HOMILY WEEK 33 06 – Year II
The Transfiguration and Resurrection
Memorial: The Presentation of Mary
(Rev 11:4-12; Ps 144; Lk 20:27-40)
During a course on addiction’s awareness, I found out only one other participant and I, out of a group of twenty-three, actually believed in the resurrection. All the others were into reincarnation. A friend tells me her niece seemed to also believe in reincarnation, because of a faulty image of heaven – she didn’t want to sit on a cloud eternally doing nothing.
We need to educate our people on the true nature of the resurrection. It will be a whole new heaven and a new earth; a divine dance with the Trinity; all of creation will be made new. There will be no more suffering, war, violence or evil. Our joy will be boundless, and perhaps all our pets and the animals we love will be there too.
Jesus at the Transfiguration is a symbol of the new world. The very architectural structure of the Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor in Galilee seeks to proclaim that mystery with its three towers. The central main tower represents a tent Peter wanted to build for the transfigured Lord, the two smaller ones, tents for Moses and Elijah. Both are featured in paintings inside the church.
Moses is pictured with bare feet, for he is on holy ground he does not own. The burning bush is on the right, and the rock he struck twice on the left. That rock symbolizes the one crucifixion of Christ, so he would only see and not enter the promised land because he struck the rock twice. Nevertheless, his face glows because he saw the glory of God.
Elijah is pictured with the unburnt sacrifice of the priests of Baal on the right, and his burning sacrifice on the left. His face also glows with the glory of God. Both Moses and Elijah, in the Lukan account, were speaking to Jesus about “his departure in Jerusalem he was about to accomplish.” In the midst of all that glory, they were talking about suffering. It would be through the mystery of the Cross that Jesus would re-enter into his glory, reveal the depth of God’s love for us, and redeem our sinful humanity.
That brokenness on the cross is the key to the mystery of the kingdom of God, and our participation in that kingdom. When we can accept suffering in our lives the way Jesus did, without bitterness or resentment – only love and forgiveness – we are already in the kingdom of God and sharing in God’s glory especially through peace and joy. What is truly exciting is that new world begins today, through faith, love and worship.
Faith in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ not only gives us a deeper understanding of suffering, it also impacts how we inter-relate with the world of today. According to Bishop Robert Barron, those who hold to the resurrection of the body are those who are most effective at working for justice and peace in this world. If you are a complete materialist and secularist, you hold that everything and everybody, in the end, just fades away. But if you believe in the resurrection of the body, then everything in this world is destined for redemption. Everything matters, and in the end, the way we do anything is the way we do everything, as Richard Rohr likes to quip.
Today we celebrate the memorial of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, which originated as a commemoration of the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary the New in Jerusalem in 543. An apocryphal account recounts that Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, brought Mary as a three-year old child to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer her to God, as was the custom. Inspired by a priest’s vision, they left her there to praise and serve God. The much later presentation of Jesus in the Temple serves as a background: while the offering of the poor, two turtle doves, were offered, really no offering was needed as Jesus was himself the Temple. This memorial spread to the Western Church in 1585, and honours Mary as a temple where God lives, so for her as well, no offering was necessary.
There is a tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the Oblate Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupita in Mexico City that captures the reality of Mary as a Temple in which Jesus abides. At the Annunciation, through her Fiat, she became the Ark of the New Covenant, in which the Word of God dwelt. Her Visitation to her cousin was actually the first Eucharistic procession, journeying with her unborn child Jesus. The unseen presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb caused his cousin John the Baptist to leap with joy in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, who also cried out with joy at the wonder of Mary being the mother of our Lord! We are reminded that we also are meant to be temples where the Lord lives, offering our lives to the Lord.
One of the mysteries portrayed in the alcove behind the altar in the Church of the Transfiguration is the Eucharist, featuring three angels and a host. The Eucharist is all about transformation – humble gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus. Just as important, we are transformed into the Body of Christ.
So, let us believe in the resurrection, love one another and worship our God with our whole being, in the anticipation of seeing God face to face, but also experiencing the glory of God in our lives here and now.