2nd Sunday of Lent - homily
First, a reminder to all of you about “The Light is on for you”, an Archdiocesan-wide program which every parish in the Archdiocese offers confessions from 6:30-8 pm every Wednesday during Lent. We offer them here in the confessionals during that time. If you are not comfortable using the confessionals here in Church on Wednesdays or Saturdays or in general, please call me to make an appointment; I’m open for Confession 24/7. Also, if you’re like some people and you just forget to go to Confession, I have put some cards in the vestibule of Church which simply say, “Confess!” You can put them in your room or office, somewhere where you’ll see the card and remember to confess. There is an act of contrition on the back of the card which you can take with you when you go.
One of my favorite saints is St. Thomas More who was a loving husband and father and a well-respected lawyer in England in the 1500s. Any of you who has seen the movie, “A Man For All Seasons” knows his inspiring story. Thomas had a great sense of humor and strong faith and virtue. He was named Chancellor in England by King Henry VIII. Henry became involved in a situation where he wanted to divorce his wife and marry another woman. He received approval from everyone he knew except one person: Thomas More. Henry desperately wanted Thomas’ approval, but Thomas wouldn’t budge. He knew that this was against God’s law and Church law; it was adultery. King Henry had Thomas imprisoned; this greatly troubled Thomas because he missed his family. He wrote letters to them, telling them that it was hard for him but that he had to do it. Thomas never gave into the King’s divorce, and Henry had Thomas beheaded. We can be assured that Thomas received his eternal reward because he was canonized a saint by the Church in 1935.
St. Thomas More lived out the line from our second reading, St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, so well: “bear your share of hardship for the Gospel”. Thomas gave his whole life for the Gospel…for Truth…for what’s right…for love. We may not be called to this dramatic and extreme hardship, but we are called to little hardships every day which is a form of martyrdom. If we are not bearing our share of hardship for the Gospel, then we are not living the Gospel. Why? Because the Gospel calls us to die to self, to take up our cross, to repent and turn away from sin – to change our lives. This is hard.
It is hard to live the Gospel; it is hard to defend the Gospel – in the workplace, at home, at school, with family, with friends. It is much easier to stay in our comfort zones. It would have been much easier for Thomas to not say anything to the king and live a normal life. In the same respect, it would have been much easier for Jesus Christ to not speak the Truth, not be put on a Cross, and live a normal life. But Jesus Himself says that the very reason he came into the world was to speak the Truth…to speak the Gospel. He endured tremendous hardship for the Gospel; he laid down his life for it. We know that there is great value in sacrifice and that love involves sacrifice. This is love; this is the greatest love. This is holiness. Holiness is imitating Christ. Mother Teresa once said that the best way to imitate Christ is through suffering; those who are closest to Jesus on Earth are those who suffer the most.
But, this is a hard sell. It is a hard sell for us and for the people who lived 2000 years ago. It is hard to accept the Cross, suffering, and hardship. Jesus knew this; this is one of the reasons He told the Apostle not to tell anyone about the Transfiguration. He knew that if the Apostles told others about what they had seen and heard that people either wouldn’t believe them or that if they believed them would have had a hard time with this: the Cross. Imagine if the Apostles had told people that they had seen a glorious vision of Jesus with Moses and Elijah and heard a glorious pronouncement from the Father, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him”.
Those who believed that Jesus is the Son of God would have been very troubled by what they saw on Good Friday. After hearing about such a glorious vision of Christ, they would have seen such a weak vision of Him. They might have left Jesus for good. That’s why Jesus said to the Apostles to wait until after the Resurrection to tell them about the Transfiguration. Wait until they had seen Him win victory over death. Wait until they had seen Him in his glory. Then, they can tell them about the Transfiguration.
We know the full story. And yet, we struggle to understand the Cross – in Jesus’ life and in our lives. We go through Lent taking up little crosses and bearing small hardships so that we will understand and imitate the hardships of Christ in a better way.
Finally, the last part of St. Paul’s line is the reason we’re here – “bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God”. He is talking about Grace. We need God’s strength to bear our hardships; we can’t do it on our own. We need God’s Grace, His strength, and His help in carrying our crosses, whatever they may be. We need to be fed and nourished by God with the bread from heaven.
St. Paul says that grace comes in the appearance of Jesus Christ. Christ will appear to us in a few minutes. It will be the same Christ who appeared in the Transfiguration who will appear on this altar. It will be the same Christ about whom the Father pronounced, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him”.