Pastoral Sharings: " Second Sunday in Lent"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father James Gilhooley
March 16, 2014
Second Sunday of Lent – Matthew 17:1-9

A child saw a dust-covered book. He asked what it was. His father replied, “That’s God’s book – the Bible.” The boy replied, “You better return it to God because nobody here reads it.” If our Bible is in good shape, we are not.

The Transfiguration was among the very few exhilarating moments in the career of Jesus. His was hardly a cake walk. It was one tough existence. We have a nasty habit of confining His horror moments to His last days. That judgment comes from not reading the Gospels.

The Transfiguration is so familiar to all of us that it has lost its original bang. We have to take off our wraparound sun- glasses. The scales of over-exposure must be peeled from our eyes in order to take a fresh look.

Our Leader was finishing an eight month tour of one night stands in the provincial towns of Galilee. He was eating nothing but junk food at greasy spoons. He considered Himself lucky when He got it. He was sweltering in the 100 plus degree heat and freezing at night under the stars. He was not sleeping. He was staying one step ahead of the cops. His audiences were receiving Him coldly.

Shortly before this account opens, the Teacher had told the twelve of His approaching death. They went into a downer. They had thought the glory days were coming. They had visions of twenty year service and retirement as monsignors on pension, clergy discounts, work on their golf swing, etc. And now this announcement. Who needed it?

Then Jesus took them on a three day forced march southward from northern Palestine. He had to wear a no-nonsense face. He feared a mutiny or suspected they would slip away after dark. That they did not reveals the love that already bound the apostles to Him. For them Jesus was Teilhard’s smile of God.

Exhausted, they wound up at Mount Tabor situated near Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. The mountain runs up about 1800 feet. It is almost a straight ascent. When I was there, tourist buses could not reach the top. One had to go up in an eight cylinder auto. Imagine the physical condition of Jesus. As a boy said to me, “Jesus was no wimp.”

He loved mountain tops. They brought Him closer to His Father.

Christ elected Peter, James, and John to join Him. The other nine, left at the base camp, were happy they had not been drafted. They were looking for a shady tree, a cool breeze, and a stream to do laundry and chill red wine. They needled the three drafted ones with the message, “Tell us about it tomorrow, fellows.”

Their clothes sticking to their skin, the four finally got to the top about 4 PM. They were running on empty. The apostles had one thought: sleep. Jesus chose to pray. As Peter climbed into his sleeping bag, he mumbled, “Everyone has his own idea of a good time.” In the early AM hours, the mountain top exploded as though hit by a nuclear weapon. The apostles were basket cases. Their Employer, “was transfigured before their eyes.” He had removed His disguise. This was no carpenter. This was God. This was His Big Bang.

When Jesus put on a show, it was not low budget. The Big Bang must have been something spectacular. He deserved Oscar, Tony, and Emmy awards for best show on a mountain top ever.

The apostles were witnessing Moses and Elijah passing on the torch to their Leader. The Father was saying to Christ’s followers, “You have been brought up to listen to Moses, Elijah, and their peers. Up to this point, they were my advance men. But now it is my Son you will listen to. He is numero uno. Him I appoint as your new Commander in Chief.”
Next day Peter, James, and John came down that mountain jumping from rock to rock with the agility of boys. They were on a high. Their Jesus had proved to be a big winner. Their arduous climb in the sauna heat had paid off.

Heaven for them now would be forever spelled h-o-m-e.

We move into the second week of Lent. And, if you are off to a good start, bravo. Like His apostles, the Teacher has much to tell you at the mountain top. If you have yet to begin the climb, you can play catch-up. Jesus will toss you a rope and pull you up.

Reflect on Elizabeth Vanek: “The Transfiguration is not just an indication of Christ’s divinity; it also reveals our potential to become divine.” We can achieve “deification.” Blow the dust off your Bible. Don’t allow it to be the least read best seller of all time. Be a Bible reader, says Kenneth Woodward, and not just a Bible owner.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
March 16, 2014

Second Sunday of Lent
Matthew 17 1-9
Gospel Summary

The fact that Jesus takes his more intimate disciples to the top of this nameless mountain alerts us to the deeply personal nature of the episode to follow. When they arrive there, the appearance of Jesus suddenly changes. He is radiant with a light whose source is not identified. When Matthew notes that the face of Jesus “shone like the sun,” he wants us to recall how Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with radiant face after having spoken with God (Exodus 34:29). Matthew considers Jesus to be the new Moses who brings a new revelation from God.

