. You see, she ended up working on a cancer ward in a London hospital. Gradually, she came to realize that most of the doctors ignored the patients who were deemed terminally ill. As a result she watched many of them die virtually alone.
Greatly troubled she felt that Christian compassion needed to be expressed to these patients in a visible way...
20 Additional anecdotes From Fr. Tony Kadavil
1) Transformation of a frog into prince: The word “transfiguration” is not often part of our vocabulary today. I can’t image a mother coming to the table with a beautifully done casserole proclaiming that she had “transformed” the macaroni into this exotic dish. We might use it if someone goes to the beauty shop and gets a daring haircut. “Look how transformed she is!” we might say. Or we might use it in telling fairy tales to our children – someone was transformed into a princess, like Cinderella, or a frog was transformed into a Prince. But despite the fact that it isn’t a common word to use, what the word signifies does happen pretty often. Something is changed into something more beautiful or altered in some way, making it more “awesome” to use today’s cliché. Lent is a transformational season in the Church. This is, of course, why we hear the story of the Transfiguration read to us today. (Bishop Ron Stephens).
2) Transfiguration of Aluminum silicate into Topaz: Precious stones have a magical quality about them, as anyone who has visited the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels can testify. One such precious stone is the exquisite and priceless blue topaz. Blue topaz is chemically a silicate of aluminum, which of itself has no beauty or brilliance. But under great pressure and heat exerted over millions of years, this dull opaque silicate is transformed into a transparent crystal with a remarkable blue color and clarity. -Today’s readings tell us about other striking transformations. In the first reading from Genesis, not only is Abram’s name changed by God to Abraham, but his whole destiny is changed as he is now to become the father of many nations. In the second reading, Paul says that our homeland is in Heaven. It is from there that our Savior will come “to transfigure those [buried or cremated] bodies of ours into copies of his glorified Body” (Phil 3:21). Finally, in the Gospel, Luke describes the Transfiguration of our Lord in the presence of his disciples: “As he prayed, his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).
3) No Cross, No Crown: Arthur Ashe, the legendary Afro-American Wimbledon player was dying of cancer. He received letters from his fans, worldwide, one of which read: “Why did God select you for such a dreadful disease?” Ashe replied, “The world over, 5 crore children start playing tennis, 50 lakhs learn the game, 5 lakh turn professional; 50,000 come to the circuit, 5,000 reach Grand Slams, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to the semifinals, 2 to the finals. When I won the Wimbledon crown, I never asked God, “Why me?” Today, in pain, I shouldn’t be asking God, “Why me?” Wimbledon crown, cancer cross. That’s Christianity! That is why Jesus reminds his three apostles about his death and Resurrection immediately after his glorious transfiguration. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
4) “I’ve been to the Mountain.” The three apostles’ mountain-top experience of the transfigured Jesus reminds us of Martin Luther King’s last sermon. He delivered it April 3, 1968, on the eve of his assassination, at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, the largest African-American Pentecostal denomination in the United States. He concluded his remarks that night: “I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountain-top. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” (Martin Luther King, Jr., adapted by David E. Leininger, “WOW!!!”)
5) Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay: Those of us who are old enough certainly recall that amazing story of more than sixty years ago, May 29, 1953. A New Zealand beekeeper named Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, were the first ever to reach Everest’s summit. Here was a mountain – unreachable, tantalizing, fearsome, deadly – that had defeated 15 previous expeditions. Some of the planet’s strongest climbers had perished on its slopes. For many, Everest represented the last of the earth’s great challenges. The North Pole had been reached in 1909; the South Pole in 1911. But Everest, often called the Third Pole, had defied all human efforts – reaching its summit seemed beyond mere mortals. (Don George, “A Man to Match His Mountain,” http://www.salon.com/bc/1998/12/cov_01bc.html) Now, success. And heightening the impact even further was the delicious coincidence of their arrival just before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and of the dramatic announcement of their triumph on the morning of the coronation. A “mountain-top experience”…literally. Today’s Gospel presents the “mountain-top experience” of Peter, John and James.
