Second Sunday of Lent

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Phil Bloom   
Second Sunday of Lent
Posted for March 1, 2015   

Message: We ask God for spiritual sight to see reality.

Last Sunday we saw how the ministry of angels can help 
us have a new mind and heart. Today, in our opening 
prayer, we ask God for “spiritual sight” – in other words, 
a new heart and mind so we can see reality as it is. In our Gospel we have a remarkable example of spiritual sight: the Transfiguration – that moment when three disciples glimpse Jesus’ glory, his inner reality.

Before talking about the inner reality of Jesus, I would like to make a comparison: When we look at someone’s face we are seeing an external, material reality, something science could analyze – cells, chemical reactions and so on. But unless you are dermatologist, when you look at a face, you want more than what science can provide. In that other person’s eyes, their smile, the lift of the eyebrows, you want to see some of their inner reality. You’ve no doubt heard, “eyes are the window of the soul.” When we look at another’s eye, we hope to glimpse the soul.

Something similar applies to the Transfiguration. Peter, James and John – the three men closest to Jesus – had walked with him for months. They have heard his teaching, seen his wonders and experienced his moods and emotions. Now they have a time of silence, alone with Jesus – on a mountain, away from the crowds. They glimpse something glorious – more than Mount Rainier on a clear day, more than the most stirring song.

St. Mark describes this glory in an interesting way. To understand you need to know that while we moderns tend to be more impressed with size – big buildings, big galaxies – what most impressed ancient people was not size, but brightness.* Mark notes that Jesus’ garments became dazzling white! Even his outer robe reflected the glory of his inner reality.

The glory shines in more than the clothes. Next to Jesus appear Moses and Elijah. In the Bible and Jewish tradition Moses and Elijah had been taken bodily into heaven. So the three disciples see not just their souls, but their transformed bodies.

Moses and Elijah represent the Laws and the Prophets. Their presence indicates that Jesus completes Jewish sacred history. The more we understand the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) the more we see the reality of Jesus.

Our first reading – which is from the Old Testament – gives us a key. The reading tells about Abraham and, as I am sure you, Jewish history begins with Abraham. God tells him that by an act of faith he will become the “father of many nations.” To believe that promise requires enormous faith because he and his wife Sarah are old – and they have no children.

And when they miraculously receive a son, God tests their faith a second time – and in a severe way. He tells Abraham to offer his son in sacrifice. It’s a double sacrifice: father offering the son and son obeying the father.

You might ask: Why does God put Abraham and Isaac through something so horrible? From a human point of view it seems against reason, but we have to remember: God sees all in a single glance – from the Big Bang till the end of the world. When God looks at creation and human history, he sees the cross. He sees his own Son offering his life in perfect obedience. That’s the central event – the cross.

As Isaac walks up Mount Moriah he carries something on his back – a bundle of wood. Isaac foreshadows – previews – Jesus carrying the wood of the cross.

The Transfiguration prepares Peter, James and John for the mystery of the cross. Isaac’s sacrifice ends well – and so ultimately will the cross. That’s why Jesus charges them not to tell about the Transfiguration – until he has risen from the dead.

These past weeks I have seen a beautiful witness to faith in the cross. Many of you know Archbishop Sartain had a serious operation in January which involved removing two cervical vertebrae. I talked to someone who had a similar operation and he told me he had five years of terrible pain before the operation. Archbishop Sartain never indicated to us what he was suffering. He always seemed upbeat and happy. Believe me, if I was going through that I would let everyone know. About 25 years ago when I was in Peru I experienced two days days of intense back pain. I moaned to everyone. And I am still talking about it today.

Well, Archbishop Sartain is different. And it isn’t just a matter of suffering in silence. At the Rite of Election he spoke about trials and temptations. When they come, he said, we should say, “Praise God.” When you think about it, every trial, every temptation contains something good.

For example, I am sometimes tempted to anger. I can grit my teeth, but how much better to recognize something good in the anger. I might be angry because of an injustice. Anger is the desire for justice. Praise God – and, God, help me to direct that energy not take it out on the person next to me. So it should be with any temptation. Praise God for whatever good draws me. But also if I say “Praise God” the devil flees. He can’t stand to hear God praised – and he leaves.

