March 17th 2019
Deacon Joseph Bland
After hearing the Scripture passages proclaimed this morning, what do they mean to you? What do you get out of them today? It seems to me to be focusing on “Communication”, God wants to help believers, you and me, experiencing doubt, hardships and confusion, such as Abraham, St Paul, and the 3 Apostles at the Transfiguration. He wants to communicate something to us.
The first reading from the Book of Genesis we just heard is about Abram, whose name is changed later to Abraham. Keep in mind that Abram has just been whining to the Lord that he has no son to inherit his wealth. He and his wife Sarah are well beyond child bearing age. God reassures Abram who is confused and challenged.
The Lord took Abram outside and said “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can. Just so he added shall your descendants be”. Abram put his faith and trust in the Lords word to him. God’s promise wasn’t fulfilled in Abrams lifetime, yet he did have many children, but fast forward centuries after centuries and generation after generations it has indeed been fulfilled by mankind’s multiplication. God told him to just have faith and trust in the Lord.
In the 2nd reading of St. Paul to the Philippians, St. Paul was certainly confused and doubted how he was going to continue to preach the Gospel because he was in “prison” in Ephesus. He was worried about the Jews coming in behind him and teaching false doctrines. That Christians had to abide by all the 613 Jewish laws concerning their dietary practices and circumcision etc.
But even in prison he continued to preach by writing letters and having them delivered by fellow Christians like Timothy. St. Paul’s faith and trust in the Lord brought him thru the hardship and it wasn’t long before he was out of prison and off to evangelize another country.
St Paul tells us in this letter that “Our citizenship is in Heaven. The Lord will change our lowly body to conform to his glorified body”.
St. Paul mentions glorified bodies and so does St. Luke in today’s gospel. What do they mean by Glorified Body? Fr. John Hardon’s “Modern Catholic Dictionary” states that our Glorified Body is the Human body after it’s resurrection from the dead and reunion with the Soul. It won’t be our old decrepit body; our lowly body will conform to Jesus’ glorified body.
When will this happen? At the Last Judgment or some call it Final Judgment, and that will be at Jesus Christ’ glorious 2nd Coming. Remember the Church teaches we have our “Particular Judgment” immediately after death and will be rewarded in accordance with out Faith and Works, our love of God and Neighbor. Our Soul will go to either Heaven, Purgatory or Hell.
Key not here is our “immortal soul” only in our particular judgment but “glorified body” reunited to our “immortal soul” at the 2nd Coming or Final Judgment. Experiencing some doubt about that? That’s what we recite each Sunday in the Nicene Creed, “we believe in the communion of Saints, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting Amen.”(CCC 988) So this 2nd reading should be strengthening our faith if we are having doubts.
Speaking of Glorified Bodies lets turn now to the Gospel, the “Transfiguration”.
The Transfiguration happened on Mt. Tabor, from Nazareth where Jesus grew up you can look across the valley and see a single mountain (we would call it a big knob) all by itself.
Why did Jesus go up there? He went there to “pray”. Before every big event in his life he did some serious praying. Like right after he started his 3 year public ministry when John the Baptist baptized him he went to the desert to pray and fast for 40 days. Like when his hour had come and his passion had started he went into the Garden at Gethsemane to do some serious praying.
Jesus gives us some good example here. We should do the same. When some big event happens in our life we need to do some serious praying. Changing jobs, pray about it first. Moving to another location, pray about it first. Choosing Colleges, pray about it first. Getting married, pray about it first. That’s what Jesus did; we need to follow his lead.
Scripture says Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain to pray. It states “While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem”.
Let’s break this passage down a little. Jesus appeared in his Glorified Body. In the Catholic Church of the Transfiguration on top of Mt. Tabor there’s a huge mosaic that shows Jesus levitating a little, bathed in light, his face radiant, his garments dazzling white. Appearing with him are Moses and Elijah, who are in their glorified bodies also. Peter James and John knew who they were because Moses had the 10 Commandments tablets in his arms and Elijah had rolled up scrolls that the Prophets always carried.
Peter James and John were tired after climbing Mt. Tabor and had drifted off into sleep, but now they were fully awake. St Luke tells us again about these three falling asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus was praying. They awoke and heard Jesus Moses and Elijah discussing Jesus’ exodus. That symbolizes his journey to Jerusalem where he will be arrested, crucified but rise on the third day.
Jesus is telling Moses and Elijah that when he is crucified and dies and is buried for three days he will descend into the abode of the dead, and gather all the righteous who have died after Adam’s sin had closed the gates of Heaven and will lead them into Heaven. By Jesus’ willingly accepting the passion and death on the cross he “opened the gates of Heaven” once again. He’s probably telling Moses and Elijah to hang on a little while longer. Experiencing some doubt about that, it comes from Sacred Tradition and explained in the Catechism (CCC 637).
And similar to Moses’ exodus leading the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt God used a “cloud” in the Transfiguration. It states “a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said “This is my chosen Son; listen to him”.
After the cloud moved on they saw Jesus standing there all alone in his human body. It says the Apostles were left speechless, awestruck, weak kneed.
Why did Jesus transfigure for Peter, James and John? Jesus knew the Apostles were feeling confused, experiencing doubt, and hardships. So he gives the three a vision of his heavenly glory. Proving he was Lord over the living and the dead, at least what we think to be dead. Jesus knew he was headed to Jerusalem to be arrested, tried and illegally convicted, and to be crucified. He knew that would shake them to their core belief. So he gave them this vision to strengthen their faith and encourage them in what was to come.
In conclusion, like Abraham, St. Paul and the three Apostles, Our Lord knew they were experiencing doubt, hardships and confusion. He wanted to communicate to them something that would erase the doubt and strengthen their faith.
Does God give each of us here in 2019 experiencing doubt, hardships or confusion something that would strengthen our faith and erase some doubt?
Yes he does, like the Marian Aparations approved by the Church, like our Lord’s Shroud, people that have the Stigmata wounds in their hands and feet like Jesus did, like St.Padre Pio in our life time. Like the Eucharistic miracles, we saw one in Portugal and will see one this September in Laciano Italy. The Eucharist turned to flesh, heart muscle, AB type blood. Like just last week an article in the Record where St. John Vainey died over 150 years ago yet his body is what we call “incorruptible”. The Knights of Columbus brought his incorruptible heart to Louisville last week. It was available for veneration only 24 hours at St. John Vianney’s parish where Archbishop Kurtz said Mass. God continues giving us confirmation of our faith.
So keep the big picture in mind. St. Paul tells us that our citizenship is not of Kentucky or America. We are pilgrims on a journey. We are baptized Christians, sons and daughters of God. Our citizenship is in Heaven. That’s the good news of the Gospel!