6) “Listen to Him!” Perhaps you have heard of the man who wanted to test his wife’s hearing. He stood some distance behind her and said, “Honey, can you hear me?” Having received no answer he moved closer and again whispered, “Honey, can you hear me?” Again having received no answer he moved right up behind her and softly said, “Honey can you hear me?” She replied, “For the third time, yes!” – In some ways this story could be analogous of our communication with God. We constantly check to see if he is listening in hopes that He will respond to our needs. In reality, He hears us, but He has asked us to listen to Him as well. Lent should be a listening time for each of us. When we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives. At the close of the Transfiguration scene described in today’s Gospel the three apostles hear the word of God from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
7) Serve others after the “mountain-top experience”: In Port Arthur, Texas, there is a special school for very sick children, most of whom have few, if any, motor skills. One very sick boy lived at that school, dying little by little. As tragic as that is, that’s not the point of the story. Unfortunately, children get grievously ill every day. This little boy, though, had the good fortune to be living in the same community with some faithful believers who took the Transfiguration story as their own. God’s glory lived in them. They carried it with them wherever they went. A group of these folks joined together to go to this little boy every day and read to him. Since he was slowly dying, unable to move or read for himself, their act of kindness and ministry was the only activity that brought him any comfort. The social workers were amazed. Just being read to by three different women, one every day, transformed that boy. He was transformed from being depressed and despondent into a responsive bright young man. And even though his spark of life would soon leave him, it got brighter and brighter not dimmer. The boy died, but his life had been forever changed. It had been transformed by the ministry of these caring Christians. They had allowed the light of Christ to shine through them. And a young boy’s life had been transformed. [The Clergy Journal, Logos Productions Inc., (Inver Grove Heights, MN), Vol. LXXIII, Number 7, pp. 88.]
8) Baby powder: You might remember comedian Yakov Smirnoff. When he first came to the United States from Russia, he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, “On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk: you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice: you just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, ‘What a country!’” Smirnoff is joking but we make these assumptions about Christian transformation—that people change instantly at salvation. Some denominations make Christianity so simple: accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, confess your sins to him, you are instantly saved and born again. Some traditions call it repentance and renewal. Some call it Sanctification of the believer. Whatever you call it most traditions expect some quick fix to sin. We go to Church as if we are going to the grocery store to become saved Christian. Just accept Jesus as Lord and Savior or get baptized with water and you become instantly transformed into born-again and saved Christians! Unfortunately, there is no such powder as “Christian powder,” and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised and transformed through many trials, suffering, and temptations.
9) “I’ll fight, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end.” William Booth who spoke these words was a Methodist preacher, too, you know. “Willful Will” they called him, but Booth became disillusioned with the political wrangling of the Methodists. So he left the church and started a Christian mission in the poverty-stricken East Side of London that reached out to the worst. That Christian mission became the Salvation Army, which declared war on poverty and homelessness. Or, as William Booth said: “While women weep, as they do now. I’ll fight. While children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight. While there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end.” That was one hundred years ago. It seems like the kind of war all of us could get behind, the war on poverty, the war on homelessness. Maybe it’s time for another William Booth. If you have a heart, help us. Discipleship is a matter of your heart. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus,/Look full in His wonderful face,” as Peter did on the Mount of Transfiguration. He’ll give you a lift. He’ll give you a life
10) Transfigurations are Big Business: The Church calls this event the Transfiguration of Christ. Jesus was “transfigured”: the figure, the image, the look that he had, the face that showed to others was changed. The appearance of his face changed. Jesus had a different look. Transfigurations are big business today. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want one, including me. And many of us work hard and spend a lot of money to get one — a new face, a new look, a changed appearance. Larushka Shikne did not like the image he thought his name projected, so he changed his name to Laurence Harvey. Issur’ Danielovitch Densky did the same thing and became Kirk Douglas. In the same way, Frances Gum transfigured herself and her image into Judy Garland. Archibald Leach became Cary Grant. Aaron Schwalt became Red Buttons. And would you have paid money to see Marion Morrison in the movies? Maybe, but Marion didn’t take that chance; he became John Wayne. Remember that in Holy Scripture many people got new names to go with a new life and a new image. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob became Israel. Saul became Paul. Simon became Peter, “The Rock.” Transfigurations are not the exception. They are the rule. We are all being altered in the appearance of our face, our countenance. We are all changing. To live is to be continually transfigured. So who are we becoming? I don’t mean to suggest that Jesus’ Transfiguration was a triumph of cosmetology. It wasn’t. He did not have it done to himself; it was given to him. St. Luke’s Gospel says that Jesus was praying when it happened. (Rev. Robert Johnson).