2nd Sunday of Lent: Faith–A Joyful Journey of Sacrifice to Glory
This Sunday all three readings follow the same thought that, perhaps, can be expressed in this way: faith is a journey we are all on, a journey of joy, a journey that demands sacrifice, and a journey that leads to glory.

Faith is a journey.  That’s a strange statement. Perhaps you might say, “I thought faith was the sum total of the things that you believe.”  No, faith is much more than that.  Faith is the way that we live reflecting our beliefs.

40 Ways to Get the Most Out of the Season of Lent!
Season of Lent –Lenten ideas, activities and devotions . . . This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start!  Many of the Lenten resources and activities mentioned here are available on our website at or can be found by visiting our links page.

A Lenten Meditation on the Cross as a Place of Love, even joy
When I was younger and through my seminary years, I had usually seen the crucifix and Jesus’ suffering on the cross in somber tones. It was my sin that put him there, that had made him suffer. The cross was something that compelled a silent reverence, and suggested to me that I meditate deeply on what Jesus had to go through. Perhaps, too, I would think of Mary and John and the other women beneath the cross, mournfully beholding Jesus slowly and painfully dying.

These were heavy and somber notes, but deeply moving themes.

Walking with God: Called to Be Like Enoch
In Genesis 5, the first humans start dying off.

Adam is the first to go. Then his son Seth passes. Soon, the chapter begins to read like a rapid-fire succession of birth and death notices as the dreadful reality sinks in: no one, it seems can escape the death of which God had warned Adam and Eve before excommunicating them from the Garden of Eden for sinning.

And then, one does not.

Suffering Transfigured Through Love
The love in which God embraces each of us is one of the great truths revealed to us throughout salvation history, but especially through and in Jesus Christ. To come to a better and deeper understanding of this love, we are continually invited by God into a deeper communion of prayer with Him… to come to know Him as He is.

Fasting for Healing
Fasting isn’t always about not eating food. It can mean giving up something we find pleasurable for the sake of refocusing on Christ. Something inside each of us desires to be our best selves. We get swept away in the daily comforts of our lives and we feel hazy or fuzzy or not quite strong or centered in our cores. We want to get raw.

Three Meanings of “the Sign of Jonah”
In this morning’s Gospel, from Luke 11:29-32, Jesus mentions the “Sign of Jonah”:
When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nin′eveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation.

The Great Gift of the Sacraments
Seven sacraments—seven great gifts of love from God to his Holy Church.  Anyone aged 50 and over can easily recall from their Baltimore Catechism: “A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace”.

Spiritual Weapons: The Name of Jesus
Among the spiritual weapons in our arsenal, there are none as powerful as the Holy Name of Jesus. The saints have healed the sick, conquered temptation, demolished heresies, driven away demons, and converted sinners by invoking this powerful name. It is the name that signifies our hope and our salvation. In fact, Jesus is the most powerful name in heaven and earth, and Scripture tells us that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

What are You Praying About? Is it what God wants you to pray about? Really?
The teaching of sacred Scripture on intercessory prayer is complex, and unless we maintain a balanced view of the fuller teaching of Scripture, distortions in our understanding of the prayer of petition (or intercession) can occur.

In the Gospel for Thursday in the first week of Lent, the Lord gives a teaching on prayer that seems quite straightforward. He says:

This is How You Are to Pray
The Bishop of Peoria has rejoiced at a Vatican medical panel’s unanimous approval of a reported miracle attributed to the famous television personality and evangelist, Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

“There are many more steps ahead and more prayers are needed. But today is a good reason to rejoice,” Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill. said March 6.

“Today is a significant step in the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of our beloved Fulton Sheen, a priest of Peoria and a Son of the Heartland who went on to change the world.”

Three Ways to Be Catholic at the Cubicle
A few weeks ago, I was reading an excerpt about how a man chose to serve as a missionary on a college campus following graduation. He said that he decided to become a missionary because he wanted to something meaningful with his life and not just push papers in an office.  As an office worker his story struck a chord with me and I began to wonder, Can you only be holy if you work for the Church? Are those who work in an office destined to live a life of mediocrity without meaning?

Making Sense of Suffering – A Call to Self-Giving Love
Each year, on February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the universal Church observes the World Day of the Sick. Blessed Pope John Paul II instituted this commemoration in 1993, at which time he wrote that the World Day of the Sick is to be “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding everyone to see in his sick brother or sister the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying, and rising, achieved the salvation of mankind.”

