Second Sunday of Lent (Year C), 2019-03-17: Our Mission Is Mission – As Friends of, Not Contradictors to, the Gospel


Homily for Second Sunday in Lent


Year C: Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Ps 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36

St. Eugenia Catholic Church, Stockholm (English Mass)


Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Why do we hear the gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Lent, when it has a dedicated Feast in August? Because the Church wants to remind us that the point of the gospel not is niceness or private feelgood, but instead a call to sacrifice for increasingly conforming our lives to Christ’s, and to bring the gospel to others.

The event of the Transfiguration immediately follows Jesus’s first prediction of his passion and ends by a hint that it will be understood after his resurrection. The same three disciples who later will be with him during his agony in Gethsemane now receive a glimpse of the glorified Christ as the fulfilment of God’s promises through Israel’s Law, represented by Moses, and prophets, represented by Elijah. The passing, the exodus, Jesus later is to accomplish on the cross, is the exodus from the mortality of sin to the immortality of righteousness, foreshadowed by Abraham in our first reading from the Book of Genesis, describing the dawn of salvation history finalized in God’s incarnation in one of Abraham’s descendants.

As St. Paul pointed out in our second reading from the Letter to the Philippians, we will also, by faith, one day be glorified like Jesus Christ; risen to a new life in a body freed from decomposition, totally permeated by God’s light. This promise, dear sisters and brothers, isthe gospel, the joyful message about God becoming man. From it follows a lot of things also important. But without it, everything eventually vanishes with our deficiencies and limitations. Therefore, when you hear as Christian preaching messages that you as well could hear at political meetings to left and right or in talk shows on TV, you can be sure of one thing: you have in any case not heard the gospel.

Following Jesus Christ to his final glory means following in his footsteps on his way there. The process through which we will come to fully share in Christ’s transfigured and eternal life with the Father, thus in its very self is a change and transformation of our lives here and now. In this process, we need the full teaching of the Church, authorized by Christ to speak his will at all times, on morals and justice – i.e. the consequences of the gospel – as description of the full vocation we are invited not to manipulate according to our likings but to increasingly grow into.

Of course, God loves us as we are, created in his image. But he loves us more than, and too much to, wanting us to remain as and where we are! This insight, and the actions following from it, is both hopeful and implies painful sacrifices; of all that we cling to that is not ordered to Christ, and of ourselves for others, i.e. imitating Christ’s self-giving love, without any foreseeable return. Removing our fear of death as the end, and constantly renewing our share in this victory through the seven sacraments of the Church, which he instituted, Jesus gives us himself as help for our change, saying with our responsorial psalm today: “[b]e strong and take courage [, p]ut your hope” in me.

In the Season of Lent we train ourselves in receiving and making use of that help, by detachment from perishable things in order to focus on the eternal. This will increase our willingness to give and to suffer for truth, in a world, a culture also approved by Christians, that constantly and naturally seems to prefer “alternative facts” about who God is and whom every human person can become; ideas and ideals built upon what our convenience or ideologies would like God to bless. And not on what God actually blesses.

When St. Paul in the second reading warns against a focus on “earthly things”, he does not only warn against turning material possessions, sensual pleasures, popularity and powers into points of reference in our lives. He also means that everything reducing the radical uniqueness of the gospel and its implications, in fact risks becoming an enemy of it, i.e. of the cross and resurrection of the Son of God. Such reductions are e.g. downplaying Jesus’s divinity and thus the supernatural essence of faith; seeing resurrection as a mere symbol and denying the existence of hell; questioning the undisputable authority of the Bible and the Tradition regarding morals or that Christ himself founded the Catholic Church and instituted her sacraments with all their components; affirming contemporary confusion on e.g. gender, sexuality and family denying what God has willed in creation; or generally trying to explain away our vocation to sacrifice for the truth and be transformed by it as something “not modern”. Just to mention a few common, current contradictions to the gospel, its presuppositions and its implications.

In the story of the Transfiguration we discover yet another calling to sacrifice. When St. Peter wants to remain on the mountain by building booths, he wants to enjoy the comfort of his religions experience. But there will be no booths. In the subsequent verses, following the passage of today, Jesus has led Peter and the other two down from the mountain to a crowd of people to heal and teach. Christian faith is never for private feelgood or to be reserved for one hour each Sunday in church. Its fruits are to be shared. Indeed, I shall give thanks to the Lord if and when I have deep experiences of his presence and love in my life. But on the same time, I must understand that he gives me such experiences for a reason. He lets me receive much so that I have much to share.

The apostles later did precisely this. On their example and in their footsteps, we are strengthened and nourished by what happens onthe mountain – for us ultimately in the Holy Eucharist – to be able to descend fromthe mountain with the Lord to bring him out into the world; offering the faith in him for transformation and salvation of others. Every disciple, each of us in here, is finally a missionary. Our mission is Mission.

Sisters and brothers, let us make it to a continuous prayer throughout Lent that God will show us how we in words and actions combined, down from the mountain, can detach ourselves from that, which tempts us to invent our own truth, and do more to mission for Christ, the Truth, in the way most suitable to each of us. And in doing that, let us pray for our willingness and strength to sacrifice and suffer with and for Jesus Christ. As an answer in gratitude for the marvels he has worked for us. Amen.



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