Homily for February 28, 2010

Father Tom’s Homily
2nd Sunday of Lent
February 28, 2010

In today’s gospel story, Jesus took aside three apostles and said, “Come with me, I want to show you something.”
He lead them up a mountain, where they got a glimpse of Jesus transfigured in glory. His face and clothes appeared in dazzling light. This experience we call the Transfiguration.

It is significant what Luke reports in his gospel before the Transfiguration takes place and what follows after it.
Immediately before it, Jesus predicts he would be rejected by chief priests and the scribes and be put to death. And that on the third day he would be raised up.
Then he says to his apostles, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, he must take up his cross and follow me.”

When they came down the mountain, Jesus and his three companions were met by a crowd that brought him a boy whom they said was possessed with a demon. The child was convulsing in shrieks and foaming at the mouth. At a word, Jesus healed the boy from his suffering.
Luke and two other evangelists place these two narratives together to teach us that the mountaintop meeting with Moses and Elijah and then later with the shrieking demon are all part of our journey as followers of Jesus.
Following the healing of the boy, Jesus repeats his second prophecy that he would suffer at the hands of his enemies. The brilliant, dream-like experience on the mountaintop would be followed by the dark nightmare of his crucifixion.

It should be noted that seeing Jesus in glory was only a quick glimpse. Peter, in ecstacy, wanted to stay there more permanently.
But Jesus quickly brings the apostles back down the mountain. They were now on their way with Jesus to Jerusalem where he would suffer at the hands of his enemies.

This part of the gospel is meant to help us see the cross from a different point of view – from the mountaintop. From that height we are enabled to look ahead to Jesus’ passage through death to the risen life.
When Jesus repeated his prophecy that he would suffer and die in Jerusalem, the gospel notes that the apostles did not understand what he was talking about.
And so it is with us. We cannot fully understand the full meaning of our journey through the cross to glory.

One of the stories that came out of the crisis in Rwanda sixteen years ago has been told by a young 22-year old student named Immaculée Ilibagazia.
The death of that country’s Hutu president unleashed the slaughter of one million ethnic Tutsis. Because she was a Tutsi, Immaculée’s name was on a death list.
She hid in a pastor’s spare bathroom with seven other women for 91 days, praying constantly to be freed from the terror going on around them. Her devout Catholic parents and siblings were brutally murdered.

Her prayers were answered when she not only escaped, but was able let go of her anger at her persecutors.
She wrote a book, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. In it she explains that God rescued her so that she could “show people the healing power of his love and forgiveness.”
All of us are suffering or will suffer the cross in some way as did Immaculée. Her book about rescue and forgiveness explains her transfiguration.
Her last name, Ilibagazia, is translated “shining and beautiful in body and soul.”

We may feel like Peter who wanted to stay on the mountaintop away from the troubles down below.
The only thing the three apostles heard up there was the voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, listen to him.” What does Jesus say to us. He says, “Follow me.” It is a difficult journey, but Jesus is our guide and companion.

Like Jesus and Immaculée we too shall one day be “shining and beautiful in body and soul.”