Once upon a puddleOnce upon a time there was a small pond, little more than a puddle, really. Day after day the fish in the puddle would swim around and around and fight over the water bugs. The little puddle was cradled between the roots of an ancient oak tree, beside a flowing river. One morning, the fish were startled by a sudden splash. An amazing, brightly colored fish had jumped into their riverside puddle. Its golden scales were luminous in the few rays of light that managed to shine through the muddy water.
“Who are you?” one of the puddle fish asked. “And what are you doing here?”
The luminous fish smiled, “I come from the sea!”
“The sea? What’s the sea?
“No one ever told you about the sea? Why the sea is what fish are made for. Fish needn’t swim in circles all day and fight over a few bugs. In the sea, fish can dance on the tides of crystal clear water! And there is abundance for all!”
A pale, gray puddle fish spoke up: “But how do we get to the sea?”
“All you have to do is follow me to the river and trust that the current will take you to the sea.”
One of the pond fish, the realist fish, swam forward with a hard, experienced look in his eye: “Talk of the ‘sea’ is fine — but we have to face reality. We know this pond. We know how to hunt for water bugs. We can survive here.”
“But you don’t understand,” the luminous fish said. “I come from the sea. I’ve been there. It’s far more wonderful than you can imagine . . . ” But the realist fish snickered and swam away.
The nervous fish then worked up the courage to speak. “Do you mean we’re supposed to jump into that big river?” the nervous fish stammered.
“Yes, the way lies through the river,” the luminous fish explained. “Trust me . . . ”
But the nervous fish scurried away before the luminous fish could finish.
The professorial fish then interjected, “Our distinguished visitor’s proposal deserves consideration. Perhaps we could hold a series of seminars over the next several days and study the impact this will have . . . ”
The eyes of the luminous fish grew sad. “No, this is a matter of faith. You jump and trust the river will take you to the sea. Will you follow me?”
A few fish, including a very old fish who refused to give up the dream of better things and a young fish who dared to hope in new things, trusted the luminous fish and jumped as he showed them how. And the current swept them to an exciting new life in the great sea.
But most of the fish continued swimming in circles, hunting and fighting over water bugs.
Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1: “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” There is a mysterious story in 2 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 the strategic plans of the Aramean army to the Israelites. 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 surrounded and 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 was 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. (Fr. Munacci). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2: Transformation from pro-choice to pro-life: Dr. Peggy Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International, tells a dramatic story about a woman who glimpsed the mystery of her unborn child. The young woman was seeking an abortion. She simply could not handle having a baby at this time. But she agreed to an ultrasound. When the baby appeared on the screen, the woman was amazed to see the perfectly formed body, the tiny legs and arms moving inside her womb. But the woman kept saying, “No, no, I have to have an abortion.” Dr. Hartshorn felt sad. She knew that seventy-five percent of women who see an ultrasound decide to keep their baby – but that a quarter, nevertheless, still have the abortion. It seemed like this woman would be in that twenty-five percent. All of sudden, Dr. Hartshorn’s assistant said, “Reach out and take your baby’s hand.” Dr. Hartshorn thought, “Oh, gosh, why is she saying that?” But the woman raised her hand and touched the monitor. As if by some divine cue, the baby stretched out his arm to the exact place of his mom’s hand. On the screen his tiny fingers met hers. She kept her baby. There is a mystery inside each one of us – the mystery of the image of God. Today’s Gospel tells us how three of the apostles saw a glimpse, a tiny glimpse, of who Jesus was. That would transform them and sustain them through some dark moments following Jesus’ arrest. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3: “It’s kind of hard to explain.” A little boy asked his mother, “Marriage makes you have babies, doesn’t it, Mom?” The mother reluctantly answered her son, “Well, not exactly. Just because you are married does not mean that you have a baby.” The boy continued his inquiry: “Then how do you have babies?” His mother, not very enthusiastic about continuing, answered, “It’s kind of hard to explain.” The boy paused and thought for a moment. He then moved closer to Mom, looked her right in eye, and carefully said, “You don’t really know how it works, do you, Mom?” (Pastor’s Story File, October 1995; submitted by Jim Pearring, New Harbor Community Church, Benicia, California). Believe it or not, this is one of the most dreaded Sundays in the Christian year for folks who use the Lectionary for their preaching. Why? Because it deals with the Transfiguration of Jesus. Generally, this is one of those, “What does that mean and how am I supposed to explain that?” sort of passages. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4. “I got a better place in Jaffa.” A certain missionary on a study trip to the Holy Land was visiting Jaffa (Joppa) where Peter was residing when he baptized Cornelius (Acts 10). The breath-taking beauty of this small seaside town was such that it inspired him to come up with this joke: 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.”
