“Behold His Glory” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, February 25, 2024

In his second letter, St Peter describes the vision of the transfiguration of Jesus as he witnessed it. “We did not follow cleverly devised myths” says Peter, “when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1: 16-18). 


What an honor, what a privilege to have been up there on the mountain, seeing Jesus revealed in all his glory for a brief moment. Don’t you just wish, brothers and sisters, that you had been up there at that moment? Don’t you feel that, if you had, you would never again, your whole life long, have another moment’s doubt that Jesus was indeed the beloved Son of God? Well, the good news is that we can, and we do, have that transfiguring moment every time we come to Mass. In every Mass, without exception, the bread and wine offered up at the altar are transformed, transfigured, into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is what our Catholic Christian faith proclaims, this is the faith we were baptized into, and this is the reward for all baptized Catholics who come to Mass: to see Jesus transfigured in glory, and to receive him into ourselves, so as to be the means by which we also are transfigured also.

Why don’t we see this transfiguration physically at Mass? Why don’t we hear the voice of the Father declaring Jesus to be his Beloved Son? Why don’t we hear God our Father declare over us, at our baptism, “Here is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased?”. Wouldn’t that change forever, the way we see ourselves, see God, see our world and our place in it? So why doesn’t it happen like that?

Because, brothers and sisters, we live by faith, and not by sight, as St Paul himself declares, in 2 Corinthians 5:7. While we are on earth, living this life of ours, these things are mainly shielded from our sight, so that our faith in God can grow. Occasionally, we will get glimpses and experiences of glory, to sustain us in our journey of faith towards our heavenly home. But we are not there yet. And it is faith, not sight, that will bring us to that home.

Do you remember doubting Thomas declaring to the other apostles who claimed to have seen the risen Lord: “Unless I see for myself, I will not believe”? And do your remember Jesus appearing to Thomas, soon after, and showing him the mark of his nails in his hands and his feet, and saying to him: “Do you believe, Thomas, because you have seen? Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.” (John 20: 29). That was for our benefit, brothers and sisters, not just for Thomas’. We are those who have not seen, yet believe- if we do indeed believe. And that makes us more blessed, than Thomas or any of the other apostles? Why? Because experiencing physically the risen Jesus, or seeing him transfigured in glory on the mountain, does not guarantee continued faith. Peter, James and John were blown away, by the sight and experience of Jesus’ majesty, in our gospel today. But at the moment of greatest trial, when they saw Jesus arrested, they forgot all that, and ran away. The other apostles had seen many, many miracles that Jesus did. But, again, at the moment when they were supposed to call upon those memories and continue to believe in Jesus, they took the cowards’ way, and fled. Fled from the suffering Jesus, because they simply could not equate that with the glorious Jesus of their early discipleship. 

Faith, not sight, is what will bring us through the trials we will face during the season of Lent, brothers and sisters, and through all other struggles we face in life. “It was by faith”, declares the book of Hebrews, commenting on our first reading today: “by faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, his only son. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac, that descendants shall be named after you. “He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead – and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. “(Hebrews 11: 17-19). “Faith, the book of Hebrews says, is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Unless and until we have such faith, faith that “nothing will be impossible with God” as the angel Gabriel declares to Mary, when calling her to become mother of the Son of God (Luke 1:37), faith that, “God can do abundantly more that we can ask or imagine, because of his power at work within us” as St Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians  (Ephesians 3: 20) faith that believes, really believes that God turns “everything too good for those who love him, and are called according to his purpose”, to quote Paul in his letter to the Romans (8:31) unless and until we have this faith and trust in our God, we can never achieve the fullness of life on all levels, that Jesus came to bring us, in his own words (John 10:10) because, again in Jesus’ own words, we will allow the devil to “steal, kill and destroy” the possibility of such a life for us. 

It doesn’t matter that you, like me, would have to confess that we can’t really claim to have such faith right now. Because we can always do as the apostles did, and cry out: “Lord, increase our faith.” Lord, increase my faith, the faith that moves mountains, the faith that, in this situation of stress and distress that I am going through, you have already provided an answer to it, and you will bring me through it, so long as I keep my eyes fixed on you.” Lent is the season when we can grow in this incredible faith, brothers and sisters, if we are willing to let Jesus bring us there. In Lent we have the opportunity, in the words of St Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians, “to be transfigured, by the power of the Spirit, from one degree of glory to another, into the image of the Lord, as we gaze upon  his face,” (2 Cor 3: 18) in faith.