So we have learned that we need to ask God for spiritual sight to see reality. Not to just see surface, not just to see someone’s face but what it reveals. And above all the spiritual sight to see Jesus and his cross: A new mind and heart as we confront suffering, trials and temptations.

It’s not easy. Next Sunday we will see Jesus carrying out an act of violence. But that’s for the coming week. For today let’s go back to the initial prayer:

Nourish us inwardly by your word,
That, with spiritual sight made pure,
We may rejoice to behold your glory.


*Lewis says it this way: “Any reader of old poetry can see that brightness appealed to ancient and medieval man more than bigness, and more than it does to us. Medieval thinkers believed that the stars must be somehow superior to the Earth because they looked bright and it did not. Moderns think that the Galaxy ought to be more important than the Earth because it is bigger.”

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
March 1, 2015

Second Sunday in Lent, Year B—March 1, 2015
Today, high on a mountain, Jesus briefly draws back the veil of His humanity to reveal His bright glory to three of His amazed disciples. Why did He think they needed this?

Gospel (Read Mk 9:2-10)

Today’s reading really requires attention to the context in which it appears (read Mk 8:31-9:1) to best understand it. We see that when Jesus “began to teach [the apostles] that the Son of man must suffer many things” (8:31a), Peter rebuked Him. Peter did not want to hear anything about a fate like this for Jesus, because suffering seemed to admit defeat and failure. This brought forth a stern rebuke from Jesus: “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

Second Sunday of Lent: The Covenant of Faith
Today’s readings present us with several figures from the Jewish tradition. In the first reading we come upon Abraham, the Father of Faith and his son Isaac.  In the Gospel we encounter Moses, the law-giver, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets.  On the Mountain of the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah discuss God’s plan for his people with Jesus.  This plan was to be a new and greater covenant, a new and greater relationship, greater even than the original relationship established with Abraham.

10 things you need to know about Jesus’ Transfiguration
The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent commemorates the mysterious event known as the Transfiguration.

This event is hard to understand. Why did it happen? What did it mean?

Here are 10 things you need to know.

During Lent, pope offers handy tips for preparing for confession
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Catholics are encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their lives during Lent, Pope Francis offered some quick tips to help people prepare for the sacrament of penance.

Pope: Don’t let meatless Fridays be selfish, soulless, seafood splurge
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Real fasting isn’t just restricting food choices, it must also include cleansing the heart of all selfishness and making room in one’s life for those in need and those who have sinned and need healing, Pope Francis said.

Faith without concrete acts of charity is not only hypocritical, “it is dead; what good is it?” he said, criticizing those who hide behind a veil of piety while unjustly treating others, such as denying workers fair wages, a pension and health care.

I Believe in God
When we say “I believe” as we recite the Apostle’s Creed we are making a statement about our Faith. The theological virtue of Faith is supernatural and infused by gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas Aquinas points out that Faith is not only the first thing we need, but that we cannot be proper Catholics without it.


Catholicism and the Cross
St. Peter was riding high. Jesus had just asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” While the rest of the disciples stumbled around in confusion, Peter hit a home run. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then, moments later, Jesus blesses him and entrusts him with the keys of his kingdom, giving him far more authority than he could imagine. Whatever you bind in heaven will be bound? Oh yes, Peter was feeling fine.

Seek God for Help
In the book of Esther, the Jews of Persia were being threatened with extermination. But Mordecai and Esther both prayed to God with all their might and implored Him to deliver Israel. God saved His people and their enemies were destroyed.

Oftentimes we go about our daily lives doing many things. When something goes wrong, we try to fix the problem. Often as a last recourse, we ask God for help. To pray to God does not mean not to rely on one’s capacities. It means to invite God into our daily life activities and struggles. It is always good to pray at the beginning of the day, during the day and at the end of the day. In this way, we will be calmer in our decisions, much less impatient and more clear-headed.

The Gift of Sorrow for Sin – A Meditation on the “Mass for the Gift of Tears” in the Missal
Most pastors and confessors are aware that in any parish there are going to be a few who are scrupulous, even in times like like these. Some have a kind of scrupulosity that is mild and almost admirable.  A sensitive conscience is a beautiful thing and bespeaks a kind of innocence that is rare today.

