Fr. Rick’s Homily: 2nd Sunday of Lent

February 25, 2024

Gn 22:1-2, 9a-18; Ps. 116:10, 15-19; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10

I would like to start by extending a huge thank you for your exceptional generosity in the recent collection for the Church in Eastern and Central Europe.  Our little community collected $910!!  And to show our gratitude Holy Mother Church is offering yet another opportunity to give alms during the holy season of Lent.  As mentioned last week, today we will be taking up the annual special collection for the Black and Indian Missions in the United States.  A chunk of this money finds its way back to the SW US to help assist the Catholic efforts on the various Native American reservations.

Today I’m going to start the homily by reading the Prayer after Communion from today’s liturgy:

As we receive these glorious mysteries, we make thanksgiving to you, O Lord, for allowing us while still on earth to be partakers even now in the things of heaven. Through Christ our Lord.”

Point being:  We can experience a real presence of Heaven while still on earth!!  That’s the Good News!!  That’s our message.  That’s our mission.  Can you think of anyone who could use a little ‘heaven’ right now?

Let’s look for a fuller teaching from today’s Gospel:  The disciples see Jesus in His transfigured glory.  They can now see a new brightness emitting from His body and the very clothes He is wearing.  Alongside Moses and Elijah, who are alive and somehow sharing in this glorified state, it is apparent that Life is much bigger than is normally experienced by humans. It’s as if the Disciples are saying, “Wow, there really is a heaven” and Jesus is leading us there.  They are more than awestruck; it says that they are terrified.  The transfiguration is pointing to something much bigger than they could really imagine and now it was amongst them.  Their reaction is to immediately revert back to the familiar.  ‘Let us build three tents’ (or booths) refers to the Jewish Feast of Booths which annually celebrates God’s providence in the harvest).  But Jesus is not calling them backwards, rather forward to what their Jewish tradition was preparing them for all along.

For our purposes today, however, let’s just say that we are reminded that Life is bigger than what we think.  That is both good news and terrifying at the same time.  Right now most of us might like to see life get a little bigger or more transcendent.  We have been feeling a little constricted.  Most of us have already spent lots of time and effort to get where we are today. Most of us were not born or raised in Kane County.  Kanab is our vision of the ‘good life’.  It’s almost like a whole different world than where we came from.  After all this time and effort to ‘do the Kanab thing’, maybe the last thing we want to do is focus on an even bigger vision.  Heck, we just got here.

Anyway, today I want to focus more on our first reading from Genesis.  This too seems beyond our comprehension.  God is asking a man to sacrifice his first born and only son; to actually kill him in order to give glory to God.  I’m not a biological father, but even I find this very hard to relate to.  In fact it’s a repulsive thought.  But of course this radical gift of the father Abraham prefigures God the Father offering His only Son on the ‘Altar of Calvary’. This second great act of generosity seems more familiar to us, but it doesn’t seem like something we would ever have to actually imitate.  However, when we baptize our children in the Catholic Church that is exactly what we are doing.  We are promising to raise our children as Disciples of Christ and teach them by word and example.  God gave us these children and then we prepare them for discipleship and give them back to God.  On second thought, this doesn’t seem all that reasonable or even possible either.  How on earth could we ever convincingly and credibly raise little disciples in our families?  It’s a fair question.  How ON EARTH can we raise Kingdom of God Builders when our dominant and competitive, survival of the fittest culture is so strong; so convincing?

Of course the way we do this is to build a stronger Catholic culture wherever we are.  Children need to recognize the important figures in Catholic history and tradition just as quickly as the Disciples recognized Moses and Elijah on the mountain with Jesus.  I actually grew up in a Catholic culture in Iowa back in the 60’s and 70’s where we were immersed in Catholic world with a school staffed mostly by nuns and three full-time priests assigned just to our parish and school.  But STILL we were apparently no match for the onslaught of pop culture, consumer culture, the sexual revolution and a little later the technology boom.  Our roots were not as deep as we thought and our vision of life was not really as big as the Kingdom of God.  Our new reality was more like the American Dream.  Very alluring, but much smaller than the Kingdom of God.  In fact I don’t recall anyone even talking about the Kingdom of God outside of Church services or school.  We simply weren’t ready for the sacrifice that is demanded by true Discipleship.

Now we are 60 years later and it doesn’t seem like we are anymore ‘transfigured’ than before.  We may have gone backwards.  But, God is still calling us up to the mountain.  We still have the same mission and calling.  In fact, as the American Dream seems less alluring and less achievable, young people might even start seeking something bigger than what they can see in their day-to-day lives.  They might be ready to hear about the timeless lessons in our Scriptures and Catholic Tradition.  The Church has always thrived best in time of great adversity and trial.  We are definitely living in such a time.  And we have more learning opportunities than ever before.  There are many, many models of young people striving to be real disciples in our contemporary times.  The many webinars and on-line conferences I have listed in our bulletin and website over the past year can keep our spirits high and our souls hungry for something more.  More than the typical lives of materialism and all the confusion about love and love relationships.

As we proceed during Lent we can be sure that God is calling us to the mountain top with the many great saints and ‘regular’ saints of our history and Tradition.  Will we say “Yes” to a bigger vision of life or will we quickly revert back to what is more familiar and what seems to be safer?

Today’s reflection questions from the liturgy are:

Psalm 116

R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.\

I believed, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.”
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.

When did you feel greatly afflicted and still felt precious in the eyes of the Lord?

O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Which of your bonds were loosed by the Lord? 

What sacrifice did you offer in thanksgiving?

My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

What vows have you made to the Lord and how have you ‘paid them’ in the presence of God’s people?

(Hint:  Baptism, Matrimony, Holy Orders, avowed single life)

Today’s Prayer after Communion

As we receive these glorious mysteries, we make thanksgiving to you, O Lord, for allowing us while still on earth to be partakers even now in the things of heaven. Through Christ our Lord.

When might you have had a ‘transfigured’ experience of the things of heaven?  How did the experience bring you closer to Jesus and to the community He has called us to?