11) Raphael’s great painting of Christ’s Transfiguration: Remember how in Raphael’s great painting of Christ’s Transfiguration, the whole story is depicted? Up above Christ is hovering in glory, lifted from the earth and clothed in light and accompanied on each side by his saints. Down below in the same picture, the father holds his frantic child, the helpless disciples are gazing in despair at the struggles which their attempts to heal him in Jesus’ Name have wholly failed to touch. It is the peace of Divine strength above; it is the tumult and dismay of human feebleness below. But what keeps the great picture from being a mere painted mockery is that the puzzled disciples in the foreground are pointing the distressed father of the child up to the mountain where the form of Christ is seen. They have begun to get hold of the idea that what they could not do He could do. So they are on the way to the Faith which Jesus described to them when they came to him with their perplexity (Phillips Brooks in More Quotes and Anecdotes).
12) A name called in love: Maude and Harry have been married for fifteen years and their relationship is limited to newspapers exchanged at breakfast-table and weather reports noted at dinner-table. Maude spends her days lingering over the housework because she dreads the time when she has nothing to do. Harry works long hours and says he is too tired to talk in the evenings – so they settle for drowsy boredom in front of the television. Maude never hears Harry call her by her name; only as “you”. She feels like an old plant that has been left to wither quietly behind a curtain in the attic. One day Maude’s friend, Mabel, arrives and tries some advice: “Maude, take a look at yourself! You’re always going around with a colony of curlers in your head and tripping over your face. You’re a mobile mess, dear. What you need is a new hairdo and a new outfit – then Harry will notice you. Get some spark, dear! Tomorrow, we will go shopping.” Next day Maude spends hours at the hairdresser and at various stores. Mabel is enthusiastic about the results, but Maude feels the whole exercise is wasted effort. After their long day they return to wait for Harry. And when the key turns in the lock Maude stands up feeling foolish. When Harry comes in, he stops; he looks at his wife and when he sees her, he realize what he has done. He moves over to her, takes her in his arms, and calls her name over and over again. When that happens, Maude becomes radiant and aglow. She is transfigured – not because she has a new outfit but because this is the first time in years, she has heard her name called in love (Denis McBride in Seasons of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
13) Seeing him differently: A movie called Mask is based on the true story of a 16-year-old boy named Rocky Dennis. He has a rare disease that causes his skull and the bones in his face to grow larger than they should. As a result, Rocky’s face is terribly misshapen and disfigured. His grotesque appearance causes some people to shy away from him, and others to snicker and laugh at him. Through it all, Rocky never pities himself. Nor does he give way to anger. He feels bad about his appearance, but he accepts it as a part of life. One day Rocky and some of his friends visit an amusement park. They go into a “House of Mirrors” and begin to laugh at how distorted their bodies and faces look. Suddenly Rocky sees something that startles him. One mirror distorts his misshapen face in such a way that it appears normal – even strikingly handsome. For the first time, Rocky’s friends see him in a whole new way. They see from the outside what he is on the inside: a truly beautiful person. Something like this happens to Jesus in today’s Gospel. During his Transfiguration, Jesus’ disciples saw him in a whole new way. For the first time they saw from the outside what he is on the inside: the glorious, beautiful Son of God (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).
