I feel a little surprised at first as to why, during Lent and this period of sacrifice and lamenting my sins, preparing for Holy Week and Christ’s Crucifixion, the liturgy suddenly shifts over to the image of Christ transfigured and glorified in his humanity.
But I think the Church is giving us hope, setting fresh before our eyes a reminder of just what Jesus Christ is all about—a foretaste of the glory he has come to win for us. We often hear how Jesus’ death is our death, and that his suffering is in my place—and we’re encouraged to offer up my sufferings in union with his. Yet maybe we easily forget the rest of the story: “If you have died with him, you will also rise with him. If you have suffered with him, you shall also reign with him.” Not only his death, but also his Glory will become our glory. The gift and joy of Lent and Easter is not only—perhaps—a greater openness to suffer with Christ, but also a renewed and living hope in his promised Glory. “Father, I pray that where I am, they also may be.” It was the goal of everything Jesus endured: Heaven. What he is by essence, he has come to share with us through participation.
This new, Divine Life was given to us as a seed at baptism; our Lord’s Divinity has been shared to us as Sanctifying Grace and fused within our humanity. The whole purpose of Christian living is to nourish that seed, growing it to full maturity in my soul—a realization in this life and ultimately in the next. I become the man I was always created to be. This is what the conscience is constantly beckoning me to, and what Easter and holiness-in-the-Spirit is all about. We were created to be elevated, divinized in Christ and with Christ. His resurrection has opened for us a share “in the inner life of God himself,” and we will one day participate, fully, in the dance and love of the Blessed Trinity itself—into which we were born through baptism. The life of grace, Pope Saint John Paul II recalls in his Theology of the Body, is a “penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine.” In heaven, this permeation will finally “reach its peak, so that the life of the human spirit will reach a fullness that was absolutely inaccessible to it before.” “Man’s state in the ‘other world’ will be…incomparably superior to what can be reached in earthly life.” We will “experience God’s self-communication in his very divinity, ” not only to my soul, but to all of me—my body and my abilities and all the gifts he has granted me. The Spirit dwelling within me will overflow into every aspect of my being, he says, and “the powers of the Spirit will permeate the energies of the body.” Every tear will be wiped away, and our soul and body will experience the thrill of the Divine Life which God has prepared for us.
This is our great hope, promised and guaranteed by Christ. It’s pretty amazing to imagine that, as we see Christ today—transfigured, glorified in dazzling white, a splendorous light shining through his otherwise normal humanity, the spiritual powers “permeating his human energies”…! And this is precisely the glory that awaits each of us! It’s what our Lord died for; it’s the victory he’s about to win for us at Easter. He comes bearing an extraordinary gift. His cross has defeated the sting of death and sin, and transformed us—now and definitively at the hour of our death—into glorified “sons in the Son”. We read in the second reading: he “destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Good News.” Let us not lose sight of that hope; let us not let it fade, although we must wait for it to come to its fullness.
This is obviously challenging. We don’t like to wait; and, like the apostles after the transfiguration, we too often watch Jesus—and his promises and his Church—face rejection in our world and—at times—the utter silence of the Father before failure. Our faith and hope—still today—can be sorely tried. The victory of heaven seems too far away, and the ideal of holiness, too high.
Peter himself sought to stay in that “middle-ground” of compromise. “Lord, it is good for us to be here”—here on the mountain, where Christ is privately and comfortably glorified in his divinity, while we ourselves can keep the status quo inertia of our fallen humanity and earthly interests.
But this is not God’s Plan. We are not called to “fit in” with the world around us; Christ did not choose us to be simply “normal”—there are plenty enough “good people” in today’s broken world. The Second Reading reminds us: “Christ saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our own works, but according to the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.” Christians are called to be true saints, holy as God is holy—their lives marked by God’s presence and the enduring hope of his promises. I’ve often considered the “saint” to be one who, striving to become what he was created to be, allows God’s Divinity to shine—unimpeded—through the prism of his humanity, transfiguring the world around him through that divine glimmer. This was Christ’s gift, and it is our ultimate hope: the grace of holiness, of our humanity penetrated by Christ’s Divinity—and ultimately, that glorified gift of Heavenly life. We are made to live in the world, but not of the world, because we are made for Heaven. Our humanity has been tailored by God for a future glory and happiness, one which makes the world’s petty promises and fleeting pleasures pale before them.
We’ve come today around the altar of the Lord, the table of the last Supper. We come to keep our Hope alive, to reinforce it in our attitudes and decisions. In fact, in the Eucharist Christ not only offers us the food of grace to strengthen us on this arduous journey of life; he also bolsters our hope. He offers anew his pledge and promise of future glory. “Do this in memory of Me,” he’d said at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. “Do this, and remember what I told you. Commemorate my promises, commemorate my ultimate sacrifice for you; and remember that I will be faithful. Hold fast to the hope you’ve received.” The priest even recalls that image of the Transfiguration during his Offertory prayers, when he silently prays, “Through the mystery of this water & wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” As we move forward in this holy celebration, let us renew our longing, “as we await the blessed hope, and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
To Download a PDF Version of this Homily, Click Here: 2nd Sunday of Lent – Year A
Fr. Stephen Dardis was ordained a priest in 2012 for the Legionaries of Christ, with a Bachelors in Theology and a Licentiate in Philosophy. He currently serves as Associate Pastor for Our Lady of Lourdes Church in New Orleans, Louisiana.