Transfiguration Sunday

Second Sunday of Lent

There comes a time in all our lives when ‘we need to get away from it all’.

We need to find an escape when and where we can think, catch up, reflect, remain silent, un-distracted and uninterrupted. Lent is a good time to take a day away in prayer somewhere for silence, reflection, confession and new purpose, a place like Mt Melleray for example.

Today’s reading from the Gospel is about the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus and His closest friends take some time out together. For a moment they see Him as the Son of God in glory.

What is that reading doing in the middle of Lent you might ask? Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham points out the relevance importance and necessary contrast between the reading for the event today and that of Good Friday.

The mountain of Tabor explains the hill of Calvary and vice-versa.

The transfiguration event recalled today can only be fully understood when we pair it with Good Friday.

Here Jesus’ clothes are dazzlingly white, on Calvary He is stripped of his garments

Here He is flanked by the great Moses and Elijah, there He is flanked by two thieves

Here He is surrounded by the brightness of the cloud; there He is covered in darkness

Here He is seen in glory, there He is in agony and flecked with blood

Here He is surrounded by some faithful men when all is well, there by faithful women when all is at its worst – how often women are the ones who are silently faithful as men suffer but men-friends cannot cope and are cowards in the face of pain

Here Peter has faith; there he is in hiding and in doubt

Here God the Father’s voice declares ‘This is my Beloved Son’; on Calvary there a pagan soldier says ‘truly this man was a son of God’
Jesus is all alone on Thabor after the disappearance of Moses and Elijah - in solitude, then at Calvary is all alone  on the Cross.

Here on Tabor, all is silence and solitude, there on Calvary all is clamour, violence and crowds and noise

The point is both are important events: and that just as joy and sadness fill our lives, God is present not only when things are brightest but also when things are dark – in loneliness, pain, suffering and tears.  God is with us not just when things are going well and all is calm; God is equally with us when all is chaos and even seemingly meaningless.

We are urged today to Listen to Him.

Let us take time apart sometime in Lent to listen to His voice in the silence.

There we might be able to make sense of things and also face the future with faith and trust and not fear.

First Sunday in Lent Year C

We have begun the season of Lent

When I was in the seminary many moons ago there was a professor who was a chain smoker. Faithfully each Lent he would give up smoking for Lent and keep to his resolution to the bitter end. Life became a misery in class, for without a cigarette he had a very short temper and made life a misery for students, and he would blow his top and take out his frustration at a quivering student. There would be a collective sigh of relief at Easter. Something is wrong with this picture, I think you’ll agree. He missed the point of Lent.

Don’t be like the married couple I heard about recently! A woman said to her husband about his resolutions for Lent: 'I don’t mind you giving up food, but could you please give up complaining about it'?!

Jesus three trials or temptations in the wilderness remind us of the 40 days of Lent as well as the fact that we too are lost and in the way of trial and tribulation in this life as Jesus’ followers.

I wonder what is the temptation you have to deal with most – is it pride, vanity, angry outbursts, impurity, lack of forgiveness, uncharitable talk, malicious gossip?  Lent is a time for us to ask ourselves: Have you ever thought what you are like to live with or to be at the receiving end of what you say and do?

Lent is about a new springtime in our lives. Amid the changing weather outside, there is change and growth intended in our lives too. Testing makes us grow.

Temptation tells us something about ourselves – about our proneness to weakness, to sin, sometimes repeatedly. Lent makes us face up to some home truths about ourselves, particularly in the nature of or the extent of our ability to make resolutions and keep them.

Fasting and abstinence are good practice – in the right spirit - and are tried and tested methods that bear fruit. We are all obliged to perform some act of penance for our sins. but Motivation is key.

I find it personally helpful in Lent to pray and offer up sacrifices for a friend of mine in New York who deals with troubled drug addicts and recovering and relapsing alcoholics with all sorts of weird and wonderful domestic arrangements and difficulties. These are young women in severe financial straits and in a cycle of poverty and addiction. I pray for their wellbeing and conversion. I have a list of their Christian names and I pray for them daily in Lent.

Find a cause, a purpose, a person to pray for. Find a prayer partner. Someone who with you with mutually pray for one another and even make some kind of sacrifice

Lent stretches us – but hopefully stretches our love beyond the boundaries of our selfish ways to the world of others, until we come to Good Friday to meditate before the One who in love stretched out His arms for us on the cross and died to save us all.

Surrendering our likes, our tastes, fasting from food is not an end in itself. We must all learn to surrender to God completely eventually. Kimberly Hahn, the wife of the famous convert Scott Hahn, was slowly edging towards full communion with the Catholic Church. She found numerous intellectual obstacles to becoming Catholic, even though she could see the sense of many of the Church’s teachings. She decided one year to undertake a Lenten resolution and asked God what she would give up. She felt the Lord reply to her in her mind: ’Kimberly, why don’t you just give up?!’  She did and became a Catholic .

Maybe that is the message we most need to adopt today.

Give yourself up to what God wants.


