Text of Catholic Lent Homily Series: The Joy of Penance and the Transfiguration

THE JOY OF PENANCE. Click here to Listen to Homily

He was transfigured before them. St Matthew 17:2

At first sight, my dear brethren, it seems strange that just as we have entered upon this season of fasting and penance the church should have chosen for today s Gospel one of the few accounts which the Evangelists have given of the manifestation on earth of our Lord’s glory and majesty. The Gospels, as you are aware, are mainly made up of the record of our Lord s words, actions, and sufferings ; they tell us how the Son of God made man went about from place to place doing good, healing the sick, consoling the sorrowful, and in the end undergoing cruel sufferings and an ignominious death. There are but few instances recorded of his being glorified and honored with more than human glory and honor, and when such is the case no long and detailed description is given, the fact is barely mentioned, and the narrative passes on.

But todays Gospel forms an exception to this general rule. In it special pains have been taken by the Evangelists to give us in detail a description of the other side, so to speak, of our Lords life. We are told that our Lord chose, out of the twelve, Peter, James, and John, and led them up into a high mountain, and was transfigured before them: so that his face did shine as the sun, and even his garments became shining and exceeding white as snow, “so as no fuller upon earth can make white.” And then there appeared to them Elias with Moses talking with Jesus. And so astonished and impressed was Peter that he exclaimed : “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.”

Now, why has the church, by selecting the account of the Transfiguration at this season, turned our thoughts to what seems so inappropriate a subject? It would seem that it would have been better to have chosen those parts of the Gospel which treat of sin, of the judgment to come, of the punishments which await the impenitent sinner. Well, I do not know that I can tell you all the reasons why the church has made this choice, but I think I can give you one reason, and that is, that the church wished to encourage us and to animate us at this season by placing before us the glory which is in store for those who do penance and suffer here.

In this life there is nothing so familiar to most of us as suffering in some form or other. Most of us are obliged by our circumstances to pass our days in exhausting toil and labor. Disease and anxiety and want and disappointment are to be met with on all sides, and there are but few who are free from all these evils. And to all even to those who are the most favored in this life there is an hour coming which nothing can avert the hour of death. This, as every one may see, is the present state of things. Moreover, our Lord, so far from encouraging us to expect freedom from suffering, insists continually upon its necessity. “Deny yourselves,” “take up your cross daily,” “blessed are the mourners,” such are the words our Lord addresses to his disciples. And the church, that this teaching of our Lord may not be a mere speculation, brings it down into every day practical life by commanding us at this season to fast and abstain. From all this the necessity of suffering is evident.

But however true this is, suffering is not an end in itself ; it is only a means to an end ; it is but a road to everlasting joy and glory. God permits and commands sufferings in order that he may give to those who endure their sufferings wan abundant reward. As St. Paul says : “That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.” And it is in order that we may ever remember this that the church calls upon us to consider the manifestation of the glory of our Lord and Master, to whom we must be made conformable in all things in suffering in this life, in glory in t

Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul. Five Minute Sermons for Low Masses on All Sundays of the Year. Vol. 2. [S.l.]: Catholic Publication Society, 1886. Print. starts pg 164-166

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