The Moral Anarchy of the Modern World
“Morality is the glue that holds society together… Ethical/moral relativism undermines that glue…This philosophy is an intellectual failure… yet it is extremely influential in contemporary culture,” says Fr. Kevin Azubuike Iwuoha in his as-yet-unpublished, 400-page doctoral thesis, completed in May, 2012.

Spiritual Ammunition for Living a Catholic Life in Secular America
At times, an ardent Catholic is tempted to think that ignorance really is bliss and knowledge can be downright depressing. We know too much to be politically correct and go along with what is actually sin.  But how can we, in our smallness, set the world on fire with the light of Christ?

The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Practice of Fast and Abstinence
Last week, I asked the question, “Are you looking for the secret to a better, deeper, more joyful life in Christ?” and responded by exploring the reasons for the Catholic practice of self-denial. We saw that “fasting and other forms of self-denial, as spiritual practices of materially subduing and controlling the physical appetites of the body, helps us, by God’s grace, to enable the soul to more perfectly and freely pray.  This leads to a deeper union with God and thus we become better stewards of the gifts God has given to us, freeing us to more effectively care for our neighbor, especially those in greater need than we.”

What’s the Point of Mortification and “Offering It Up?”
One of those phrases that Catholics use that non-Catholics are often baffled by is “offer it up.” Usually the context involves some sort of hardship, either voluntary or involuntary. Elizabeth Scalia gives the example “when you are in pain, when you are disappointed, when your feelings have been hurt, offer these things up to the Lord and ask him to use your suffering.”

Accepting Miracles: Embracing Mystery
The modern world heaps scorn on those who have experienced  miracles. This cynical attitude simply serves to coerce most legitimate eyewitnesses into silence; only quacks speak out. As a result, of course, society’s prejudice is simply reinforced.

At least Catholics believe in miracles, although sometimes more in theory than in their day-to-day lives.The word “miracle” comes from the Latin word for wonder and, literally means “a sight to behold.” In fact Jesus promised us that His followers would perform even greater miracles than He did because in fact it is because we live in Christ and Christ lives in us that miracles occur.

Mortal and Venial Sin?
The most common Bible verse used against the very Catholic and very biblical doctrines concerning mortal and venial sin is James 2:10-11:

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” said also, “Do not kill.”

The argument is made from this text that all sins are the same before God. Is this true?

The Secret of Forgiving Yourself
We’re  into Lent and, as I noted on the show today, it’s a time where lots of us will end up facing some degree of temptation to beat up on ourselves for failing in our efforts to fulfill our Lenten penances.  Beyond this, though, forgiving oneself for one’s failings and struggles is a constant struggle.  It can be hard to know what forgiving yourself means much less how to do it.

How Many Apostles Were There?
There were twelve apostles, right?

Actually, it’s more complicated than that.

An initial complication is the fact that Judas Iscariot died and was replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:12-26).

You could look at that and say, “Okay, there were thirteen apostles, total, but only twelve at one time.”

What about Paul?

Five Tips for Helping Children Carry Their Crosses
As Catholic parents we all want to see our children grow in the Faith, overcome their temptations, and ever approach sanctity, but when John and Jane are screaming at each other over who is going to get the stuffed monkey, we might wonder how they are going get there.

Is Purgatory a Catholic Invention? No Way
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches this about purgatory: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (1030).

Catholicism growing in heart of Muslim world
From the “not what you might expect” files, here’s a fact about Catholicism in the early 21st century that flies in the face of conventional wisdom: It’s growing by leaps and bounds in the heart of the Muslim world.

Many Americans have heard or read reports about an exodus of Christians out of the Middle East, and in terms of the indigenous Arab Christian population that’s all too real. Christians now make up only 5 percent of the region’s population, down from 20 percent a century ago. In places like Iraq, whole Christian communities are on the brink of extinction.

First Year as Pope: Top 10 list to understand Pope Francis’ pontificate
It’s been a year now since Pope Francis was elected. In these past 12 months, no one has been left indifferent. From the unusual circumstances under which he was elected, to the so called ‘Francis’ effect that’s made its way across the globe.


As he introduced himself to the world, the first thing Pope Francis did, up from the balcony of St. Peter’s, was bow his head and ask for prayers. The thousands of people gathered out in the Square, began to pray for his pontificate.

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