Some others have a more unhealthy form of scrupulosity, rooted too much in cringing fear of a God who is seen more as a punishing adversary than a delivering Father who wants to help us overcome our sin.

On Being Restless
“Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (St. Augustine, Confessions).

I think most writers are naturally introspective and reflective.  While in Eucharistic Adoration a week ago I prayed for many things, including strength and courage to stay focused on the path Christ wants me to follow and that my heart and mind would be prepared for Lent.  As I sometimes remember to do, I let my mind grow quiet and tried to listen as much as I prayed.  The quote from St. Augustine above, which is one of my favorites, crossed my mind and I thought of little else for the rest of my time in the parish chapel.  The word from the quote which resonated most with my desire to stay on the right path was restless.  Why “restless”?

How to Deal With Temptation
When one speaks of temptation, it tends to carry a negative connotation because it is often attributed to something we shouldn’t do. However, I would propose that the art of temptation reveals a certain beauty in that a person is faced with a decision to either act out the temptation or not. Whether the decision takes a split-second or is carefully drawn out, a dilemma ensues as to whether the person should or shouldn’t. What we have here is a battle between an attraction that is contrary to right reason and judgment against God’s commandments.

Spiritual Warfare 101: Are You Ready for the Fight?
Are you ready for the fight? If you were to enter the boxing ring today, would you be primed? Or are your muscles a little flabby, your lungs easily winded and your feet dragging instead of dancing? Besides you don’t want to break your nose.

Competitive boxers prepare through discipline and hard work. They recognize that only through perseverance, mental fortitude, stamina and skill will they beat their opponent. Their vigorous fitness training includes both physical conditioning and mental preparation. It’s not just the boxer who delivers the explosive punches, hooks, and jabs that wins. It’s the boxer, who outfoxes and outmaneuvers his opponent, mentally and physically, packing the powerful punches and persevering until the end that is declared the winner.

The 2015 Ultimate Lenten Resource Guide
Ideas for drawing closer to Christ these 40 days

Every year before Lent begins, I scour the Internet and books for inspiring resources and creative ideas, then prayerfully discern how I can go beyond a chocolate fast to make the most of the penitential season.

I’ve recently gathered some of my favorite Lenten tools for living out the 40 days in a spirit of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. You’re bound to find at least one that speaks to your heart and motivates you to draw closer to Christ and the mystery of his passion this Lent.

How to Make Heaven Rejoice
The silence truly had been golden. I hadn’t heard or spoken many words for a couple of days — save for at the Liturgy of the Hours in the chapel. The immersion in the silence had been one of the most special, holiest gifts I could receive.

That had been one of the overriding reasons my two friends and I chose the monastery in rural Missouri for our retreat. The weekend at Assumption Abbey would provide us the opportunity to pray the Divine Office with the Trappist monks who lived there. It was a “personal-directed” retreat, which meant we could do whatever we wanted: pray, read, attend Mass, take in nature.

Like the Waters of the Flood
In today’s fuzzy moral landscape, it is quite unpopular to even speak of sin, never mind condemn it. It’s even more politically incorrect to talk about God taking stern action against sin and those who promote it.

But that is exactly what the story of Noah and the flood is all about, as we are reminded by the scripture readings for the first Sunday in Lent. The great flood is a testament to God’s hatred of sin and determination to wipe it from the face of the earth. He of course offers a way to escape the waters of destruction. He instructs Noah to build an ark which carries to safety eight people and a pair of every animal. With these, he provides the earth and the human race with a new beginning. As a sign of God’s covenant of friendship with the newly recreated world, he places a rainbow in the sky.

Uncertainty of the Hour of Death
It is certain that we shall die; but the time of death is uncertain. “Nothing,” says Idiota, “is more certain than death; but nothing is more uncertain than the hour of death.” My brother, God has already determined the year, the month, the day, the hour, and the moment when I and you shall leave this earth and go into eternity; but this time is unknown to us. To exhort us to be always prepared, Jesus Christ tells us that death shall come, unawares, and like a thief in the night. ”The day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). He now tells us to be always vigilant; because, when we least expect him, he will come to judge us.

Remaining Alive to the Enigma of Life
“I WOULD NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, WANNA BE YOUNG AGAIN!” – So goes the refrain of a song that I cannot quote at length on a family-friendly website. But that lyric will suffice; at any rate, it sums up my own feeling about having turned 30 last October. I do not lament getting older, or long for the past. I am frankly glad to be done with it!