5. Transformation in old age: Two old men are chatting. One man says, “My friend, you must try this memory pill I’m taking. I remember everything. It’s an amazing memory booster.” The other man says, “Sounds wonderful. What is the name of the pill?” The first man says, “Hmm! The name of the pill … Let’s see … Hmmm, what is the name of the flower produced on a garden plant with thorns? It’s red … You give it on Valentine’s Day.” The other man says, “A rose?” The first man says, “Yes, that’s right!” Then, calling for his wife, he says, “Rose, what is the name of that pill which I take to boost my memory?”
6. Lenten penance: An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone and orders three more. As this continued every day the bartender asked him politely, “The folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?” “It’s odd, isn’t it?” the man replies, “You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank.” Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. As this continued for several days, the bartender approached him with tears in his eyes and said, “Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all…” The man ponders this for a moment, and then replies with a broad smile, “You’ll be happy to know that my two brothers are alive and well. It’s just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent. Now I am drinking for the other two!”
25- Additional anecdotes:
1) “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.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) “The March of the Ducks.” On the side of the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Florida, there is a cutout of a large duck symbolizing what came to be known as “The March of the Ducks.” Each day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., the hotel people lay down a dazzling red carpet across the lobby. Then one of John Phillip Sousa’s famous marches is played over the intercom. Whereupon, ten ducks, in single file, march down the red carpet in perfect harmony with the Sousa march. The ducks take a dip in the hotel fountain and then march out again in single file, down the red carpet, keeping perfectly in step with the beat of the music. For those who have witnessed “The March of the Ducks,” it is an event so vivid and real and uplifting and fun-filled that it’s difficult to find the right words to describe the wonder and the beauty of it — much less try to convince someone that it is true. Today’s Gospel Lesson describes an event called “transfiguration of Jesus” so wondrous and so beautiful as to defy all description (Watch: http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=March+of+the+Peabody+ducks&um) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) Transfiguration in children
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself. If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
he learns to find love in the world. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) Noah and the ark: Two men were standing in a big city waiting shed on a rainy day trying to hire a taxicab, not an easy task since it was raining very hard. One man turned to the other and started a conversation which went as follows: First man: “If it keeps raining like this we’ll all have to build an ark.”
Second man: “What’s an ark?”
First man: “You mean you haven’t heard about Noah and the ark, and the great flood and all those animals?”Second man: “Look, my friend, I’ve only been in town for a day, and I haven’t even had time to read a newspaper.” Today’s Gospel Lesson includes Mark’s version of the Transfiguration story. Did I hear someone ask, “What’s a Transfiguration?” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) A Death That Gives Life: A few years ago, the television and print media carried the story of a seven-year-old boy who died in tragic circumstances while on vacation with his family in Italy. Armed thieves, attempting to take the family’s car and valuables, waited in ambush in the Italian countryside. As the car passed, the thieves sprayed a shower of bullets at the vehicle. Although the family was able to escape, some of the bullets had hit the young boy, while he slept in the back seat. A short time later, the child was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. People were shocked and outraged as the sad news was reported. But public outrage was soon replaced by wonder and admiration. The boy’s family arranged that all of their son’s vital organs be harvested and donated. As a result, the lives of eight Italians, each of whom received one or more of the child’ healthy organs, were forever changed. For some it meant being able to see again; for others death was postponed because a young vital organ had replaced an aged, defective one. Because organ donation was such a rarity in Italy, the gift of life was all the more remarkable. This story reminds us of the death of another Son, whose dying brought life to so many. It is the life-giving death of this other Son, namely, Jesus, which is the focus of our Scripture readings for today. The moving narrative of Abraham and Isaac which comprises today’s first reading (Genesis) has been understood as an Old Testament type or prefiguring of God’s willingness to offer Jesus as a sacrifice for human sin. (Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6)”I have seen the face of the pilot.” Robert Louis Stevenson tells the story about a ship that was in serious trouble in a storm. A passenger on that ship, defying orders, made his way to the pilot, who seeing the fear on the passenger’s face gave him a smile of assurance. Relieved, the traveler returned to his cabin and said, “I have seen the face of the pilot. He smiled, and all is well.” There are times in life when we need to see our pilot face-to-face. That’s what happened in this mystical story that the Church calls the Transfiguration of Christ. Peter, James and John were there. Moses and Elijah showed up from the past. They had an experience that was mystical and out of this world. “Turn you eyes upon Jesus/Look full in his wonderful face,” sings the hymn. What would a glimpse of Christ himself mean to you today? Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) Could your soul use a lift today? People pay big money for radiant faces these days. Face-lifts are a thriving business. The only problem is that the soul has a way of seeping through. Maxwell Maltz is a plastic surgeon. He’s in the business of lifting people’s faces, but, Dr. Maltz says, “Even though I get marvelous results, patients are often not happy. I have come to realize that inner scars are much more difficult to remove than outer ones.” Could your soul use a lift today? Have depression, difficulty, duties and daily routines caused your soul to sag, your spirit to falter, your heart to sink? Christ came to lift us. Our reflections on the transfigured Christ will give us a spiritual lift. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) “I’ll fight, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end.” William Booth. He 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) An army of green giants who kept on coming and coming. The legendary football coach Knute Rockne knew the power of fear. Today we call it “psyching out your opponent.” Notre Dame was facing a critical football game against a vastly superior Southern California team. Rockne recruited every brawny student he could find at Notre Dame and suited up about a hundred “hulks” in the school uniform. On the day of the game the Southern California team ran out on the field first and awaited the visiting Fighting Irish. Then, out of the dressing room came an army of green giants who kept on coming and coming. The USC team panicked. Their coach reminded them that Rockne could only play eleven men at a time, but the damage was done. USC lost. They did not lose to the hundred men. They were beaten by their own fear. [A. Philip Parham, Letting God, (New York: Harper & Row). 3. W. Howard Chase in Vital Speeches.] Today’s Gospel says: “[Peter] hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.” Witnessing the Transfiguration of Christ was not the only time the disciples were fearful in Jesus’ presence. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) “Mountain-top experience” of Terry Anderson: Former American hostage Terry Anderson recalls the Autumn before he was captured. For some reason he felt drawn to an old church. It was 1984. Terry and his fiancée, Madeleine, were visiting her father in Sunderland, England. Terry looked forward to some peace and quiet from his hectic career as a journalist. He was so dispirited that it took him some days to settle down, even in the pleasant atmosphere of this English hamlet. As he walked through the streets with Madeleine, inhaling the crisp air, he noticed a church steeple outlined against the pale blue sky. Terry had been brought up in the Church but had drifted far from God and, in his own words, considered himself an agnostic. That afternoon he wondered why that Church had captured his attention. After a few days, he decided to walk over to the
Church. He opened the heavy oaken door, stepped in and sat down in a worn pew. Looking up at the altar and cross gleaming in the shadows, he suddenly had a strong sense of coming home. He knew that was where he belonged. Terry reaffirmed his Faith that day. For the next six months Terry wondered why he had been drawn to that Church. He thought perhaps God was calling him to do something, “but what?” he wondered. He was beginning to sense a closer relationship with God, when one morning on a street in Beirut he was shoved at gunpoint into the back of a green Mercedes. His face was pressed to the floor and a blanket thrown over him as the car accelerated. The date was March 16, 1985. While in captivity Terry began reading the Bible. The Bible characters came to life! He came to know them as living beings [“Small Graces,” Terry Anderson, Guideposts (September 1993), p. 2-5.] Terry Anderson found the strength to endure years of captivity because God was with him. The “mountain-top experience” in the little English Church was preparation for what lay ahead. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) “I meet God about one in every eight worship services”: A young woman asked her older co-worker: “Why do you go to Church every Sunday? Does something happen there that can’t happen somewhere else? And does it happen every Sunday?” The older woman replied, “What happens is I go to meet the God whom I’ve come to know in Jesus. God meets me in other settings than at Church. However, I must confess that I’m sure I miss most of God’s appointments with me. I find that I live most of my days in a daze – as though I’m sleepwalking or on autopilot. I go to Church to be reminded that that’s true.” The younger woman then asked, “So you go to Church every week and God meets you there?” The older woman answered, “I go to Church every Sunday and for reasons I can’t explain, I meet God about one in every eight worship services.” The younger woman asked, “Then why do you go every Sunday?” “I go every Sunday,” said the older woman, “because I never know when that one Sunday is going to be.” Peter, John and James had that experience on the mountain of transfiguration. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay: Those of us who are old enough certainly recall that amazing story of sixty-five 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.
