Sunday Sermon for February 24, 2013, the Second Sunday of Lent, Year C

Readings: Gen 15:5-12, 17-18; Phil 3:17-4:1; Lk 9:28b-36

In the second reading today St. Paul tells us that our citizenship is in Heaven. For some reason it seems so easy for us to forget this truth. If we were to live as citizens of Heaven think of how differently we might live our lives. St. Paul contrasts the way we are supposed to live with the way that people live whose focus is on the self and the things of this world.

St. Paul points out how everything gets skewed if our priorities are wrong. In other words, if the self is the top priority, we tend to glory in what is shameful and our passions become our masters, even our gods. People who have their priorities mixed up tend to put a lot of focus on the body and on the things of the flesh. The emptiness of this can be easily recognized when people rejoice in things that should sadden them, or when their lives revolve around when they can commit mortal sin again. The foolishness can be seen even by looking at the readings today. We see that the body gets tired, that it dies, that we become frightened and confused. There are many more things we could add; these are only from the readings today.

Even this brief list should be sufficient to demonstrate the point of how useless it is to focus on the body, the passions, or seeking sinful pleasures. None of these things is fulfilling to us. While they may bring a few minutes of selfish pleasure, they will leave us empty. The Evil One will be right there to tell us that the way to fill up the emptiness is to go and repeat the same actions again. Once again, there will be a brief period of pleasure (usually diminishing with time) followed by a deeper sense of emptiness. We mistake the pleasure for happiness and the selfishness for fulfillment.

Many times over the years I have heard people say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If this is the case, then it should be self evident that being worldly and selfish is insane. Somehow we keep thinking that all of this money or all of these pleasures or things will bring happiness, joy and fulfillment. They never have and they never will.

In the Gospel today we read about the Transfiguration. It shows us a glimpse of the glory that can be ours, even in the body. Of course, while the fullness of this glory will be experienced only in Heaven, it can begin even now. By this I do not mean that you will begin to glow; rather, what I mean is that we can begin living a spiritual life and begin the process of transformation from being worldly and selfish to being being spiritual and holy.

As citizens of Heaven we are called to be spiritual people. We also see a couple of examples of what this means in the readings today. In the first reading we hear about Abram who offers sacrifice to God, remains with the sacrifice and is rewarded with a covenant that God makes with him. For us, we too need to understand the sacrifice offered to God. Our sacrifice is Jesus, Who is also God and is also our Covenant. We do not merely remain with Him; we have been incorporated into Him. This being the case, we are actually defined by Him. So, while we should want to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament just because He is God, we need to spend time with Him in prayer in order to become fully who we are as members of Jesus and participants in the Covenant which is also Jesus.

In the Gospel we have insight through Moses and Elijah into the way we should conduct ourselves when we are with our Lord. And, if we consider the Apostles in this passage, we also have an example of how not to conduct ourselves. Beginning with the latter point, we need not be afraid, even if we are brought into a dark place in prayer because we are with the Lord. We need not be running around, getting agitated or wanting to hold onto something that may happen during a time of prayer. We do not have to build a booth for Him; He has already made a Temple for Himself to dwell in: you. Like Moses and Elijah, we need to quiet ourselves in the presence of the Lord, get our focus on Him and be at peace. As citizens of Heaven, like those in the Gospel today, when we are in the presence of the Lord we need to be quiet, converse with Him, learn from Him and, above all, love Him.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit