HOME Homily Archives - Year C Second Sunday of Lent, Year C

Second Sunday of Lent, Year C
Homily. Readings: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36.


Purple Stole and Gospel
Readings: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36

In today’s Readings, God reconfirms to Abraham his promise of land and many descendants (First Reading). St. Paul reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven (Second Reading), which is the true Promised Land revealed by Jesus in his Transfiguration (Gospel).

Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be.” Abraham is discouraged from the lack of an heir; God has made many promises, yet he and Sarah still remain childless. As a result, he begins to wonder if he will have to simply leave his growing wealth to his steward. As a response to Abraham’s growing unease, the Lord tells him to keep trusting, and although bent low with discouragement, he is to “look up at the sky and count the stars.” (First Reading) The divine prodigality on display in the darkened sky is but a hint of the lavish abundance with which God will fulfill his promises. God calls for a dramatic ceremony to emphasize the irrevocable nature of the covenant. The slaughtered animals are conventional symbols of the time to underline the seriousness of the oath that has been undertaken on both sides. But wholly unconventional, and indeed miraculous, is the sign that God uses to introduce his solemn promise: the smoking fire pot and flaming torch that pass through the slaughtered animals. God breaks through the darkness that envelopes Abraham to speak his sacred promise.

Something similar happens in the Gospel reading. The Transfiguration is another miraculous vision that announces a solemn promise from God. But it is far more impressive and holds forth an infinitely more spectacular promise. Jesus becomes transfigured: The veil is lifted and his disciples receive a glimpse of his divinity shining forth through his humanity. The presence of Moses and Elijah attest to Christ’s complete and total fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, and he is found speaking with them about “his exodus that he was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” The original “exodus” was the passage of the people from Egypt to the Promised Land, whereas this exodus is infinitely greater. It will be the passage of Jesus from this world, through his passion and death, to the glory of the Resurrection. The power of this vision also lies in the presence of all three persons of the Blessed Trinity. As in the Baptism of our Lord, the Father speaks from heaven, this time enjoining upon the disciples obedience to his “Chosen Son,” and the Holy Spirit is evoked in the cloud that envelopes everyone. A vision that is both frightening and exhilarating, “Let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” It would be wonderful for such an ecstasy to never end, and indeed, it is just a glimpse of the glory that awaits us in heaven.

While this is only the second Sunday of Lent, we may already be discouraged in our Lenten observance. Perhaps I’ve already fudged or been somewhat lax in fulfilling my commitments, be they prayer or sacrifices. This just points to the larger issue of discouragement in general. We would earnestly like to make spiritual progress, and sometimes we do, but just as frequently, maybe more so, we find ourselves getting stuck in some intractable rut. Should we surrender to our discouragement? If we do, it is because we have placed the focus on ourselves instead of God. Sure, we have to keep our side of the bargain, but this covenant is not a contract between equals. The covenant is with the LORD, the one who can do all things. We, on our part, have to be patient, and he will make good on all his promises.

Maybe this gives us a clue as to why these disciples were given the grace of the Transfiguration. The suffering of Jesus would have been unbearably scandalous without this mystical foretaste of the Resurrection, and thus this brilliant vision served as a reminder during those terrible days that Christ, despite his horrendous appearance, was, in reality, the Chosen Son of God.

Furthermore, this event shows us that, as Fulton Sheen frequently repeated, “There can be no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.” Moses and Elijah are speaking about “the exodus” that Jesus will undergo. He will get to the “Promised Land” by passing through the most horrific suffering imaginable. We, too, will get to our Promised Land through a long and difficult trek. Suffering is a necessary part of the journey. The key is not to get discouraged, but rather, to always “look at the stars,” and remember that we are created for an eternity of infinite joy.