HOMILY BY FR. EDWARD DORAN
The gospel of the Transfiguration stands in such sharp contrast with the very first reading. Abraham went up onto the mountain, and as he went up, he commissioned, he charged his very beloved son to carry sticks on his shoulders. And only as they began up the mountain did the realization that Abraham was called to offer sacrifice, but he has nothing to sacrifice, save his only beloved son. The weight upon Abraham’s shoulders must have been overwhelming; his prized possession, his beloved son! Yet Abraham was the man who was faithful to the Lord, no matter what the Lord called him to do. He was prepared to do.
There is another mountain story besides the Transfiguration, and it is the mountain which Jesus went – Golgotha — and there He carried a bundle of wood on His shoulders. He carried the cross as He journeyed up that hill, in order to give Himself freely for our sins and for our salvation.
How about the Transfiguration? The Transfiguration is our linkage between Heaven and Earth and it reminds us that in every one of our lives there are those brief moments where we go up to the very top of the hill and we feel a sense of exhilaration; maybe the birth of your first child – a wonderful and powerful event. Vividly do I remember the receiving of my doctorate – that was a great moment! But the down moment was when I had to take my New York State exam to become a licensed psychologist, and I remember walking into the exam fantasizing spending the rest of my life behind a McDonald’s counter flipping hamburgers because I failed the test. The only Ph.D working at McDonald’s! Never happened, but you know at times we doubt, and we do experience those down moments.
The reading opened up by saying that the moment at which our health becomes an issue, the moment at which we worry about our children, the moment at which we are concerned about our finances and our job stability — my brothers and sisters, our lives are full of our transfiguration moments, moments of joy, but they also are experiences of Golgotha and suffering on the cross. And today, we turn to this cross, and we say, “What is it that you want of me, O Lord? What is it that you want of me?”
And I can’t say to you in the context of our readings, he wants us to have a connectedness to him. He wants to give us the strength in those moments of Golgotha, in those moments when we experience confusion and pain and uncertainty; those moments when the doctor says that we have cancer; those moments when we lose someone who is so vital and important in our lives; those moments where job stability goes out the windows; those moments where the children begin to experience – those are the moments where we need Him so badly and so desperately. He is there for us; he wants to be there for us; he where be there for us without reservation or question. All we are challenged to do to establish a link to Him. It will give us the strength that we need always and without question.
Each and every Friday, I lead the congregation to the 14 Stations of the Cross. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, … and the remaining seven — because as we re-enact the journey of Jesus, we see an offering of love. He is coming to us, giving everything that he has, to the very point of humiliation and crucifixion, and death. But out of that comes resurrection, and on Easter Sunday, we will celebrate that resurrection. On Easter Sunday, we will rise with him. But we can only rise if we have a connectedness with him, if we are animated by the strength of our relationship with Him.
All my brothers and sisters, we bring our pain and our confusion down this aisle, to place them on the table of the Lord, where they will be blessed, consecrated, and given back to us, with whatever strength that we need. Every time I look at that cross, every time I journey these 14 stations, I feel His strength. I know that He is with me, and that He will animate me, and sustain me in every way that I could possibly need. But I must – it is so vital and so important – the Lord has his arms open on the cross, but we must open our arms to Him.
How much does He wants to come to us, but in order to come to us, we need to go towards him. And tragically, and unfortunately the Devil wanders the earth trying to block our path, trying to prevent us from reaching out, instead presenting the alluring situations that end up in absolute disaster, that spreads terror in our journey towards our loving God, and in this season, this time of repentance, we need to go to the Lord to humbly acknowledge that “I am weak. I am vulnerable. I yield to sin in my life. Grant me your pardon and forgiveness.” Not only will He grant, but He will grant with no strings, with no conditions, out of pure, unadulterated love.
The pillars of the Lenten season: prayer – building and establishing a relationship with our loving God. Fasting – disciplining and controlling our bodies so that they work towards the good that we want in our lives. Almsgiving – talking the wonders that God has given onto us and sharing them with everyone around us. Yet I know certainly in my own life that I trip and I stumble along the way. And one of the stations that I love is when Jesus falls under the weight of his cross, because I fall under the weight of my sins. But I ask his pardon and his forgiveness, because that is the very aspect of this season, that in this wonderful season of Lent, we are encouraged, exhorted, that we take the opportunity to avail ourselves to humbly go before him, to ask pardon and forgiveness.
Today, my brothers and sisters, the story of Abraham is a story that is dark in its reality, but it is real. Abraham was to sacrifice that which meant so very much to him. He did not want to sacrifice, but because of his constancy and his loving relationship with God, he was ready to sacrifice. The Disciples needed to be prepared for the departure of Jesus. They hung on every word that he said, but he was about to be taken away from them. They need that deep moment of transfiguration.
From those two, I realize – and we realize – that our lives are moments, are those times that we are called to sacrifice, those times that we are called to exhilarate. But in both the peaks and the valleys, the one thing that remains constant is our loving relationship with Him, and we gather today to animate that relationship, to nurture that relationship, to cultivate that relationship, so that we have the strength during these 40 days to move closer and closer toward Him.