False Teachings on Meditation & Contemplation: Sts Peter of Alcantara & Teresa of Avila
In 1577, St. Teresa of Avila completed what is heralded as her seminal work on mental prayer, meditation, and contemplation in the Interior Castle. This guidebook to the most profound depths of prayer has become the standard against which all serious inquiries into interior progress must be measured. This is the reason that it is to St. Teresa that the Catechism of the Catholic Church poses the question, “What is contemplative prayer?”

A Cold, Cold Heart
There ring in my childhood memory the songs of Hank Williams—songs my dad loved to listen to as he strummed his guitar. One in particular was a classic called “Cold, Cold Heart.” As I sit and think about it, I realize that those three words truly define the cultural attitudes of our day toward those in our midst who require care, unselfish love, and time.

One of the lines in Williams’ song asks: “Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart?” This line summarizes how I feel about the growing mentality among many who advocate for quick fixes to the overwhelming challenge of dealing with confronting the end of life.

What Happens When Truth is Rejected
This is Part V of a series; find Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, and Part IV here.

So many have looked to and continue to look to the Catholic Church as a reliable source of religious and moral truth on account of the truth of Humanae Vitae. It is a remarkable truth at the heart of both the “culture of life” and the New Evangelization. To name but one individual attracted to the Church because of HV, the late British writer Malcolm Muggeridge spoke movingly about the encyclical already before his conversion to the Faith. It was, he says in his Confessions of a 20th Century Pilgrim (1988), the Catholic Church’s firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally convinced him to convert.

The Enemy’s Tactic #11: How the Devil Redefines Humility
Humility is a virtue that is one of the hardest to acquire. While we all know what pride looks like, few of us have been taught how to practice true humility. The devil pounces on this lack of knowledge and twists the definition of humility around in our minds, convincing us that we are practicing a virtue when we are not even close.

‘God has saved me,’ says Indian Jesuit after release from Afghanistan
NEW DELHI (CNS) — A Jesuit priest kidnapped in Afghanistan and held for eight months told reporters “God has saved me,” but he said he did not want to discuss details of his captivity.

Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar, 47, kidnapped June 2 in Afghanistan’s Herat province, was flown to New Delhi from Kabul Feb. 22 with the intervention of the Indian government.

Liturgical Wisdom from the Mouths of Children
This past Yuletide, my husband and I decided to escape the Minnesota winter by taking our family to South Texas. We had a joyfully green Christmas, with our children running wild on the beach while the Gulf of Mexico lapped at our toes. We didn’t miss the snow. Of course, there are always drawbacks to such ventures, and this was no exception. While Christmas at our home parish is something to savor, our Christmas liturgies this year featured campy banners, schlocky music, and homilies with little discernable connection to the Catholic faith.

Does Your Mind Wander When You Pray?
Do you have trouble paying attention while praying? Does your mind wander? Do you sometimes fall asleep? Do you forget where you were and stop? Do you then feel ashamed and disappointed in yourself? Do you get frustrated? Do you want to give up trying to pray long prayers like the Rosary? Do you give up? Or do you keep trying?

Remembering a World War II Death Trap — and a Miraculous Rescue
Seventy years ago today, U.S. Marines iconically raised the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

And 70 years ago today, hundreds of miles to the south, my aunt walked to freedom.

Sister Mary Beata Mackie spent more than three years in a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines during World War II. Like most of the more than 2,100 others in the camp, she was malnourished and emaciated in the end.

Discovering God in Silence
A prayerful, meditative silence is the mother of truth.

God cannot be found in noise and agitation. His true power and love are revealed in what is hardly perceptible, in the gentle breeze that requires stillness and quiet to detect. In silence, God listens to us. In silence, listen to Him. In silence, God speaks to our souls and the power of His word is enough to transform our very being. We cannot speak to God and to the world at the same time. We need the sacred space that silence creates in order to turn our undivided attention toward God even if it is only for a few precious moments of our day.

Because It’s True
Not infrequently, Catholics are asked to give reasons for why they are Catholic. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. After all, St. Peter himself says “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). What is often troubling, however, is the account we give. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard Catholics “make defenses” in this way:

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