This Sunday's Gospel

Exegetical notes and homily themes to get you started this weekend:


1/5/20 – Epiphany
1/12/20 – Baptism of the Lord

1/19/20 – Sunday 2 / Epiphany 2
1/26/20 – Sunday 3 / Epiphany 3

2/2/20 – Presentation of the Lord [ROMAN lectionary]
2/2/20 – Epiphany 4 [COMMON lectionary]
2/9/20 – Sunday 5 / Epiphany 5
2/16/20 – Sunday 6 / Epiphany 6
2/23/20 – Sunday 7 [ROMAN lectionary]
2/23/20 – Last Sunday after Epiphany [COMMON lectionary]


January 5 – Epiphany [ABC]

Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem; “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”
Matthew 2: 1-12

THE WORD:

The story of the astrologers and the star of Bethlehem are unique to Matthew’s Gospel.  Note that Matthew does not call them kings nor does he give their names nor reports where they came from – in fact, Matthew never even specifies the number of magi (because three gifts are presented to the Child, it has been a tradition since the fifth century to picture “three wise men”).  In stripping away the romantic layers that have been added to the story, Matthew’s point can be better understood.

A great many First Testament ideas and images are presented in this story.  The star, for example, is reminiscent of Balaam’s prophecy that “a star shall advance from Jacob” (Numbers 24: 17).  Many of the details in Matthew’s story about the child Jesus parallel the story of the child Moses and the Exodus.

Matthew’s story also provides a preview of what is to come.  First, the reactions of the various parties to the birth of Jesus parallel the effects Jesus’ teaching will have on those who hear it.  Herod reacts with anger and hostility to the Jesus of the poor who comes to overturn the powerful and rich.  The chief priests and scribes greet the news with haughty indifference toward the Jesus who comes to give new life and meaning to the rituals and laws of the scribes.  But the magi – non-believers in the eyes of Israel – possess the humility of faith and the openness of mind and heart to seek and welcome the Jesus who will institute the Second Covenant between God and the New Israel.

Secondly, the gifts of the astrologers indicate the principal dimensions of Jesus’ mission:

HOMILY POINTS:

Epiphany calls is to a new vision of the world that sees beyond the walls and borders we have created and to walk by the light which has dawned for all of humankind, a light by which we are able to recognize all men and women as our brothers and sisters under the loving providence of God, the Father of all.

The magi’s following of the star is a journey of faith, a constant search for meaning, for purpose, for the things of God that each one of us experiences in the course of our own lives.

What we read and watch and listen to in search of wealth, fame and power are the “stars” we follow.  The journey of the magi in Matthew's Gospel puts our own "stargazing" in perspective, calling us to fix our search on the “star” of God’s justice, peace and compassion.

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January 12 – Baptism of the Lord [A]

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending on him like a dove and coming upon him.  And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3: 13-17

THE WORD:

Today’s Gospel is the final event of the Epiphany event: Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River by John.

The Baptizer’s refusal at first to baptize Jesus and Jesus’ response to his refusal (a dialogue that appears only in Matthew’s Gospel) speaks to Matthew’s continuing theme of Jesus as the fulfillment of the First Testament prophecies.  Jesus clearly did not need to be baptized.  But his baptism by John is an affirmation that God was with this man Jesus in a very special way – at the Jordan River, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled: “my favor rests on him.”  Jesus has come to identify with sinners, to bring them forgiveness; hence the propriety of Jesus' acceptance of John’s baptism.

Baptism was a ritual performed by the Jews, usually for those who entered Judaism from another religion.  It was natural that the sin-stained, polluted pagan should be “washed” in baptism, but no Jew could conceive of needing baptism, being born a son of Abraham, one of God’s chosen people and therefore assured of God’s salvation.  But John’s baptism – a baptism affirmed by Jesus – was not one of initiation, but one of reformation, a rejection of sin in one’s own life and acknowledgment of one’s own need for conversion.  In Christ, baptism becomes a sacrament of rebirth, a reception of new life.