14) You can’t describe the Transfiguration of Christ: There is a story told about Napoleon during the invasion of Russia. He somehow got separated from his men and was spotted by his enemies, the Russian Cossacks. They chased him through the winding streets. Running for his life Napoleon eventually ducked into a furrier’s shop. Gasping for air and talking at the same time he begged the shopkeeper to save him. The furrier said, “Quick hide under this big pile of furs in the corner.” Then the furrier made the pile even large by throwing more furs atop of Napoleon. No sooner had he finished when the Russian Cossacks burst into the shop. “Where is he?” they demanded to know. The furrier denied knowing what they were talking about. Despite his protests the Russian Cossacks tore the shop apart trying to find Napoleon. They poked into the pile of furs with their swords but did not find him. The eventually gave up and left the shop. After some time had passed, Napoleon crept out from under the furs, unharmed. Shortly after Napoleon’s personal guards came into the store. Before Napoleon left, the furrier asked, “Excuse me for asking this question of such a great man, but what was it like to be under the furs, knowing that the next moment could surely be your last? Napoleon became indignant. “How dare you ask such a question to the Emperor Napoleon?” Immediately he ordered his guards to blindfold the furrier and execute him. The furrier was dragged out of the shop, blindfolded and placed against the wall of the shop. The furrier could see nothing, but he could hear the guards shuffling into a line and preparing their rifles. Then he heard Napoleon call out, “Ready!” In that moment a feeling the shopkeeper could not describe welled up with him. Tears poured down his cheeks. “Aim!” Suddenly the blindfold was stripped from his eyes. Napoleon stood before him. They were face to face and Napoleon said, “Now you know the answer to your question.” The lesson here is obvious: How can you describe a near-death experience? You can’t. It has to be experienced. Jesus’ Transfiguration falls in the same category of events which cannot be described. I think that is why Luke says that they kept it to themselves and told no one what they had seen. How do you describe it? It had to be experienced (Brett Blair, www.eSermons.com. Adapted from a story by Richard Hayes Weyer)
15) Mountain-Top Experience: Fred Craddock tells a wonderful story about a young minister, newly graduated from seminary, serving his very first church. He gets a call telling him that a church member, elderly woman who has just given her life to the church, is in the hospital. She’s so weak she can’t even get up out of bed, and the doctors don’t hold much hope for her recovery. Would he go up and visit? Well, of course he will and he does. All the way to the hospital he’s thinking about what he will say to this Christian lady, what words of comfort he can give her to prepare her for her immanent death. He arrives at the hospital, goes up to her room for the visit. He sits and talks with her a few minutes, just small talk really, nothing earth shattering. When he makes ready to leave, he asks if she would like him to have prayer with her. She answers, “Yes, of course. That’s why I wanted you to come.” He then asks politely, “And what exactly would you like me to pray for?” “Why, I want you to pray that God will heal me,” she answers in a surprised tone of voice. Haltingly, fumbling over the words, he prays just as she wanted, that God will heal her, even though he’s not really sure that can happen. When he says the “Amen” at the end of the prayer, the woman says, “You know, I think it worked! I think I’m healed!” And she gets out of the bed and begins to run up and down the hallway of the hospital, shouting, “Praise God! I’m healed! Praise God! I’m healed!” Meanwhile, the young minister, in a stupor, stumbles to the stairwell, walks down five flights of stairs, makes his way to the parking lot and somehow manages to find his car. As he fumbles to get his keys out of his pocket, he looks Heavenward and says, “Don’t You ever do that to me again!” He had a mountain-top moment, but he didn’t know what to do with it! Life is like that. Profound moments just fall in our lap and we’re not prepared; we are caught off guard and unsure what to do with them. (Johnny Dean, Sermon on Matthew 17:1-9: Reality Check)
16) Cinderella then and now: We all know the story of Cinderella. Cinderella is a girl who finds herself in horrible circumstances, unloved and abused by the people who should care for her the most. With the help of some friends, Cinderella overcomes all the hurdles and finds her Prince Charming. At the end of the story we see Cinderella living happily ever after. She is on top of the mountain, reveling in the glory of her new and transformed life. Disney made a sequel to their version of this age-old story called, Dreams Come True. In this story, Cinderella finds out what it is like to live in the everyday moments of running a castle. She has to be a hostess to all the visitors, acting royal as was expected by the people in her new world. Unfortunately, she could be not be her usual warm and welcoming self and be hostess in the traditional ways. So, she had difficulty living up to everyone’s expectations. She could not be herself – she had to act like something different. By the end of the movie, Cinderella discovers that she must be herself to succeed. We are told that Jesus came down from the mountain of Transfiguration and continued his preaching and healing ministry as if nothing happened on the mountain.
