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Bishop's Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent

March 13, 2022

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu (Scouts Mass); Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Honolulu]

“He just wasn’t himself today.”  “She was beside herself with grief.”  These are expressions we use to describe when someone is just out of sorts or not acting properly.  People know when you “are not yourself,” either when you are putting on airs and pretending to be someone you are not or when you are so down that you are not manifesting your normal happy personality.  We say, “He was not himself,” or “She was beside herself.”

Today we are invited by the Lord to reflect on who we really are, because when we realize the truth of who we are, everything in us and around us will change as we live that truth.

Here is the reality:  We who are baptized were immersed in a Name.  Yes, we were called by the name our parents chose for us to distinguish us from everyone else, but we were baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, we were soaked forever in the name of God himself, the Creator of the world, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier.  We who were confirmed were sealed, indelibly marked, “tattooed,” if you will, by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who pours out on us his seven gifts.  We who receive Holy Communion take the Word-made-flesh, the Son of God and Son of Mary, the Redeemer of the world, into ourselves, so that we can be bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood.  In other words, we who are mere human beings are given such an outpouring of grace in these sacraments that we literally become one with God himself.  This is glorious!  If we were more aware of who we really are, we would glow with love and joy, no matter what else might happen to us.  We would be radiant and would be in perfect communion with all good people who have gone before us, with those who are with us now, and with those whose lives have not yet been conceived.

This is what Jesus indicated by his own Transfiguration.  Yes, his disciples knew him as an extraordinary human being to whom they had been so attracted that they left all to follow him.  But on the mountaintop, Jesus shows himself as he truly is, the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah; the beloved Son of God, whose voice we are urged to hear as he tells us who we really are.  It is a glorious, radiant moment, that Peter wanted to last forever by building three tents to preserve the moment.  Then, there was just Jesus, all alone, looking quite normal.  But they knew who he really was and were able to share that glorious vision with us who follow them as disciples of Jesus.

Abraham and Paul, about whom we heard in the first and second readings, also discovered who they really were, and were so filled with the love of God that their lives were completely changed.  And then they changed the world with that love, sharing it with generations as numerous as the stars in the heavens.

During this Lenten season, we are called to conversion, to turn away from sin, to be purified, and to become the best people we can possibly be.  On Ash Wednesday and last Sunday, we were reminded to not be afraid to face our own sins and temptations, so that naming them, we can overcome them, with the grace of God.  This is what spiritual writers call “the purgative way,” by which we try to purge ourselves of whatever is toxic to our life with God and one another.  But today, we are invited to look at the “illuminative way,” by which we shed a brighter light on the graces we have received, on the presence of God with us, and on the shining example that God wants us to be for all the world.  And so we are presented with the transfigured Jesus, radiant, connected to all that is good, shining as a light to all the world.  And as we prepare to celebrate the Easter sacraments with our catechumens, who became the Elect last week, we are invited to remember the incredible transformation that took place in us when we were baptized, confirmed, and received the Holy Eucharist for the first time.  The more we are in touch with who we really are, the less the powers of darkness will overcome us.

If we know in our hearts that we are immersed forever in God’s Trinitarian love, we will be more inclined to immerse others in that love, even when it is difficult to do so.  When we remember that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we can more easily overcome the spirits of envy, hatred, rage, or pride.  When we realize how privileged we are to be invited into a full spiritual and physical communion with Jesus Christ himself, we will not need to cling to things that we think will satisfy us, but generously share our daily bread with all who are in need.

The glorious transfiguration of Jesus teaches us that the best way to avoid “not being ourselves” or “being beside ourselves” is to shine with the light of God’s grace that is our inheritance and that will be more brilliant than all the stars of heaven.