13) 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.]. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) Moses’ flute: John Killinger tells the legend about “the simple shepherd’s pipe once played by Moses when he kept his father-in-law’s flocks. When the pipe was discovered, many years after Moses’ death, it was decided that it should be put on display for the benefit of his admirers. But it looked far too common for such an important purpose, so someone suggested that it be embellished by an artist. A few centuries later, when the pipe was given a new home in an upscale museum, a committee said it needed improving yet again. So another artist was employed to overlay it in fine gold and silver filigree. The result, in the end, was a breathtaking piece of art, a marvelous sight indeed. It was so beautiful, in fact, that no one ever noticed that it was no longer capable of the clear, seductive notes once played upon it by Moses.” [God, the Devil, and Harry Potter (New York: Thomas Dunne, 2002), 162-3.] How do we tell what voices to listen to, whose advice to take, what directives are important, and what we should just let fall on deaf ears? In today’s Gospel text, the Divine Voice from the enshrouding cloud offered Peter, James, and John simple, straightforward words: “This is My Beloved Son; listen to Him.” The message and mission of Jesus was to guide the disciples, informing all their actions, influencing all else they heard. God’s proclamation to those three disciples is the same for all who follow Christ today: Let Jesus be your high-tech hearing aid, filtering and clarifying what you hear and how you respond. Listen to him. Or as Jesus put it elsewhere, “Learn from Me.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) 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: Powdered Christian. Just add water and you get disciples! Unfortunately, there is no such powder, and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) “Well, what is it?” H.G. Wells once told a fascinating story about an Episcopalian bishop, though he could have been a cleric in any denomination. He was the kind of man who could always be counted on to provide a pious platitude. He had a favorite answer that always served him in good stead. When troubled folks came to him, he would assume his best stained-glass voice and ask, “Have you prayed about it?” If said in just the right way, no more needed to be said. The bishop himself didn’t pray much. After all, his life was quite uneventful. He felt quite self-sufficient. One day, however, life tumbled in on him, and he found himself overwhelmed. It occurred to the bishop that maybe he should take some of his own advice. So, one Saturday afternoon he entered the cathedral. He knelt down and folded his hands before the altar. He could not help but think how childlike he was. Then he began to pray, “O God….” Suddenly there was a voice. It was crisp, businesslike. The voice said, “Well, what is it?” When the worshipers came to Sunday services the next morning, they found the bishop sprawled face down before the altar. When they turned him over, they discovered he was dead. Lines of horror were etched upon his face. The good bishop had advised others to approach God in prayer, but when he found himself face to face with the Almighty, it scared him literally to death, as Christ’s Transfiguration scene scared the three apostles. (Haddon Robinson, Preaching Today). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) Transformation of a young man with a sense of duty: Years ago, in a small fishing village in Holland one night, the winds raged, and a gale force storm capsized a fishing boat at sea. Stranded and in trouble, the crew sent out the S.O.S. The captain of the rescue rowboat team sounded the alarm. While the team launched their rowboat, and fought their way through the wild waves, the villagers waited restlessly on the beach. An hour later, the rescue boat reappeared through the fog and the volunteers reported that the rescue boat could not hold any more passengers and they had to leave one man behind. Frantically, the captain called for another volunteer team to go after the lone survivor. Sixteen-year-old Hans stepped forward. His mother grabbed his arm, pleading, “Please don’t go. Your father died in a shipwreck 10 years ago and your older brother, Paul, has been lost at sea for three weeks. Hans, you are all I have left.” Hans replied, “Mother, I have to go. What if everyone said, `I can’t go; let someone else do it?’ Mother, this time I have to do my duty.” Hans kissed his mother, joined the team and disappeared into the night. Another hour passed, which seemed to Hans’ mother like an eternity. Finally, the rescue boat darted through the fog with Hans standing up in the bow. Cupping his hands, the captain called, “Did you find the lost man?” Barely able to contain himself, Hans excitedly yelled back, “Yes, we found him. Tell my mother it’s my older brother, Paul!” (Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) Transfigured by Jesus: One of the things that impressed me most when I first read the story of Fatima was that the children went into a trance once Our Lady appeared, and nothing anybody around them could do was able to distract them. You could stick pins in their fingers, or hold a burning candle to their hands, and they remained totally oblivious to it all. It is evident that, once they got in touch with that other world, it was all absorbing, and it was the centre of their faces, and a light in their eyes that amazed all those who watched. That expression was also evident on the face of Saint Padre Pio as he offered Mass or prayed on his own. It is not surprising, then, that the apostles should have been given this glimpse of Jesus. (Jack McArdle in And That the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) Pigeon Feathers: 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; he is 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. May we call upon His power and presence when put to the test! (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) 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. (Fr. Ron Stephens). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) Victim or Victor: Charles Rayburn has been a victim of cerebral palsy since his birth. His only means of communication is 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; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) “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). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
23) 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). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24) “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” Shortly before he was gunned down by an assassin in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King (1929-1968) told the assembled crowds, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. 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’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.”It was his vision of a better future and his conviction that equal freedom would one day be enjoyed by all Americans that enabled King to have hope when death-threats against him seemed to imperil not only his life but the entire civil rights movement. After King’s death, his experience of the mountaintop inspired his followers to continue his work, just as Jesus’ disciples looked to the mountain top experience of Jesus’ transfiguration and were strengthened to further his mission. (Sanchez Files). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
25) In sacrifice, the gift-giver is the primary beneficiary of gift-giving. To see this point, consider Maximilian Kolbe, who sacrificed his life for Franciszek Gajowniczek at Auschwitz.The Nazis had randomly selected 10 prisoners to die, and Franciszek Gajowniczek was one of them. When he was picked, he cried out, “Oh, my poor wife! My poor children! I will never see them again!” But Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and offered to take Franciszek’s place. Kolbe knew that the selected prisoners would be slowly starved to death in a dark and airless bunker. But Kolbe offered his life for that of his fellow prisoner anyway. Witnesses reported afterwards that Kolbe prayed and sang hymns until the end when his voice failed. In his sacrifice, Kolbe became a person in whom the beauty of love shone so brightly that his story now illumines all who hear about it. He gave his life to give life to Franciszek, but he himself received far more than he gave. Who would not want to be as lovely a soul as Kolbe was? And so God, who lacks for nothing, is glad to have the gift of our sacrifices, not because he gets something great from them, but because we do.(Prof. Eleonore Stump) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Fr. Jude Botelho:
There are times in our lives when God seems to be asking us to make difficult and cruel choices, almost impossible ones! How can God be asking something difficult from us? Why can’t He be reasonable? If only we could have the ecstasy without the agony! Yet we all know that in life there is no escaping from the difficult situations that come our way. Only our faith and our love can transfigure our crosses.
|In the first reading we are told that God put Abraham to the test by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. Surely God could not be asking such an unreasonable thing? After all, this son Isaac, was given to him as a promise. How could God go back on his promise? The other question we could ask is: How and why was Abraham so ready to comply? The only answer to these questions is the tremendous faith of Abraham and the passionate love of God, who rejected the practice of human sacrifice. God spared Isaac and instead provided the lamb of sacrifice. Although God spared the only son of Abraham, He did not intervene to spare His own son Jesus Christ.|
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’
In today’s gospel the account of the transfiguration gives us some insight into the mystery of Jesus, Son of God. The transfiguration is an epiphany story. This is the earliest epiphany story about Jesus, where the veil is lifted and his apostles were given a glimpse of his future glory. The chief significance of this event was for Jesus himself. It was meant to confirm him in the course he had undertaken. But it also benefited the apostles, and it is this that Mark emphasizes. On the mountain Elijah and Moses appeared to them representing the prophets and the law respectively. Thus Jesus is seen as bringing the law and the prophets to fulfillment. We do not know what exactly happened on that mountain but it seems Jesus had an intense experience of the presence of God. He heard those marvelous words: “You are my beloved Son.” On Tabor Jesus felt comforted and affirmed. He knew that the Father was pleased with him and would give him all the strength he would need to face whatever lay ahead. With God on his side he could face anything. At times, life could be dark for us and we too need to hear those reassuring words: “You are my son the beloved, my favour rests on you.” People from time to time do affirm us, but their affirmation is conditional. “You are good but you need to change your behavior”! “You are good but only if you live up to my expectations!” Only God affirms us exactly as he affirmed his son Jesus. With him there are no terms and conditions even if we are sinners and have failed him. We will always remain the well beloved sons and daughters of God. On that mountain the Father affirmed Jesus and that same Father is waiting for us to come to him to be affirmed as his well beloved sons and daughters. Our problem is that as soon as we run into trouble our faith fails us. We think that God has abandoned us. But if we pray we will realize that God has not abandoned us, He is always with us. Like Jesus on Tabor we too can experience being affirmed by God, we too can be transformed by the power of his Spirit, if only we let Him into our lives.
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’
You are my beloved!
You probably have heard of Jean Vanier who set up communities for the mentally handicapped. He tells us that in one of those communities there was a man named Pierre. One day someone asked, “Pierre, do you like praying?” “Yes,” he answered. “And what do you do when you pray?” “I listen,” answered Pierre. “And what does God say to you, Pierre?” And this was his touching reply, “Pierre, you are my beloved son.”
“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.
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’
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!
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’
Keeping the Commandments
Once there was a very sincere man who wished to live a holy life. So he went to his rabbi to seek his advice. The rabbi congratulated him on his ambition, then asked, ‘How have you been faring so far?’ ‘Quite well, I think,’ the man replied. ‘When you say well what do you mean?’ the rabbi asked. ‘I haven’t broken any of the commandments,’ the man replied. ‘I haven’t taken the Lord’s name in vain. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t dishonored my father or mother. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t been unfaithful to my wife. I haven’t stolen. I haven’t borne false witness against anyone. And I haven’t coveted my neighbor's wife or goods.’ ‘I see,’ said the rabbi. ‘So you haven’t broken any of the commandments.’ ‘That’s right, the man replied with pride. ‘But have you kept the commandments?’ the rabbi asked. ‘What do you mean?’ said the man. ‘I mean have you honored God’s holy name? Have you kept holy the Sabbath day? Have you loved and honored your parents? Have you sought to preserve and defend life? When last did you tell your wife that you loved her? Have you shared your goods with the poor? Have you defended the good name of anyone? When last did you put yourself out to help a neighbor?’ The man was taken aback. But to his credit he went away and reflected on what the rabbi had said. He realized that up to this he had been merely intent on avoiding wrong-doing. It’s surprising how many people think this is the highest criterion of virtue. But the rabbi offered him a new vision of goodness – not merely to avoid evil, but to do good. Up to now he had a negative concept of goodness. He had given him a new and better compass to guide him, a new and more challenging path to follow.
Flor McCarthy in ‘Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’
The Father’s beloved
The story is told of a sister at the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec. She saw a distraught mother carrying a tiny child and she went to meet her. The woman had come a great distance with the child, the only one she could ever have, she thought, and now he had an affliction which the doctors said was incurable. The only hope was a miracle, and she had brought the child to St. Anne’s to pray for that. The sister accompanied the mother to the shrine. “As we prayed” the sister said, “I witnessed the struggle and rebellion of this woman refusing to give up her child. Her suffering was terrible to see. Yet the miracle came. But it came to the mother, not the child. When she left I knew she had offered her child back to God and surrendered him as a gift. A few weeks later the news came that the child died. But the following Christmas there came a card with the picture of a beautiful baby boy, whom the mother had named Michael, the same name she had given to her first son. And the mother wrote: “Now I have a son in heaven and a son Michael to give me joy on earth.”