In all the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism, all four evangelists use a similar description of the scene at the Jordan when Jesus is baptized by John:  The Spirit of God descended and rested upon him, “hovering” over him like a dove – as the Gospel story unfolds, the Spirit of God’s peace, compassion and love, will be the constant presence dwelling within and flowing forth from the Carpenter from Nazareth.

HOMILY POINTS:

In baptism, we claim the name of Christian and embrace all that that holy name means: to live for others rather than for ourselves, in imitation of Christ.

Our baptism made each one of us the “servant” of today’s readings: to bring forth in our world the justice, reconciliation and enlightenment of Christ, the “beloved Son” and “favor” of God.

In baptism, we embrace that same Spirit that “hovers” over us, guiding us in our journey to God.

Liturgically, the Christmas season officially comes to an end with today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  Now the same Spirit that “anoints” the Messiah for his mission calls us to be about the work of Christmas in this new year: to seek out and find the lost, to heal the hurting, to feed the hungry, to free the imprisoned, to rebuild families and nations, to bring the peace of God to all peoples everywhere.

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January 19 – Second Sunday of the Year [A] / Second Sunday after Epiphany [A]

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
John 1: 29-34

THE WORD:

The Fourth Gospel emphasizes John the Baptizer’s role as the bridge between the First and New Testaments; he is the last great prophet who identifies Jesus as the Messiah.  In his vision of the Spirit of God “resting” upon and within Jesus, the Baptizer realizes that this is the chosen Servant of God who has come to inaugurate the Messianic era of forgiveness and reconciliation (today’s first reading, the second of Isaiah's “servant” songs, describes the mission of the servant: to bring Israel back to the Lord and, through her, extend the Lord's salvation to every nation and people on earth).

HOMILY POINTS:

By our baptisms, we are called to be witnesses and prophets of the “Lamb of God” along the Jordan Rivers of our homes, schools and work places.

Christ’s presence among us is a time for new beginnings: an invitation to walk from the shadows of hatred and mistrust to the light of understanding and peace, a chance for healing our brokenness and mending our relationships with one another, a call to be seekers of hope and enablers of reconciliation in our own time and place.

Through our own acts of compassion and generosity, of justice and forgiveness, we proclaim that “the Lamb of God” walks in our midst, that the love and mercy of God has dawned upon us.

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January 26 – Third Sunday of the Year [A] / Third Sunday after Epiphany [A]

Jesus said to Simon and his brother Andrew, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 4: 12-23

THE WORD:

Galilee is the centerpiece of today’s readings.

In Jesus’ time, Galilee was the most populated and productive region of Palestine.  The great roads of the world passed through Galilee, making it a strategic target for invasion.  White-sailed ships crept up the Mediterranean coast from Alexandria and caravans traveled through the region from Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Galilee, unlike the rest of Palestine, had an international perspective, in touch with many non-Jewish ideas and influences.  Josephus, the Roman historian, wrote of the people of Galilee:  “They were fond of innovation and, by nature, disposed to change and delighted in sedition . . . The Galileans were never destitute of courage . . . They were ever more anxious for honor than for gain.”

In a few lines, Matthew sketches a new beginning in human history: the arrest of John and the end of the First Testament; the beginning of a New Testament in the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus in Galilee and the call of the first disciples from their fishing nets along the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus’ beginning his public ministry in Galilee is, for Matthew, the fulfillment of an ancient oracle concerning the Messiah: that, through the darkness of Galilee’s Assyrian captivity, the “great light” of their deliverance will appear (Reading 1).

HOMILY POINTS:

Like Peter, James and John, we are asked by Jesus to take on the work of discipleship; we are asked to leave our “fishing nets” – our own needs and wants – to follow the example of love and servanthood given to us by Jesus; we are asked to rebuild our lives, homes and cities in the justice and peace that Jesus proclaims.

Jesus calls his disciples of every time and place to be “fishers” of men and women, to use whatever “nets” we possess, in whatever oceans and seas we find ourselves, to catch the falling, rescue the endangered, gather in the lost and forgotten.    