17) “Children shall feel something of what is serious and solemn.” In his autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought Albert Schweitzer said that one of the main things his parents did for him as a child was to take him to worship services, even though he was too young to understand much of what was going on. He claimed it is not important that children understand everything. What is important is “that they shall feel something of what is serious and solemn….” Can you see Peter, James, and John as they contemplated what it meant to be in the presence not only of Jesus but also Elijah and Moses, and then on top of all that, to hear the Voice of God as well? No wonder they were silent! Here was dust encountering Divinity, the temporal in the presence of the eternal, the imperfect face to face with Holiness itself. How we need such experiences today! Such experiences demand silence. In that silence, however, there is power. (Rev. King Duncan).
18) Religion in the Valley: Bishop Arthur Moore loved to tell the story of a man who had been away from his home church for some years, involved in all kinds of shady practices and criminal activities. But when he came back to his home church and testimony-time came, he was ready. He stood and said, “I’m so glad to be back in my own church, and I want to tell you that, while it’s true that I have beaten my wife, that I have deserted my children, that I have stolen and lied and done all manner of evil and served several terms in jail, I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that not once, in all that time, did I ever lose my religion!” Now, if your religion is nothing more than an insurance policy for Heaven, if it has no effect on how you live and how you treat others now, then first of all, you are missing out on life. And second, you’d better check your motivation. Christianity is good religion because it works in day-to-day life. (James W. Moore, You Can Get Bitter or Better).
19) Transformation of poor kids to school and college graduates: Mary Ann O’Roark’s article appears in the March 2004 issue of Guideposts magazine, which contains true stories of hope and inspiration. Her story tells of a hardworking mom, Oral Lee Brown, who helped poor children obtain an education and fulfill their potential. Raised in her poor family of cotton-pickers in Mississippi, Mrs. Brown moved to California where she raised her three daughters. When they were grown, Oral Lee turned her energies to running a real-estate agency and a restaurant in Oakland. In 1987 she met a classroom of 23 first graders in Brookfield Elementary and realized that kids who are in the midst of poverty and crime-blighted neighborhoods hunger most of all for inspiration. She told the first graders in Brookfield Elementary: “If you stay in school and graduate, I’ll send you to college. That’s a promise.” Oral Lee made herself a part of the students’ lives, inspiring them with her own climb out of poverty. The kids did not disappoint their “real life angel”. Twenty of those 23 first graders graduated from high school. Oral Lee’s trust fund sent them to college. Last May, Oral Lee watched the first of her class graduate from college. Latosha Hunter got her diploma from Alcorn State University in Mississippi, which she chose in part because it’s near where her mentor grew up. “If she can make it, I can make it,” Latosha says. Indeed, Oral Lee has given these privileged kids a glimpse of their future glory and inspired them to attain their wonderful destiny. Oral Lee Brown shows us how we should put Christ’s transformation into our lives. (Lectio Divina).