Emeric Lawrence in ‘Daily Meditations for Lent’
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 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. According to this belief, when someone gives his or her life to Christ, there is an immediate, substantive, in-depth, miraculous change in habits, attitudes, and character. We go to church as if we are going to the grocery store: Powdered Christian. Just add water and disciples are born not made.
Unfortunately, there is no such powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations. A study has found that only 11 percent of churchgoing teenagers have a well-developed faith, rising to only 32 percent for churchgoing adults. Why? Because true-life change only begins at salvation, takes more than just time, is about training, trying, suffering, and even dying (adapted from James Emery White, Rethinking the Church, Baker, 1997, p. 55-57).
Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him. Why? Peter believes the kingdom of God can be obtained instantly by force. Peter has a worldly view of the Kingdom and Jesus is speaking about a heavenly kingdom. For a moment I would like you to listen to this story with new ears and see Jesus through the eyes of Peter and the rest of the disciples. Get rid of all your notions about who Jesus is. Take away from your mind Jesus as the Son of God. Strip from your memory that he died on the Cross and that he did that for your sins. Forget that Jesus ever said love your enemies or love your neighbor.
Now I want you to think of Jesus only as a military leader. Imagine that your country has been invaded and is being ruled by godless men. Sense, now, that the tension is mounting and you are about to go into battle. That you are about to conduct a coup d'etat. That you and this band of ruffians are going to attempt to overthrow this government by a sudden violent strike. That the odds are stacked against you but you have a very strong belief that God is on your side despite the overwhelming odds.
Now you are thinking like Peter...
There are two kinds of dogs in this world (not people this time!). There are the dogs who eat everything and anything - toss them a bit of anything, meat, cauliflower, mushrooms, shoe leather - and it will be snapped out of the sky and scarfed down without hesitation.
"I'm having difficulty with the Gospel this week; what is this cross that I am to take up, and what am I to deny in following Jesus?"
Another Pastor, a student minister in the United States wrote:
"I find this a hard gospel text because it talks about suffering rather than joy."
The cross has always caused problems to people. Brutal and barbaric - the
cross was a tool of political power for the Romans. They maintained their
power because of the fear of death on the cross.
When one was condemned by the state, the condemned literally had to "take
up his cross" and carry it to the public place where he was to be crucified. It was part of the humiliation process, the mechanism of social control for which crucifixion was invented.
The cross was an instrument of suffering and shame - and no more so than among the Children of Israel - where the scriptures themselves declare: "cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree".
To die on a cross was a sign that one died cut off from God, and cut off from the people of God - a sign that the person was rejected. And of course in the case of Jesus this was very true.
Richard J. Fairchild, If Anyone Would Follow Me
"I am no longer my own but Thine, put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt, put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal."
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we'd do well to pray with Wesley and be reminded that we're not free to follow the dictates of our own sinful nature; we're free to surrender our wills to the will of God and to submit ourselves to the authority of Jesus Christ.
Philip W. McLarty, The Cost of Discipleship
Billy Graham poses the question this way: "When Jesus said, 'if you are going to follow me, you have to take up a cross,' it was the same as saying, 'Come and bring your electric chair with you. Take up the gas chamber and follow me.' He did not have a beautiful gold cross in mind - the cross on a church steeple or on the front of your Bible. Jesus had in mind a place of execution."
Gary Weston, Hard Truths
Robert A. Noblett, Sermons for Sundays in Lent and Easter, CSS Publishing Company
Sermon Closer: We Have a Choice to Transform
IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG
I remember a time when I had misplaced my good pen and I was looking for it everywhere. I looked in drawers. I looked under things, behind things and in things. I looked on the floor, but it was nowhere. And then I found it. I was holding it in my mouth the whole time.
That is the way that life often is. We miss things that have been there the whole time. It is like when I was in college and my wife was on campus the whole year, but I never really saw her. Then one day, I SAW her. She had been there the whole time, but one day I actually saw her in my world. And she has been in my world ever since.
That is the story of the Transfiguration. Jesus showed his disciples a part of the world that had been there all along, but it had not really been a part of their world. They were bewildered, astonished and trembling with fear when they saw and understood that heaven was already here in their world and that Jesus was the King of heaven.