Wednesday, February 17, 2016

JESUS' TRANSFIGURATION

2nd Sunday in Lent, Year C.  Lk 9:28-36
AIM: To help the hearers see that those with us are more than those against us. 
A story in the Old Testament tells about the prophet Elisha finding himself surrounded one morning by enemy troops. (2 Kgs 6:15ff) They want to kidnap him, because Elisha has been giving intelligence information to the king of Israel.  Seeing their desperate plight, Elisha=s servant panics. ADo not be afraid,@ Elisha tells him, Afor those who are with us are more than those who are with them.@       
How could the servant believe that? He and Elisha were alone and encircled.  Their situation was hopeless. So Elisha does what prophets do best. He prays: AO Lord, open his eyes, that he may see.@ The story continues: AAnd the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, so that he saw the mountainside filled with horses and fiery chariots around Elisha.@ With the protection of these heavenly warriors, God=s angels, Elisha has an easy victory over his enemies that day.
At the start of today=s gospel, the friends of Jesus are likewise afraid. Shortly before, Jesus has told them: AThe Son of Man must ... endure many sufferings, be rejected .. and be put to death ...@ (Lk 9:22). How shocked the disciples must have been. Apparently Jesus was not the Messiah they expected B a powerful figure who would confront the hated Roman army of occupation in their country and restore the kingdom to Israel. Should we bail out now, they must have asked themselves, before it=s too late?
 At this point Jesus does what Elisha did. He goes up a mountain to pray, taking with him Peter, and the brothers James and John. As he prays, these friends of Jesus see something they have never seen before. This friend of theirs, whom they know as a man like themselves, is for a few shining moments utterly unlike them. He is clothed in heavenly glory, Ahis face changed in appearance and his clothing ... dazzling white.@ They hear a voice from heaven proclaiming that this man Jesus is more than human: AThis is my chosen Son; listen to him.@ 
It=s true after all, they realize. Jesus is truly God=s anointed servant, the long awaited Messiah. Those few moments of glory on the mountain gave them courage not to bail out, but to listen to Jesus; and to follow him all the way to the suffering and death in Jerusalem which he had so recently predicted. No matter what happens now, they are sure of one thing: God is on the side of Jesus; final victory will be his.      
Somewhere in this church right now there is a person who is fearful. Things haven=t gone the way they were supposed to. Perhaps it is a marriage strained, you fear, almost to the breaking point. Maybe a son or daughter is making life choices which you see can bring that young person whom you love so dearly only grief and misery. You may are experiencing some terrible injustice. Perhaps you are facing a serious illness: your own or that of a loved one. The future looks dark. Is there a God at all? you ask. And if there is, why does he seem to answer my prayers only with silence?
I encountered such a person a couple of years ago on a flight home from Texas. I try always to wear clerical dress when I travel, so people will know I am a priest. As I waited for my flight in the Houston airport, a woman asked me to bless her. I did so, and thought no more about it. When I was in the air, an hour later, a male flight attendant came to me and said: “We have a passenger on board who is very distraught. Would you be willing to talk to her?” “Of course,” I replied. When the attendant ushered her into the empty seat next to me, I saw that she was the same woman whom I had blessed in the airport an hour earlier. She told me she was flying to St. Louis to be with her 49-year-old sister, terminally ill with cancer, whom the doctors has given only a few days to live. “I don’t understand,” she said sobbing. “I don’t understand.”
“There are many things we don’t understand, dear,” I told her. “I have never understood why, when I was only six years old, my mother died of pneumonia the day after Christmas, after only a week’s illness. I didn’t understand it then. I cannot understand it today. That was a terrible tragedy. From this tragedy, however God brought something wonderful. A year or so after my mother’s death, it came home to me one day, with blinding certainty, that I would see my mother again, when God called me home. From that day to this the unseen spiritual world – the world of God, the angels, the saints and our beloved dead, has been real to me – because I know someone who is there: my mother first and now so many others who have gone home to God. That was the seedbed in which my call to priesthood grew. I wanted to be close to that spiritual world. From age twelve, I have wanted to be a priest. I have never wanted anything else.”
I told her how wonderful it was that she was going to see her dying sister. “One day, you will hear the Lord saying to you, with tender love and very personally: ‘I was sick, and you visited me.’” There was more to our conversation of course. But that was the essence. When she returned to her seat, she was distraught no longer. Through my stumbling words, the Lord had touched her and given her a measure of peace.
 Whatever cross life has brought you, to carry it you must do what Jesus did.  You must pray, like Elisha: ALord, open my eyes that I may see.@ Ask him to show you that those who are with you are greater by far than those against you. With you is the whole host of heaven: God=s angels to guard and protect you in all your ways.  Supporting you are the prayers of the Lord=s mother Mary and all the saints. They too knew suffering, every bit as bitter as any you face, most of them more. They never gave up, though they wanted to do so often. They are praying for you right now. 
With you is the Lord himself. He walks with you every step of the way, especially when the road is steep and you are so tired, so discouraged, and so filled with fear and doubt that you don=t think you can take another step. Yes, and he is waiting for you at the end of life=s road C waiting with joy to welcome you into that place which he has gone ahead to prepare for you, in his Father=s house, which is also yours. 

That, friends, is the gospel. That is the good news. Those who are with us are more than those against us. Do not be afraid. Place your hand in the unseen but real hand of God. He is with you now. He remains with you always.