Ramblings from us as we strive to live a holy life in the world, not of the world.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Deacon Joe's Homily for Second Sunday of Lent

A woman dies and goes to Heaven. God tells her that she's not supposed to be there yet and He's sending her back to earth for 40 more years. Realizing that she was going to live for 40 more years she decided to get some 'enhancements: face lift, tummy tuck, liposuction, new nose, new hair color. She leaves the doctor's office after her surgeries, walks across the street and is promptly hit by a bus. 

When she gets to Heaven she asks God why she's back so soon and He responds, "oh, I didn't recognize you."
That story has two lessons in it.  One, we shouldn’t be vain about our outward appearance, God made us just fine the way we are.  And two, we need to be prepared, because we never do really know when Our Lord will call us home.  You could also say the story is about transfiguration, but in the complete opposite sense of our Gospel today, because instead of changing into what God wants us to be for His glory, that woman changed into what she wanted to be for her own glory. 
The woman in our story made a choice.  She chose to change her outward appearance, and move away from the natural beauty God had given her and make herself into something she was not.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to maintain a nice appearance, but the woman in this story goes to an extreme, as if how God made her wasn’t good enough.  God gives us all we need to be able to fulfill His plan for us.  Some are more beautiful than others, some are smarter than others, and some are more resourceful than others.  Who are we to question God’s plan?  However, God gives us freedom, freedom to be able to choose whether or not we want to live according to His plan or not, and what’s worse is that sometimes we even think we can alter God’s plan.
Let’s take a moment and talk a little more about freedom.  This is an important topic in our world right now, given the dynamics going on between government services and religious freedom.  (Comment).  Our culture defines freedom as doing whatever it is you’d like to do, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.  In its most fundamental form, freedom is choice.  But, what is it that you really want to do?  I’m not sure most people in our culture today know how to answer that question.  Is our deepest desire to live a life of doing nothing but pleasing ourselves?  Is that fulfilling?  I could bring up many, many examples of how pleasing ourselves only leaves us empty at the end.  The life of St. Augustine is testament to that, he really did try everything, (few are that bold).  Or deep down, in our souls, where the image of God lives, do we want to live with God as the center of our lives, and fulfill what He created us to be?  Just by being here, I believe all of you are answering yes to the 2nd question.  You realize that our fulfillment and happiness lies in being able to do what God our creator asks of us, and not in pleasing ourselves.  This is real freedom.  The true definition of Freedom is to be able to be all God intended us to be.  “Freedom is not doing what we want, but doing what we ought” (to quote Blessed Pope John Paul II).  To say it in a slightly different way, our own desires enslave us, so true freedom is only found with God.  Without freedom, we cannot choose God, we cannot choose life or love.
One of the greatest examples of that true freedom is found in the story of Abraham.  Being the father of 5, there have been many, many times when I’ve had to fight the urge to kill one of my children (only kidding of course…).  In all seriousness, my children are a blessing, a true gift from God and I treasure them dearly, along with their Mother.  There is nothing more important to me in this world than my family.  Whether you are a parent or not, there is someone in this world that I am sure is or was very near and dear to you.  I know you, as I, would offer ourselves in their place if the threat of harm came to any of them.  I really wonder how any of us would do if we were faced with the same trial as Abraham.  Could we willingly sacrifice someone who is so precious to us?  The lesson here is that Abraham, freely acted in the trust of the one true God, and did not withhold his only Son from God, the Son who meant more to him than anything else in the world, as Isaac was Abraham’s future.  Abraham could’ve tried to make a deal with God, “OK, God, well Isaac, uh, I’d rather keep him, he is the Son you promised me and all, how about we go with 10 sheep and 2 lambs, or maybe some doves and a calf instead?”  No, without even questioning God’s command, Abraham, in love with God through his true freedom, was able to understand that God held the keys to his fulfillment and happiness and trusted everything to Him.
St. Paul reinforces this lesson in his letter to the Romans.  St. Paul demonstrates to us that the story of Abraham was really a typology (or foreshadowing) of God giving up His most precious Son for our sake.  In true love and freedom, God does not keep anything from us as through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, we share entirely in the Heavenly Kingdom right here and now.  And if we have God, what else do we need?
The culmination of freedom is found in the Transfiguration.  God calls us all to be transfigured.  Our freedom to choose is the basis for our transfiguration.  Transfiguration is really what Lent is all about.  Lent is the time for us to be honest with ourselves about who we are, how we are living, what is enslaving us and preventing from experiencing God’s love in true freedom, and how we need to change (to be transfigured) in order for us to say yes to God’s plan and become whole, become Holy.  God reveals Jesus’ future glory, in fact OUR future glory in God, through the Transfiguration, a vision of heaven and how beautiful we can become.  Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah, the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) to show that all things are fulfilled in Jesus.  But, Jesus also gives the Transfigured vision to the disciples so that they can peer into the future.  It is that vision that is supposed to carry the disciples through the immense suffering of the passion.  In the same way, Jesus gives us the Transfigured vision to carry us through our most difficult times.  Regardless of what happens here on earth, we can look to our eventual victory and glorified life in God in the Transfiguration.  God speaks in the Transfiguration saying that “This is my beloved Son”, which we recall from Jesus’ baptism, meaning that when we’re transfigured to our Heavenly form, we complete the action our baptism has begun.  God also tells us to “Listen to Him” because Jesus has the words of everlasting life and hope.  If we can trust in God completely, we will allow Him to transfigure us into the wonderful creature we were intended to be from the inside out.  If we trust God completely we can see through the world’s definition of freedom and know peace and fulfillment in our daily lives by our living in God’s freedom.  As we come forward together to the table of the Eucharist in a few minutes, I ask you to reflect and be thankful for the freedom we have to come and worship together and the freedom we have to be able to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord together.  And as you receive Our Lord today, open your heart and let Jesus in to transfigure you into what God created you to be where you will find true freedom, happiness, peace, joy, and fulfillment.