Mar. 16, 2019

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT, 2019

LOOK UP IN FAITH AND HEAR THE VOICE OF THE LORD

Readings: 1st- Gen. 15:5-12. 17-18; 2nd- Phil. 3:17-4:1; Gospel- Lk. 9:28b-36

Today, we conduct the 2019 Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries which is the reason why this homily will be a short one. The local church in the archdiocese of Baltimore appeals to us to express our faith by donating to the course of the ministries in both our parish and in the archdiocese. She invites us to support the mission which the church represents. The Church remains the voice of God that we hear in our time. She continues to speak to us.

In the first reading, God enters a covenant with Abram. He invites Abram to “Look up at the sky and count the stars” to be able to see the glory of God. Abram responds to God’s invitation and puts his faith in the Lord. The covenant yields fruits for Abram, and in the end, God blesses him with the promises He has made, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it” (Gen. 15:7).  

The gospel narrates the transfiguration of Jesus. He takes the three disciples, Peter, John, and James to the top of the mountain to pray. At the mountain, the Old Testament figures, Moses and Elijah appear and converse with Jesus. Peter and his companions fall asleep as they usually do, but eventually they become fully awake by the glory of the Lord. The experience of the transforming presence of Jesus brings both the old and the new back to life- Moses and Elijah are united with the disciples in the Jesus who is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Peter and the disciples become fully awake. Peter is taken over by this glorious presence and exclaims, “Master, it is good be to be here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Scripture informs us that “Peter did not know what he was saying.” That means, he is in some form of ecstasy, a trance, and a joy brought about by the Lord. Peter wants to remain there forever.

One important factor in the transfiguration episode is the voice of the Father that speaks from the cloud. The voice reminds us of the identity and mission of Jesus, “This is my chosen Son.” The voice invites us to action when it says, “listen to him.” This is the same voice that spoke at the baptism of Jesus announcing his mission; “After Jesus had been baptized, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17). The Voice of the Father invites us to listen to Jesus just as God invited Abram into the covenant relationship in the Old Testament.

Is it possible that the voice of God still speaks to us today? And do we still hear this voice? Where can we hear the voice of God, and how? Saint Paul tells us that we can still hear the voice of God in the stubbornness of today’s world. We are all aware that there is a lot of distractions going on around us. Lots of noise and confusion. There is noise in politics, noise in the media, and noise in our daily human relationships. Those who want to distract us from hearing this voice are pushing strongly, coming up with teachings that do nothing other than oppose the teachings of Christ and his Church. Most of these teachings condemn the Cross of Christ. They make God look like a wicked father who would hand his son over to be crucified. They paint the cross in a negative way. They fail to recognize the ultimate price of our salvation which Jesus paid on the Cross. Paul describes such people as “enemies of the cross of Christ” whose theology relies only on the stomach. Paul tells us not to listen to them. They glory in shameful things and have their minds fixed on earthly glories.

And yes, God still speaks to us. He speaks to us in silence. He invites us to go to the mountain of prayer with him. He invites us to look up and see him. He wants us to travel with him in faith like Abram. It is hard to feel God if we cannot detach from the noisiness of material world. We act like Peter, John, and James, who fall asleep at the most crucial time. We simply fall back into our old lifestyles if we cannot move to the mountain to be with the Lord. Yet he does not abandon us.

I was listening to the story of this young lady who went shopping in one of the nearby grocery stores. As she walked around searching out the items on her shopping list, she suddenly pushed down a stack of glasses (cups) on the shelf. These glasses smashed the floor and broke. The lady became scared and bent down to pick them. Immediately, one of the store attendants rushed at the scene and asked the lady not to worry. The young lady started crying and begged that she was sorry. The store attendant insisted that she shouldn’t worry. Then the lady asked to know how much the broken glasses cost, so she could pay for the damage. The attendant said to her, “Don’t worry, we got you covered. The insurance already paid for it.” The lady couldn’t believe it.  That’s what happens to us, God got us covered in Christ Jesus.

God got Abram covered in the first reading of today. God took up his case and paid off his worries. Despite his old age, God fulfilled his promise of giving him numerous descendants as promised. This is also what happened to Peter and his colleagues at the transfiguration encounter. Despite their tiredness and weakness, Jesus took them into his glory which made Peter exclaim, “It is good to be here.”

God has paid off our iniquities and covered up our shame. All he needs from us is to recognize the presence of Jesus in our lives and to listen to him. God wants you to “look up” in faith. God wants you to look up to the cross. God wants you to step aside from the noise and get closer to him. God invites you to use this Lent to travel with him. The world may be noisy, but you can step aside. Step aside from sin. Step aside from hatred. Step aside from gossip. Step aside from lies. Step aside from laziness. Step aside from betrayal. Step aside from pornography and impurity. Step aside from anger. Step aside from drinking and from getting drunk. Step aside from negative feelings of fear and anxiety. Step up to the Lord. Then you will hear his voice speak to you, “This is my beloved Son.” God can change your lowly body to conform with his glorified body. Just step aside and step up. Listen to the Church and listen to Christ. Stop looking down. God has got you fully covered.