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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Second Sunday of Lent, Year. B. The Transfiguration  St. John's Cathedral

Second Sunday of Lent, Year. B. The Transfiguration

St. John’s Cathedral

Maybe a good way into today’s Gospel is to think about a beautiful scene, a sunset, or a landscape with the sun blazing over it or simply a beautiful painting that has struck you. Think how you react when you experience that beauty – it attracts you, draws you in, it captures you, in a sense and fills you with wonder, and your heart and mind move outside themselves towards that beautiful image or scene and you find yourself contemplating the beauty.

Today’s Gospel tells of a day that something like that happened for Peter and James and John. On Mount Tabor Jesus was transfigured before their eyes and Peter says “it is wonderful for us to be here”. Experts say the word he uses is not simply “wonderful” but “beautiful”. And he suggests they build three tents. He wants really to stay with the moment. Who knows what the moment was for them. It must have been really, really special. Moses and Elijah, who themselves had encountered God on the mountain and who represented the people of the Old Testament, were there. It must have been a very deep moment of knowing Jesus deeply.

Maybe it was a moment when Peter and James and John began to understand more why it is they had left home, their family and business to follow Jesus. It wasn’t just that he was a great human being, who taught wise rules or provided them with a vision of justice, reconciliation and truth. Certainly, all of that. But overall they had followed him because they were attracted to him. There was something beautiful about him that attracted. I don’t mean simply physical beauty. Something deeper and it really pulled at their heart strings.

What they were beginning to realise that day – but they will only really grasp fully it after his death on the Cross – is that Jesus contains the Resurrection. Yes, he is one of them that they go to know by the Sea of Galilee, a carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, but he is also the Son of God who contains the new life of heaven. The brilliance of the light that they saw that day gave them a foretaste of what Jesus really wanted to give them – the life of the Resurrection; they found themselves bathing in a light that lifted them up for a moment beyond the cares and woes that are part of daily life.

On this Sunday in Lent, we too are invited to look again with our eyes of faith at what we know but perhaps don’t often think too much about – the beauty of Jesus Christ. We are people who have been attracted to Christ, have fallen in love with him. To follow Jesus isn’t just about following rules or a code of life or an idea. We are people who recognise how his sacred heart contains the blazing fire of love that is heaven. And that keeps us going even when there are difficulties, illness, setbacks, disappointments…

Six days before the Transfiguration, Jesus had told his disciples he was destined to go to Jerusalem and lay down his life there on the Cross out of love for humanity. But the disciples hadn’t really understood what he was talking about. They hadn’t grasped that the real beauty of Jesus comes from the fact that God the Father had sent Jesus into the world to be with us and die out of love for us and so give us the Resurrection. Abraham in the end didn’t have to sacrifice his son, but God the Father actually did give him over to us. And, as St. Paul says, “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all, we may be certain, after such a gift, that he will not refuse anything he can give.” The great beauty of Christ is the beauty of a life given out of love for us. St. Paul says, “With God on our side who can be against us?”

The greatest gift he wants to give us is the new life of heaven. The disciples would really only understand this after his death on the Cross because the Cross is the way into the Resurrection.

But there is something else. At the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, maybe Jesus wanted them to remember afterwards that the Resurrection isn’t just about what happened Jesus after he died or what happens us after we die.

No. The Anglican bishop and theologian NT Wright puts it well when he says that “Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.”

So, that’s the invitation that comes to us this week from the Gospel of the Transfiguration. Colonize earth with the life of heaven. The Gospel of the Transfiguration isn’t just consolation for us that we might remain within our prayers and liturgy. No, we are to light up the world around us with the light of the Resurrection already here on earth.


The Gospel tells us. It’s not just about staring at Jesus? Remember Peter, James and John heard the voice from heaven, that is, the voice of God the Father say “this is my beloved Son, listen to him”. So we can take the Gospels, read them, listen to what they say and put it into practice.

And then follow him. St. Paul says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death” (Phil 3:10)

We can colonize earth with the life of heaven every time we take up our Cross, or keep on loving even when it costs. I heard yesterday of two people who didn’t know each other that well, but one of them realised the other person might do with someone to talk to because of a particular pressure she was under. The person was really grateful. An example perhaps of colonizing earth with the life of heaven.