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Bishop's Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent

March 5, 2023

[Immaculate Conception Church, Ewa (Episcopal Visitation)]

 Isn’t life glorious?

You get up every day to go to work or school, and you have the opportunity to meet your wonderful colleagues and to either serve people or prepare yourself to serve them in the future. You fix breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a family that is, of course, always appreciative. Perhaps you drive to work and you have the opportunity to be with thousands of other people who are sharing the same task. You go to the grocery store or the gas station and are thrilled that you can spend your hard-earned money on increasingly expensive goods. You sit down to watch the news and see all the great things that are happening in the world. Isn’t life glorious?

Pardon the cynicism, but we all know that even though life has its glorious moments, our day to day routines, challenges, and crosses are not what we would describe as glorious. They are often a burden and a drudgery, and we can hardly wait until the end of the workday, the weekend, or vacation time so that we can escape it all.

Jesus’ life was not as glorious as we might think, either. He walked long distances and worked long hours. He loved his disciples, but he was often frustrated with them and the inability to grasp his teachings and his mission. He loved everyone, but was certainly not loved by everyone in return. He had to bear many crosses in his life before that fateful day on which he would bear a real cross and be hanged on it.

But today we see Jesus shining, brilliant, glorious as he not only changes in appearance, but as he connects concretely with the roots of his beloved people, represented by the law and the prophets, Moses and Elijah. The three disciples with him on the mountaintop are overwhelmed by the glory, and one of them wants to build three tents to make the moment last. But the moment lasted only a short time, then they were back to normal – and worse! Once they went down from that high mountain where he was transfigured so gloriously, the real troubles would begin. Jealousy and indignation against him would turn to murderous pursuit and culminate in his condemnation as a criminal and his cruel death on the cross. His disciples would be scandalized and understandably frightened. But three of them knew there was something more glorious to come, because they had already seen a glimpse of Jesus in all his glory. It was that short glimpse that strengthened them.

We may not realize it, but what we are doing here is one of the most glorious experiences we can possibly have. Here at the Mass, we hear the Law and the Prophets, as the Scriptures are proclaimed to us. Here we are with the other disciples of Jesus, who have faith, but who also have our fears and doubts. Here, best of all, we are with Jesus, the risen One, who is physically present to us in the Eucharist, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. It is true, he may not be as dazzling as he was on that mountaintop, because he appears in the most humble manner, looking like bread and wine. But they are not just transfigured, as a phantom or a figure of speech. They are transformed substantially from bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. He does not dazzle the eye, but he can dazzle the heart, once we take him into ourselves as true food and true drink, giving us eternal life. It is coming up this mountain to encounter him every Sunday that can give us the courage to bear our share of the hardships involved with the cross of Christ. The challenges of sickness, the injustices of poverty, the horrors of war, the tragedies of natural disasters do not go away, but when our eyes of faith are fixed on Jesus, we have the courage to face these realities head on. And when we do this often enough, we may notice that our very attitudes change from simply accepting the drudgeries of life to giving thanks for the glory that life is. Then we can see that going to work or going to school is a way of growing in love and sharing love with others, so that we can better support them. Our commute to work may take us just as long, but we can begin to see it as a cross we bear out of love for our families. The news we hear may be just as distressing, but it will no longer depress us but give us hope that with struggle and dedication – with taking up the crosses that are ours – we can be instruments of turning bad news into good news.

When we realize that what we do here is even better than the great vision Peter, James and John were given on the mountaintop, we will climb this mountain every Sunday so that our perspective on life, which sometimes seems so burdensome will enable us to honestly say, “Isn’t life glorious!”