Christ is the light that illuminates our minds and souls with a new vision of the human condition: in the light of Christ, we are able to recognize one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same God; in the light of Christ, we realize our own need for healing and forgiveness and are then able to bring such transformation into our lives and the lives of others.

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February 2:  The Presentation of the Lord

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel, and a sign to be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
“There was also a prophetess, Anna . . . And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about this child to all who were waiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 2:34-35

THE WORD:

The Solemnity of the Presentation of the Lord is observed on February 2, forty days after Christmas.  This ancient feast celebrates the faithful, devout parents of Jesus fulfilling two requirements of the Law:

The Book of Exodus required a first-born son to be formally “presented” to God because the first-born sons “belong” to the Lord who saved them when the Egyptian first-born perished at the Passover (Exodus 13: 15). 

Under Mosaic Law (Leviticus 12: 2-8), a woman was ritually “unclean” for forty days after childbirth, unable to touch anything sacred or enter the temple area.  At the end of this period, she was to present herself to the priests and offer a sacrifice of thanks – for a poor couple like Mary and Joseph, the offering was two pigeons or doves. 

Luke’s Gospel (and today’s solemnity) emphasizes Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple rather than Mary’s purification.  In Luke’s account, Jesus was welcomed into the Temple by two venerable elderly people, Simeon and the widow Anna.  For Luke, the two are icons of the faithful Jew—the “remnant” (Zephaniah 3:12) who awaits the coming of the Messiah and the restoration of Israel’s covenant of justice and compassion with God.  Simeon recognizes Jesus as the Anointed of the Lord and his canticle (the Nunc Dimitis, prayed at the close of the day at Compline in the Liturgy of the Hours) prophesies that this Child will be a “light for revelation to the Gentiles.”  In blessing the parents, he warns that this child will be a sign opposed and that Mary will be pierced with a sword. It is the first indication of the cross Christ will take up to realize the salvation of humankind.  Anna, as an elderly widow, is considered among the most vulnerable and poor of society.  Her encounter with the child typifies the theme woven throughout Luke's Gospel: the exaltation of society's poorest and most humble by God.

Inspired by the words of the Simeon’s canticle, by the 11th century, the custom developed in the West of blessing candles on the Feast of the Presentation (which became popularly known as Candlemas).  The candles were then lit, and a procession took place through the darkened church while the Canticle of Simeon was sung.   

HOMILY POINTS:

To raise a child is an experience of both incredible joy and devastating heartbreak.  Every parent’s life is “pieced” with turmoil, disappointment, illness, desperation, and fear.  Certainly every mom and dad knows what Mary and Joseph went through.  Within our families, our sons and daughters embrace and are embraced by the love we have known and seek to know better, to be grasped by the hand of God who has grasped us by the hand.  

The prophet Simeon proclaims that this Child will be a “light” for Israel — but that light will endure great suffering and pain before finally shattering the darkness.  Luke’s Gospel of the Child Jesus reminds us that the crib is overshadowed by the cross, that this holy birth is the beginning of humankind’s rebirth in the Resurrection.  

In baptism, we incorporate our children into the life of the Risen Christ; within our home, we try to guide them in learning the Gospel values of compassion, love, forgiveness, justice and peace that we have embraced.  Our celebration of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple calls us to recommit ourselves to giving our sons and daughters the best that we have -- our faith in the God who loves us -- so that they may grow “and become strong, be filled with wisdom; and the favor of God upon them.”  

Anna and Simeon live among us today in our own families and communities and "temples."  They inspire gratitude and teach compassion by the lessons of their long lives.  In the wisdom that comes with age, in the love and care they extend to us in their grace and joy, in their faith that has been made strong and unshakable through a lifetime of struggle, the Anna’s and Simeon’s of our time and place are rays of God’s light shining through all of our lives, illuminating the way to God's eternal dwelling place.  