20) Jean Vanier and his full response to the Divine “gift of transformation”. Vanier’s participation in Christ’s paschal mystery is transformed into a “gift for living” in a world where the handicapped and the weak are faced with rejection [cf. “Jean Vanier’s Gift for Living” by Carolyn Whitney-Brown in America(December 22-29, 2008), p. 22]. In August 1964, Jean Vanier was a 36-year-old former naval officer seeking to follow Jesus and the Gospels in a new way. He invited two men who had been living in an institution for people with intellectual disabilities to share a house with him in a French village. Since then, more than 132 similar communities, called L’Arche (Arc or Rainbow), have developed in over 34 countries, welcoming people of all faiths and traditions. Its related network, called Faith and Light, included more than 1,500 communities. Jean Vanier has become internationally recognized for his profound reflections on social inclusion, peace, forgiveness and what it means to be human. A celibate spiritual leader who is not a priest, a philosopher with a doctoral degree who is not a professor, Vanier is not easily categorized. When he turned 80 in the fall, the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper commended his peacemaking, ecumenism and humanitarianism. The editorial endorsed Vanier as a worthy candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, created to honor those who have “greatly contributed to fraternity among human beings across the world”. Jean Vanier was born into a distinguished Canadian family. His family was the last of Canada’s diplomats to flee Nazi-occupied France when he was 11. At age 13, Vanier decided to join the British Navy and again crossed the dangerous North Atlantic. In his early 20s, after reading Thomas Merton, getting to know Daniel Berrigan, S.J., visiting Friendship House and the Catholic Worker in New York City, and completing a 30-day Ignatian retreat, Vanier resigned from the Navy. For the next 14 years, he studied and prayed, became leader of an innovative community of international students near Paris, wrote a well-received doctoral thesis on Aristotle’s understanding of happiness and was invited to teach at the University of Toronto.
In 1964 his long search to follow Jesus came into focus in a new way, when with Philippe Seux and Raphael Simi, he moved into a small house in Trosly, France. Within a year the community had grown, because Vanier was asked to take on the directorship of a local institution. A trip to India in 1969 deepened Vanier’s understanding of the spirituality and vision of Gandhi and expanded his critical understanding of poverty and community. Around that time L’Arche communities began to grow rapidly around the world, including 16 in the United States. If Vanier had any tendency to romanticize handicaps or spiritualize weakness, that changed when he himself became weak and dependent from a prolonged tropical infection in 1976 and endured a long recovery. He wrote to friends, “After twelve years at L’Arche as an assistant, I am now experiencing what it is like to be on the other side.” His self-understanding deepened in 1980, when he spent a year living with people with more severe handicaps, whose pain touched his own anguish and even hatred. In learning to recognize his own hidden places of pain, Varnier learned to befriend weakness not just in others but in himself. “Let’s stop running away from ourselves and from the deepest part of our beings,” he encouraged people on retreat. “Let us simply stop and start listening to our own hearts. There we will touch a lot of pain. We will possibly touch a lot of anger. We will possibly touch a lot of loneliness and anguish. Then we will hear something deeper. We will hear the voice of Jesus; we will hear the voice of God: ‘I love you. You are precious to My eyes and I love you ‘“
For Vanier, movements inward and outward follow naturally like tides. He learned not to be an enemy of his inner contradictions and pain and began to speak more about “the teaching of Jesus that, if it had been followed, would have changed the history of the world – Love your enemies.” Love is about coming out from behind barriers, he observed. “Do we want to win, or do we want to be in solidarity with others?” he asked a Harvard audience in 1988. After September 11, 2001, Varnier participated in gatherings where people reaffirmed their vision of mutual acceptance, but he found that those evenings of prayer left him uneasy. “I felt as though people were not praying for a new just order between people and nations, but, motivated by fear, were praying to keep the status quo – no change, no insecurity …” In words that sound especially resonant now as the economy dominates headlines, Varnier wrote that perhaps “certitudes will crumble, and stock exchanges will wobble again before more of us truly begin to search for new ways of living.” Varnier’s life offers one example of a new way of living. For him, life’s work is not simply internal growth or accepting one’s humanness. We each have something to offer. “The fundamental principle of peace is a belief that each person is important,” writes Vanier. “Even if you cannot speak, even if you cannot walk, even if you’ve been abandoned, you have a gift to give.” (Lectio Divina). L/19