On the Second Sunday of Lent, as we progress toward the sacrifice of the Cross, the Church turns our focus to Jesus as He blazes with Resurrection glory in his Transfiguration. We journey with the three Apostles to the top of the mountain, which signifies a particular closeness to God. We see the Kingdom of God has appeared in power in Jesus of Nazareth. We are all terrified at this unusual sight, at this Theophany. We are also filled with strength and resolve as we gaze upon the Transfigured Jesus, we want to remain here, but we too must journey with him to the Cross. Transfiguration is what it looks like when God’s life is fully activated and made visible through the body. In Jesus, this glory is his by divine personhood and allowed to show forth in his human nature. Jesus prepares his disciples and us for his gruesome suffering and sacrifice and gives us hope in our suffering and the desire for holiness.
The hope offered to us in the mystery of the Transfiguration is the redemption of the body. St. John Paul II reflecting on St. Paul’s phrase “the redemption of the body” invites us to see the phrase’s significance not only in the resurrection as a victory over death but its power here and now in everyday life (see TOB 86:6). In the day to day, we must draw, from the mystery of the redemption of the body, the inspiration, and strength to overcome the selfish desires that lie in our hearts (see TOB 86:7). This redemption moves us from living selfishly to living for others and can be experienced here and now, through grace. Jesus shows us that our bodies fully activated by God’s grace can be a sacrament (a sign) to the world of his power to overcome sin in our lives (body and soul). Love is the Father’s motivation for sending his beloved Son to offer the sacrifice of himself. This sacrifice makes it possible for us to become beloved children of the Father, by grace to conquer sin and selfishness in our lives, and to share in this Love.
We should not fear the words of Christ and his high call to purity of body, mind, and heart. We should instead trust in the power of the One who speaks them. Our culture has turned its back on the power of Jesus and the grace of redemption he offers us. We no longer listen to the words of the One who can give us redemption and holiness. We listen instead to the doubts, fears, and the lie that our selfish desires are “just the way it is, so indulge.” We know deep down, however, they are not. In the deepest recesses of our heart, we know God made us for something more. We recognize that the pleasures of the world do not satisfy our deepest desires for love, truth, goodness, and beauty. They are fleeting and addictive when pursued without regard for what is true and good.
Jesus offers us a new way to live: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). In baptism, we became sharers in the Jesus’ sonship by adoption. We are beloved children of God, and we participate here and now in the glory of the Resurrection (glimpsed in the Transfiguration) by grace. God pours grace into our hearts through the sacraments and prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This grace is the grace of the redemption of our body. If we allow the grace of redemption to penetrate our daily life, we will “discover the whole good in which [we] achieve the victory over sin and concupiscence” (TOB 86:8, emphasis in original).
Jesus knew the apostles would be confused and afraid when they saw the sacrifice he would offer on the Cross, so he gives them a glimpse of the glory that awaits him on the other side of his suffering. Similarly, we can be confused and afraid of Jesus’ ways for they seem too challenging and we seem too weak. Today, our faith and hope in Jesus are strengthened by this glimpse of glory. We share in this glory on this side of eternity through the grace of redemption. Jesus invites us to open our wounded hearts and bodies to this transforming grace. Jesus is not afraid of what he will find in our hearts; he is not fearful of our wounds, he already knows it all. He shows us a glimpse of his glory that we may no longer be afraid. Instead, we should place our trust and hope in him. This Lent, be empowered by his Transfiguration to enter into the hard work of opening your entire broken self (body and soul) to the grace of redemption and God will make you shine with the dazzling light of holiness and lead you to eternal glory.
To download a PDF version of this homily, click here: 2nd Sunday of Lent – Year B
Father Ryan Browning is a priest of the Diocese of Rockford. He is currently the associate pastor at St. Bridget in Loves Park, Illinois. He was ordained a priest on June 22, 2013. Father Ryan has attended a Theology of the Body I course with the Theology of the Body Institute.