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Bishop's Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent

February 24, 2018

Second Sunday of Lent, Year B – (Vigil)
[St. John Vianney, Church, Kailua (Scout Mass)]

If you have watched any of the Winter Olympic games, you have seen some dazzling performances.  Whatever particular sport you might watch, the athletes are simply brilliant.  The medals of gold, silver, and bronze are also dazzling and are, of course, the prizes each athlete works so hard to achieve.  It all looks so simple, so elegant, so effortless.  Yet we know that years of self-sacrifice and coaching go into the training of each athlete.  I doubt if all their practice sessions are as dazzling as the performances we see during the Olympics, but without those more mundane moments of grueling sacrifice, we would not be as amazed at their performances.

Today we see Jesus appearing in dazzling form, transfigured before the eyes of his close friends, Peter, James, and John, and shining before them with a light they would never forget.  Not only did Jesus appear before them, however, but two other luminaries who were talking to Jesus, Moses and Elijah.  That one moment of glory was preceded by centuries of struggle, indicated by these holy prophets of God, who led the people in the direction God wanted them to go, even when the people kicked and screamed against going there.  And we hear Jesus speaking of his own self-sacrifice.  As Isaac was Abraham’s well beloved son and the only legitimate heir to the promise God had made with Abraham, so God the Father points out Jesus as his beloved Son, through whom he would speak his words of salvation and love to the world, the Son to whom we are commanded to listen.

But this dazzling moment that was presented to the eyes of the three apostles was nothing compared to the brilliance they would later see when Jesus was raised from the dead.  That was the greatest event in the history of the world, and these apostles whose eyes had been so dazzled by the transfiguration would consider that event dull compared to the resurrection, which they could not even understand until they had seen it with their own eyes.  But Jesus warned them that such only happens when we sacrifice ourselves to the will of God, even if it means great suffering and deprivation.

Everyone who marries wants his or her marriage to be dazzling with love and devotion.  But that can only happen if we first engage in the self-sacrifice that comes from obeying God’s will.  We may think God to be despotic when he asks us to give up our own pleasures and to lay aside our own dreams, as he asked Abraham to do with regard to his beloved son Isaac.  But God knows what is best for us in the long run, and if we listen to his voice and respond, we will engage in the training of self-discipline and self-sacrifice that will ultimately make marriage not humdrum but dazzling.

We want the world to be peaceful and everyone to live in the light that comes with harmony and love.  We want this world that is darkened with domestic violence, with random shootings, and with wars to be transfigured.  That is a goal we should always keep before our eyes.  And if someone can rise from the dead, surely even peace on earth is an achievable reality.  But in order to arrive there, we must listen to the voice of Jesus, and of all the prophets who went before him, laying down on the altar those grudges, hatreds, and prejudices we so easily cling to.  This kind of sacrifice can be as grueling as training for the Olympics, but in the end, it is the only thing that will change the darkness of death and destruction into the light of life.

Our best coach is Jesus himself, who trained rigorously by facing temptations and overcoming them, by listening to the will of his Father and doing it, even when he would rather let the cup of suffering pass him by, by staying true to who he was despite criticism, rejection, and crucifixion itself.  He is God’s beloved Son, and our best training comes by listening to his voice and doing what he commands, no matter how hard or grueling it may seem.  He was dazzlingly transfigured so that we, too, could dazzle with his grace and love and stand before the world winning the greatest prize of all, not gold, silver, or bronze, but eternal life with God and with all his beloved.  God knows we are capable of achieving this victory, but first we have to sacrifice ourselves with prayer, fasting, and penance.  Only then will we be able to achieve the brilliant and lofty goal of resurrection from the dead and life everlasting.