The Transfiguration: Catholic homily outline for the Second Sunday of Lent, Year C

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Central idea: The Cross and the Transfiguration. Doctrine: The Cross and glory go together. Practical application: Integrating the Cross and glory into our lives.

To view Lectionary 27, click here.

Central idea: The Cross and the Transfiguration

Reading 1 Gn 15:5-12, 17-18

The Lord God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.

He then said to him,
“I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans
to give you this land as a possession.”
“O Lord GOD,” he asked,
“how am I to know that I shall possess it?”
He answered him,
“Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat,
a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Abram brought him all these, split them in two,
and placed each half opposite the other;
but the birds he did not cut up.
Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses,
but Abram stayed with them.
As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram,
and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.

When the sun had set and it was dark,
there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch,
which passed between those pieces.
It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram,
saying: “To your descendants I give this land,
from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”

  • One way this reading can be understood is light of the very first point of the Catechism.

“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.” (CCC 1)

  • God drew close to Abraham, so Abraham and his descendants could draw close to God. God gives man good gifts, in this case promising Abraham land and progeny. But the most valuable gift God gives is friendship with himself.
  • After the Fall, God began to call men, “scattered and divided by sin,” back into the unity of his family by forming the Chosen People in Abraham.
  • Christ, the Redeemer and Savior, in his human nature, is a descendant of Abraham.
  • Christ invites all men into the unity of his family, the Church, to become adoptive children of God and heirs of eternal happiness.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14

R. The Lord is my light and my salvation

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?

Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.

Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

  • God makes promises to us who want to be close to him, promises of glory, of obtaining every good thing.
  • We experience some of the bounty of the Lord in this life, but why don’t we get everything now?
  • The answer is that in the divine economy, the cross and glory go together. It is understandable that we want the glory but not the cross. Even Christ in his human nature did not want the cross.
  • But in the divine economy, the cross is bearable. This is true not only because of the promise of glory but also due to friendship with God himself right now. A cross of whatever kinds bids us to turn to God, where we really do find our light and salvation.

Reading 2 Phil 3:20—4:1

Brothers and sisters:
Our citizenship is in heaven,
and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
to conform with his glorified body
by the power that enables him also
to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
in this way stand firm in the Lord, beloved.

  • As St. Paul proclaims, Christ “will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body.” As the Homiletic Directory puts it, “The glory that bursts forth from Jesus’ body is a glory that he means to share with all who are baptized into his death and resurrection” (HD 67).
  • “His glorified body” refers both to the glory that was revealed in Our Lord’s Transfiguration on the mountain and to his glorified resurrected body.
  • Our lowly bodies will be changed. We will have glorified bodies no longer subjected to suffering and death. We will also have “the light of glory,” a sharing in God’s own life that will allow us to see God face to face in the Beatific Vision.

Gospel Lk 9:28b-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah,
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,
but becoming fully awake,
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus,
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking,
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time
tell anyone what they had seen.

  • The Transfiguration takes place right after Our Lord’s first prediction of his Passion, during which he teaches the apostles the kind of Messiah he is: “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days” (LK 9:22 quoted in HD 64).
  • In addition, Our Lord then taught them how to follow the Messiah: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Lk 9:23). This message is confirmed by the witness of Moses and Elijah, by the manifestation of Christ’s glory, and by the affirmation of the Father: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” (HD 64)
  • Thus, a fundamental truth of the Gospel and of our Christian lives is that “cross and glory belong together” (HD 65). As the Homiletic Directory points out, this truth is expressed in the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer for today’s Mass: “For after he had told the disciples of his coming Death, on the holy mountain he manifested to them his glory, to show, even by the testimony of the law and the prophets, that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection.”

Doctrine: The Cross and glory belong together

  • Christ’s Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection (HD 65).
    • Christ taught this by his words to his apostles; by the revelation of his glory on the mountain accompanied by the testimony of Moses and Elijah representing the Law and the Prophets, by the cloud, and by the words of the Father; by Christ’s actual Passion; and by his actual Resurrection.
  • The Father’s words to the apostles, “Listen to him” reveal “the path to glory.” As the Homiletic Directory puts it, “It is as if He says, ‘Listen to Him, in whom there is the fullness of my love, which will appear on the Cross.’ This teaching is a new Torah, the new Law of the Gospel, given on the holy mountain in the center of which there is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given to those who place their faith in Jesus and in the merits of His Cross.” (HD 66)
  • As a revelation of the mystery of Trinitarian love, “It is the Father’s glory we see in the glory of the Son, and that glory is inextricably joined to the cross.” Thus “the Son revealed in the transfiguration is Light from Light.” (HD 66)
  • The Biblical readings that the Church presents to us in Lent is a “lesson book.” For catechumens, this “book” prepares them to receive the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. For the rest, “it prepares all the faithful to renew themselves in the new life into which they have been reborn.” (HD 67)
  • This new life is what St. Paul meant when he wrote, “He [Christ] will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” (Phil 3:21).

Practical application: Integrating the Cross and glory into our lives

  • Here are some things that could be the subject of our prayer this week that go toward integrating the Cross and glory into our lives.
    • If the Lenten Lectionary—both the Sunday and the daily readings—are “a lesson book,” what lessons does God want to teach me through them? I can only find out by pondering them.
    • What has been my own life’s experience of the Cross and glory going together?
    • How are Cross and glory connected for me in my present situation?
    • How can my Lenten discipline connect me with Christ’s Passion and Resurrection?
  • In light of the Year of Mercy, here is a brief reflection on how the Cross and the Resurrection do not go together.
    • God brings good out of the evil of the cross. He does not inflict the cross. Thus, we should not wish anyone to suffer.
    • The Gospel can teach us how to suffer better but the suffering is not good in itself. We should want to alleviate the crosses of those around us. Dentists used to inflict a lot of temporary pain on their patients to restore them to dental health. Subsequently, they have learned how to inflict as little pain as possible to achieve the same goal. Thus, our goal should be not to make people around us suffer needlessly and for them to suffer as little as possible.
    • As today’s responsorial psalm teaches, nearness to Christ is a comfort to Christ’s servant who suffers. Nearness to us and to our aid could be the balm that those suffering around us receive. So, how can I alleviate the crosses of those around me?

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.

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