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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent

Today we are presented with the Transfiguration of the Lord, in which Jesus appears to His disciples in a foreshadowing of His glorified body, speaking to two of the greatest figures in the Old Covenant: Moses and Elijah. In this event, we see the divine nature of Our Lord, which is reinforced by the voice of God our Heavenly Father speaking from the cloud, but it also gives us a foreshadowing of what our glorified bodies will be like at our resurrection at the end of time.

Apart from the descriptions in Scripture of the Transfiguration and images of Heaven, we don't have an understanding of what a glorified body looks like. A glorified body is one that has been freed from sin, and is filled with the grace of God. God's glory and majesty is so powerful that it becomes visible as a bright light. The light is so bright that the Sun pales in comparison.

One day, when we have been freed from the shackles of death and our bodies have been raised up following the final judgment, those who died in the state of grace will have their bodies glorified as Our Lord's was after His resurrection. We know this from St. Paul, who tells us that Our Lord “will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables Him also to bring all things into subjection to Himself.” We will share in the glory of God, and our bodies will be purified and raised up.

Sadly, however, that day is yet to come. We on Earth are still affected by sin, and our vision has been darkened by sin. We do not see the radiant glory of God, and would be stunned if we did experience that glory, as Peter, James and John were in the Gospel today. It's been said that if an angel appeared before us in all it's glory, we would not be able to tell that it was merely an angel and not God Himself. In fact, St. John in the Book of Revelation had to be told several times by the angel that appeared to him not to worship the angel, as St. John was awed by the glory of God shining through it.

As we look at the account of the Transfiguration given to us today, it's interesting that St. Luke chose to describe Our Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection in Jerusalem as his “exodus”, while Our Lord was speaking to the one figure in the Old Testament who is most well known for Israel's Exodus from Egypt. It's striking that the Exodus that freed the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt parallels the suffering, death and resurrection of Our Lord that frees us from the slavery to sin.

In both cases, a difficult journey with great suffering had to be made in order to gain this freedom from slavery and enter into the Promised Land. Moses had to lead Israel out of Egypt and suffer through the desert for 40 years so that the people of Israel could enter into the Promised Land, which Abram (later known as Abraham) was given by God. Our Lord had to undergo the suffering of the Roman and Jewish authorities, be crucified, die, and rise again so that we might enter into our Promised Land of Heaven.

It's important to point out that “our citizenship is in Heaven,” as St. Paul tells us. Just as the people of Israel were estranged from their homeland when living in Egypt, we are estranged from our Heavenly homeland during our lives on Earth. When you read the account of the Exodus, many in Israel were attached to the things of Egypt, making the Exodus difficult for the Israelites. Sadly, we too are attached to our land of exile, often caring more for the things of Earth over the things of Heaven. As St. Paul once again says, “Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”

To overcome this desire for earthly goods, we need to place our faith in God, as Abram did in the first reading, and as the people of Israel who entered the Promised Land did during the Exodus. When we put our faith in God instead of in the constant concern for earthly things, life won't be without challenge, as the Exodus was not without difficulty, but it will be “credited” to us “as an act of righteousness,” just as it was for Abram. When we are “righteous”, which means that we are in the friendship and grace of God, we too will one day enter into our Promised Land: the eternal joys of God's presence in Heaven.

As we go through our lives here on Earth, we join our exodus through the pain and sorrow that accompany this life to the pain and anguish that Our Lord suffered during his Passion and Death. May our exodus end at the Promised Land of Heaven, just as the Israelites' Exodus ended in their Promised Land.

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