Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent

13 March 2022

 

This weekend’s reading seem to want to awaken in us a sense of the supernatural, of wonder – a reminder to us of the world beyond our sight. This speaks to the supernatural instinct and consciousness that God has created in each of us that makes us aware that what we see is not all there is. Particularly, these readings are given to us to remind us of the eternal inheritance that is promised to the faithful, that we should desire above all things, by which we should live our lives; they also remind us of the other great promise of sharing in the resurrection with Jesus and our bodies being glorified as his was. 

In the first reading, Abraham enacts the ritual by which the Lord establishes a covenant with him. This covenant is accompanied by all sorts of mystical symbols: the sacrifice itself, the darkness, the flames, the voice from heaven. These mystical symbols remind us and Abraham that he is not making a contract or treaty with an equal and opposite partner; he’s making a covenant with this mystical and overwhelming figure of God. He’s dealing with something that he cannot control, and he knows God is from a realm that’s beyond this world.

In the second reading, Paul scolds his listeners and readers for being exclusively preoccupied with what he calls earthly things. He talks about our citizenship in heaven, telling the first Christians, and us, that our true citizenship is not here. It is in heaven that we ultimately belong. And then wonderfully, he speaks of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, who will come from heaven, this sacred place, this elevated place, and “change our lowly bodies to conform with his glorified body”.

What does that mean? Perhaps it is not altogether clear. But we do know that Jesus is coming from a realm beyond this one, where even his body, received in nature from the Blessed Virigin Mary, exists in a new way, in a way that is different from how it existed during his earthly life. It is transformed, transfigured. It’s appropriate to this higher place, just as our bodies now are suited for this world of ours. Paul, is reminding us that our familiar world, this embodied world we live in, is not the final reality. The mystery of the universe, creation, and what lies beyond it is something that God invites us to, and it is beyond the span of what we can observe or know.

Then, in the Gospel, we have the even more beautiful and strange account of the Transfiguration of the Lord. As in the Abraham story, we have the mountain, the darkness, the voice, we have the dazzling light: all spiritual symbols that speak of the breakthrough of a higher world. Here, the ordinary and the extra ordinary, the human and divine, meet. The darkness shows, in both Abraham and the transfiguration, that we’re not in charge. God is speaking. He’s breaking through in our ordinary experience.

Again, and again, the Bible reminds us we’re only pilgrims here, that we’re passing through this world on a journey to a higher one. It doesn’t mean that now we’re indifferent to the good in this world, or the importance of mercy, compassion, and stewardship in the temporal realm. We are very interested. But, as Paul pointed out, we have our citizenship in heaven. St. Augustine said that we’re on a journey through this world. But we shouldn’t become beguiled by the ease of the trip or the beauty of the countryside we’re passing through. St. Teresa of Avila said, “Everything passes. God alone remains.” And so, all these readings are lifting us up. They’re compelling us to look higher, to be aware of a supernatural dimension.

These readings today remind us to look forward to eternity, not to dwell as if this world is all that our almighty God has to offer. Whatever the reality of heaven is, it is beyond our understanding, but we are created to participate in this blessed life for eternity. If we live constantly aware of this, how differently we would live and treat one another in our daily lives. Would we be so inward looking, so determined to get whatever we can for ourselves in the worldly realm? To be selfish, self-centred, greedy? No we would be aware in our daily choices how our love, forgiveness, stewardship, and compassion, our imitation of Christ, unite us to Him and, so, enable us to receive this inheritance that is freely offered.

Let’s go back to Paul’s glorified body. What the disciples saw on Mount Tabor was, indeed, Christ glorified body that they would experience once again after the Resurrection. This glorified body, that exists beyond what our natural world can comprehend, is suited to the place that Jesus prepares for us, where he returns at the Ascension, where we will live with him for eternity. We are summoned to this heavenly place and we believe we’ll be given a glorified body like the Lord’s. This is what we mean when we profess in the Creed “I believe in the resurrection of the body”.

So, what can we say about it? What will it be like? This is a bit of a mystery. Only the glimpses of a glorified body of Jesus in the Gospels can give us a clue. We know they are recognisable or have “identity” as people recognised Jesus. However, we also know they are different in some way – people were a little confused. It was bright, could move back and forth, seemingly not bound by what we normally consider natural laws (such as going through locked doors). But they will also truly be the bodies we possessed in this world, as we see, Jesus’ glorified body retained the scars from the nails and the cross.

And so, we are also reminded this weekend of the dignity of the human body, which, while it is subject to decay in this temporal realm, it will be transformed and glorified as Christ’s was on Mount Tabor and after the Resurrection. The bodies that God has given us also have an eternal destiny, already received by the body of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Assumption. So, any violence against any human body – our own, or those of others – is contrary to the very purpose and destiny of these bodies that have been given to us by our Creator. We must not abuse or misuse our bodies, caring for them, striving to maintain health, vigour. We cannot inflict violence of any kind on anyone else. We must recognise and reverence the gift of the human body that God creates.

We also have a moment for a pastoral note. It is so important that our burial rites reflect the faith that we profess as Catholics. For us, the body is not meaningless. Prayer for the dead is important. Being united with the sacrifice of Christ which saves us is essential. A funeral that expresses these realities is what Catholics should desire. A requiem Mass where my soul is prayed for; my body present in the Church to be blessed, reverenced, and carried with dignity. Preferably a burial, but if I happen to be cremated, then my ashes to be interred in a single whole in a sacred place, not scattered as if it were of no importance. It is so important that we tell our loved ones (especially if they have no connection to the Church) that what we want for our funerals is a Catholic burial that expresses this faith – preferably in writing, so that you can receive these final rites in a way which expresses our faith.

As we make our way through the long sort of slog of lens, which is meant to symbolize the long slog through life, we’re permitted today, even encouraged, to think of the glorious transfiguration toward which all of us are moving, and of which we receive a foretaste at this altar in the Eucharist, the glorified Body and Blood of our saviour, Jesus Christ. AMEN.

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