Fifth Sunday of the year

It may happen that at work you are asked and challenged to do something that does not quite fit your job description, something you had not ‘signed up for’. If you have ever felt unequal to a task at work, and  you wonder why you were chosen for a particular job because you felt you lacked the qualities or qualifications necessary, that you were called way above your station, that you were being stretched, then today’s readings are for you.

 Why would you feel this way?  Was it because you were afraid of failure,  of letting someone down (including yourself), afraid too of what you considered to be unrealistic expectations, that you wouldn’t measure up, and that you would fail very publicly. These are quite natural feelings in the face of a new challenge. We may be tempted to say: ‘who, me? I can’t do it’, ‘you must be desperate!’ or ‘why ask me, ask someone else’.

The readings this Sunday are about three people who were called and challenged in the midst of their workdays to do something more. Peter, Paul and Isaiah feel totally unsuited to teh task at hand, and what’s more, before God completely unworthy. They are honest and humble about their sinfulness. All they see is their failings, defects and deficiencies.

This does not stop God’s initiative. In the Gospel, Jesus knows Peter through and through and what’s more, Peter knows that too. Peter realises with the miraculous draught of fish that He is in the presence of God. Having first addressed Jesus as Master, he kneels before Him calling Him ‘Lord’. Their relationship has changed.

Peter’s best efforts without Jesus produce nothing. Peter having fished in the familiar waters and knowing the movements of the shoals of fish and where and what spots were the most likely to produce a catch, is left wondering at the fruitless search all night. But what Peter could not do with all his know-how, skill and experience, this ‘land-lubber’ carpenter from Nazareth, this rabbi, and now ‘Lord’, could accomplish at a single word.

After the dark of night, in the light of dawn, Jesus approaches and at Jesus’ word, they catch a draught beyond their wildest dreams. Can you imagine their excitement and astonishment? Amidst it all Peter is struck by Jesus’ authority, and his own unworthiness in His Presence. With Jesus, the miraculous happens, but with the human effort of casting the nets. The human factor is still required for God to accomplish the miraculous. God in His wisdom uses the weak.

What is this to us? Does this story mean anything? Or the story of the call of Isaiah, or Paul on the road to Damascus? What might God want of ME? Does God want something of me? Is he asking something of me, some calling, some task, to take another step forward, the next best step, and not to be afraid of what is being asked of us, because of who is asking it.

We are asked out of love which makes all the difference …it is God, Jesus who asks us, do we dare refuse? What can we refuse those we love?

Just as an employer or supervisor might decide to pick you for a certain task, it is usually not a spur of the moment decision on their part. They have deliberated, perhaps with others, and considered you suited for the  task at hand.

Have we confidence in ourselves alone, and our own abilities? Probably not, but with Jesus, with God, ‘all things are possible’.

Peter had no earthly idea what was ahead, what was going to happen, even that he was called to leadership and martyrdom. What mattered was here and now what Jesus wanted. Jesus had proved Himself to Peter, but Peter did not think he could prove anything to Jesus.

Peter leaves everything after him, even the draught of fish. The call - and the response is - total. It displays Peter’s total commitment, and there is no going back, no back-sliding.

Can I do the same?  What is the state of my relationship, or my commitment to Jesus?

Jesus is asking something of me and of you.

As with Peter Jesus sees something in all of us that we may be unaware of ourselves.

1.    The first is NOT TO BE AFRAID – the most common statement in the Bible. He is calling you closer to Him than you have been before. Peter was not making excuses, he was making a statement of fact –this is who I am, depart from me, what could you possibly want of me?

2.    The second is to make a step of faith or trust, to leave behind the nets is perhaps symbolic of leaving behind all the things that have entrapped us. It is at once and the same time to acknowledge our sinfulness and yet not to be afraid of our sin. TO TURN TOWARD JESUS CAN BE SUMMED UP IN ONE WORD – CONVERSION.

3.    And then to see what happens.

Lent is nearly upon us. We think of the things we give up for a time, but it is ultimately about freedom. To leave behind and detach ourselves from the nets and traps of sinful habits and compulsions, to be truly free from the past and its mistakes, and to live a new kind of life, one that Jesus wants. It is freedom for others, as it was for Peter who was the first Pope.

Can this be a Lent this year be the one that will make all the difference? Can we see that Lent is always in springtime, that the lengthening days and the emerging snowdrops and daffodils give new hope and promise? That Lent is a new springtime in our lives, to leave the dark night of winter behind. That our lives can take on a new direction - that the failed New Year resolutions can now become Lenten ones.

If you have a deep down feeling that you are called to something more, that you are somehow unfulfilled, that there must be more to life than having things, then this may be your opportunity for a new outlook, a new direction.

 Can we at least, if nothing else make a resolution to devote more personal prayer each day – 10 to 15 minutes, to listening to what God and instead of telling Him all the time what we want? May our daily prayer this Lent include the simple but important question: 'Lord, what do want of me?'

 Let us make this the best Lent yet!