Feb. 25, 2018

Second Sunday in Lent


Last Sunday’s Gospel focused on the human nature of Jesus Christ — his susceptibility to hunger, fatigue and Satan’s temptations. This week’s Gospel finds us focused instead on his divine nature, which Jesus reveals on a mountaintop.

His clothes become “dazzling white,” and Elijah (“the prophets”) and Moses (“the Law”) appear and converse with him.

Peter offers to erect three tents so that everyone can settle in and stay for a while! But then a cloud overshadows them; and a voice from the cloud announces his divine sonship to his friends and to anyone else (like us) who may be listening.

Then, abruptly, it is over. Everything reverts to normal, and Jesus tells his friends not to reveal what they have seen until after he has risen from the dead. Peter, James and John probably could not describe their experience anyway without being called crazy. Clearly, they do not fully understand what they have seen. But it is a good bet that they will never forgot it.

The Church wants for us not to forget it, either. Yes, on our life journey, we identify with the human Christ of the First Sunday of Lent — we know hunger, thirst, fatigue and temptation “in the desert.” But today’s Gospel gives us hope that occasionally, like the divinized Christ, we, too, might allow the light of God’s life and love to shine through our human frailty.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” it is Frodo, a diminutive and unassuming hobbit, who proves best suited to carry the one ring of power to Mount Doom so as to destroy it and save the world from destruction. Ironically, his chance for success is largely based on his hobbit nature. Why should the Dark Lord and his minions fear the likes of Frodo?

And yet, they underestimate him at their own peril. For as he soldiers on at great personal cost — and the ring grows heavier with every step — we witness his gradual transfiguration. A great and heroic heart emerges in Frodo. It is his selfless embrace of suffering — not unlike that of Jesus — that enables him to succeed in his seemingly impossible task and save the world.

Redemption of the World

“The new heavens and the new earth are not replacements for the old ones; they are transfigurations of them. The redeemed order is not the created order forsaken; it is the created order — all of it — raised and glorified.”

Robert Farrar Capon, priest and theologian

Homily Helps for the January issue were written by FATHER DAN RUFF, SJ, who teaches homiletics as an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, and is a full-time member of the campus ministry staff at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.