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February 2 – Fourth Sunday of the Year [A] / Fourth Sunday after Epiphany [A]

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . . . “
Matthew 5: 1-12

THE WORD:

Today's Gospel is the beautiful “Beatitudes” reading from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew’s compilation of the sayings and teachings of Jesus. The word “blessed,” as used by Jesus in the eight maxims, was written in Greek as makarios, a word which indicates a joy that is God-like in its serenity and totality.

Specific Greek words used throughout the text indicate several important meanings:
‘The poor in spirit:’ those who are detached from material things, who put their trust in God.
“The sorrowing:”  this Beatitude speaks of the value of caring and compassion -- the hallmarks of Jesus’ teaching.
“The lowly:” the Greek word used here is praotes -- true humility that banishes all pride; the “blessed” who accept the necessity to learn and grow and realize their need to be forgiven.
“They who show mercy:” the Greek word chesedh used here indicates the ability to get “inside a person's a skin” until we can see things from his/her perspective, consider things from his/her experience mind and feel his/her joys and sorrows.
“The peacemakers:” peace is not merely the absence of trouble or discord but peace is a positive condition: it is everything that provides and makes for humanity’s highest good; note, too, that the “blessed” are described as peace-makers and not simply peace-lovers.

HOMILY POINTS:

The Beatitudes call us to a very different set of values than those of our dog-eat-dog-success-is-everything-get-them- before-they-get-you-bottom-line-based world.  We are called, as Zephaniah (Reading 1) preaches, “to seek the Lord in all things.”

As a people of faith we are called to focus our lives on the “blessedness” of the Sermon on the Mount: to seek our joy and fulfillment in God above all things.  Our “blessedness” cannot be measured by our portfolios, celebrity or intellect, but in our ability to grasp that we exist not in and of ourselves but by and in the love of God.

The “blessed” of the Gospel have embraced a spirit of humble gratitude before the God who gives, nurtures and sustains our lives.  The “blessed” seek to respond to such unfathomable love the only way they can: by returning that love to others, God’s children, as a way of returning it to God.

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February 9 – Fifth Sunday of the Year [A] / Fifth Sunday after Epiphany [A]

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
“You are the light of the world.  Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Matthew 5: 13-16

THE WORD:

Unsalted popcorn and an electrical power outage are all that we need to appreciate Jesus’ message in today's Gospel reading (the continuation of the Sermon on the Mount). Through the images of salt and light, Jesus impresses upon his listeners the vocation of Christians: As I am salt and light to the world, so you, as my disciples, must reflect me to the world.

Salt and sun, of themselves, are not good for very much and can even be harmful.  Their value is realized only when they mix or interact with other things.  Their addition brings out the fullness of whatever they come in contact with.

A handful of salt brings out the natural flavor in every kind of food, from filet to popcorn.  The four ounces of salt in our bodies enable our muscles to contract, our blood to circulate, our hearts to beat.  Salt purifies and softens, cleans and preserves.  Salt is an important element in making glass, building roads, manufacturing soap and shampoo, bleaching paper and cooling nuclear reactors.  Salt is used both in freezing and in de-icing.  There are over 14,000 uses of salt –but of and by itself, salt is useless.  Eating a handful of salt does not taste particularly good – it might even make you sick to your stomach.

Light’s true beauty is realized only when we look away from its source and toward what it illuminates.  Light transforms the cold terror of night into the warm assurance of day.  Light enables us to discover, to study, to discern, to behold the beauty of our world and the wonders of God’s creation.  Light warms, nurtures, sustains, reveals, cheers.

Salt is perhaps the humblest of all chemicals; light is among the most generous of all physical properties.

HOMILY POINTS:

To be “salt for the earth” is to bring Christ’s compassion and hope into our homes, workplaces, schools and communities; our simplest acts of charity can be a “light” for our world and unmistakable evidence of the presence of God among us. 

Jesus’ call to his followers to be “salt” and “light” for the world is a challenge to live the Gospel we have heard and profess to believe.  Until our hopes for justice become our work for justice, until our prayers for peace and unity in the world are first lived in our own home and community, until our professed belief in God as Father of all affects every one of our relationships, we are as good as flavorless salt, we are as useful as light hidden away under a basket. 

