Dear Brothers and sisters :
The common theme of today’s readings is metamorphosis or transformation. The readings invite us to work with the assistance of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives by renewing them during Lent, and to radiate the glory and grace of the transfigured Lord which we have received to all around us by our Spirit-filled lives.
Scripture lessons: The first reading describes the transformation of a pagan patriarch into a believer in the one God. His name will be transformed from Abram to Abraham and his small family into a great nation. All Abram has to do is to obey the Lord God’s command, and he does so. The second reading, taken from St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy, ex-plains the type of Lenten transformation expected of us. We are transformed when we recognize the hand of a loving, providing and disciplining God behind all our hardships, pain and suffering and try our best to grow in holiness by cooperating with the grace of God given to us through Jesus and his Gospel. In the Transfiguration story in today’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed as a glorious figure, superior to Moses and Elijah. The primary purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration was to allow Jesus to consult his Heavenly Father in order to ascertain His plan for His Son’s suffering, death and Resurrection. The secondary aim was to make his chosen disciples aware of Jesus’ Divine glory, so that they might discard their worldly ambitions and dreams of a conquering political Messiah and might be strengthened in their Ɵme of trial. On the mountain, Jesus is identified by the Heavenly Voice as the Son of God. Thus, the transfiguration narrative is a Christophany, that is, a manifestation or revelation of who Jesus really is. Describing Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Gospel gives us a glimpse of the Heavenly glory awaiting those who do God’s will by putting their trusting Faith in Him.
Life messages: (1) The Transubstantiation in the Holy Mass is the source of our strength. In each Holy Mass our offering of bread and wine becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine. Hence, just as the Trans-figuration of Jesus strengthened the Apostles in their time of trial, each Holy Mass should be our source of Heavenly strength against our own temptations and a source of grace for the renewal of our lives during Lent. In addition, communion with Jesus in prayer and especially in the Eucharist should be a source of daily transformation of both our minds and hearts, enabling us to see Jesus in every one of our brothers and sisters with whom we come in contact each day. (2) Each Sacrament that we receive transforms us. Baptism, for example, transforms us into sons and daughters of God and heirs of heaven. Confirmation makes us the temples of the Holy Spirit. By the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God brings back the sinner to the path of holiness. By receiving in Faith, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, we are spiritually, and sometimes physically, healed, and our sins are forgiven. (3) A message of hope and encouragement. In moments of doubt, pain and suffering, disappointment and despair, we need mountain-top experiences to reach out to God and listen to His consoling words: “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.” Our ‘Lenten penance’ will lead us to the ‘Easter joy.’
Fr. Kiran Varaparla
February 22nd and 23rd
Dear brothers and sisters:
Today’s readings explain why Christians are expected to be holy and how we are meant to become holy people. The first and second readings give us reasons why we should be holy, and the Gospel describes four methods of be-coming holy people prescribed for us by Jesus.
Scripture lessons summarized:
The first reading, taken from the book of Leviticus, teaches us that we should be holy be-cause it is the command given to us by God through Moses: “Be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.”It also shows us the way to share in God’s holiness: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 103) challenges us to be holy as our God is holy by becoming kind and merciful and forgiving, as He is to us. In the second reading, St. Paul gives us an additional reason to be holy. We are to keep our bodies and souls holy because we are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit lives in us. In the Gospel passages taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us four methods of becoming holy as God is holy.
Life message: We need to become holy:
1) The first method is to abstain from all forms of retaliation. Jesus discards even the milder form of retaliation developed by Hammurabi in ancient Babylon and passed on to Israel through Moses. The policy was one of limited, proportional retaliation (Lex Talionis, “tit-for-tat”): “an eye for an eye,a tooth for tooth,”rather than allowing unlimited vengeance. In place of this limited, proportional retaliation, Jesus gives his new law of love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation and no retaliation. For Jesus, retaliation, or even limited vengeance, has no place in the Christian life, even though graceful acceptance of an offense requires great strength, discipline of character, and strengthening by God’s grace.
2) The second method of becoming holy as God is holy is to take the offense gracefully and love the offender. Jesus illustrates this in three images: “turning the other cheek, freely giving the tunic and adding the cloak to it and walking the extra mile.” Jesus tells us that what makes ChrisƟans different is the grace with which they treat others, offering them loving kindness and mercy, even if they don’t deserve this treatment, as God does for us. We are commanded to love our enemies as Jesus loves us, with agápe love, not because our enemies de-serve our love, but because Jesus loves them so much that he died for them as he did for us.
3) The third method of sharing in God’s holiness is by un-conditionally and whole-heartedly forgiving the offender without planning revenge in any form. This means not only loving one’s neighbors, but also forgiving those enemies who hurt us and seem willfully to cause us suffering, hardship and unhappiness. 4) The fourth method of becoming holy as God is holy is to seal our determination to forgive our enemies by sincerely praying for their spiritual and physical welfare and for the grace needed for their conversion and renewal of life. Thus, today’s Scripture readings challenge us to become holy as our God is holy by loving, forgiving, and blessing others, even our enemies with graceful and magnanimous love, as our Holy God does.
Fr. Kiran Varaparla ________________________________________________________________________________________