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February 16 – Sixth Sunday of the Year [A] / Sixth Sunday after Epiphany [A]

“Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  Amen, I say to you, I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place . . .
“You have heard it said to your ancestors, You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.  But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother is liable to judgment . . . ”
“ . . . if you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5: 17-37

THE WORD:

Today’s Gospel is the first indication of trouble between Jesus and the leaders of the Jews.  The role of the scribes evolved from that of recorders and codifiers of the Torah into that of interpreters of the specific rules and regulations of the Torah.  The Pharisees, the “separated brethren,” removed themselves from everyday activity in order to keep the Law assiduously, thereby serving as a model to the Jewish people who held them in great esteem.
  
While the scribes and Pharisees were extreme legalists in their interpretation of the Law, Jesus is the ultimate supra-legalist.  He takes their legalities a step further: The Spirit of God, which gives life and meaning to the Law, transcends the letter of the Law.  Jesus preaches that we cannot be satisfied with merely avoiding the act of murder but must also curb the insults and anger that lead to murder; we cannot be satisfied with justifying separation and estrangement but must actively seek reconciliation and forgiveness; we cannot be satisfied with just fulfilling contracts in order to avoid being sued but must seek to become honest and trustworthy persons in all our dealings.  Jesus comes to teach an approach to life that is motivated neither by edict nor fear but by the recognition and celebration of the humanity we share with all men and women.
  
For Jesus, the human heart is decisive.  It is the “new” Law's emphasis on the attitude of the heart that perfects and fulfills the principles and rituals of the "old."

HOMILY POINTS:

By our compassion and caring for others, by our ethical and moral convictions, by our sense of awareness and gratitude for all that God has done for us, we do the great work of passing on the Gospel of reconciliation and justice – and God is with us as we struggle to figure out and explain the complexities and struggles of life for the benefit of ourselves and our children and those who overwhelmed by it all who come to us for help.
     
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of “fulfilling” the Law — not abolishing it.  Jesus seeks to restore the spirit of mercy, justice and reconciliation that gives meaning and direction to every just legal code, challenging us to look beyond legalisms and social and cultural yardsticks — and our own narrow interests — to recognize people in need and our responsibility as followers of Jesus to seek them out, to advocate for them, to welcome them.  

Faith begins in the heart, Jesus says.  What we say, what we do, what we decide, are all responses to the God who speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, the God in whose image and likeness we have been created.   Christ speaks not of rules and regulations but the much deeper and profound values of the human heart. 

The truth is not contained in laws, oaths, statistics or rituals but in the Spirit of God that prompts us to make the decisions we make, the wisdom that leads us to the enactment of just laws and the celebrations of rituals that meaningfully remember and celebrate God's great love for us. 

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asks us to consider the weight and meaning of what we say – and to realize the chasm that often exists between our words and our actions.   

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February 23 – Seventh Sunday of the Year [A]

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”
Matthew 5: 38-48

THE WORD:

In Jewish law, the accepted understanding of retaliation – “an eye for the eye” – was intended to restrict vengeance and to keep violence within limits.  But Jesus teaches his Jewish hearers to respond to injustice with the “perfect” righteousness of God.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus points to three offenses that might seem relatively minor to us — but not to the poor of the Gospel.

First, there is the slap on the cheek.  In Gospel times, a superior could slap a worker or slave with the back of his right hand.  Such a slap meant to insult and humiliate, not injure.  But by turning your cheek when struck, you force the one striking you to hit you with an open hand, thus making him face you as an equal.  Such a “turning” of the cheek robs the aggressor of the power to humiliate and, in effect, shames the aggressor.

Then there is suing over your coat.  In Jewish culture, nakedness was considered a grave humiliation — for the one who was responsible for another’s nakedness.  Near Eastern hospitality demanded that no person ever be so shamed.  So if someone makes an unreasonable demand for your tunic, Jesus says, give them your coat as well.  Give them everything so that they might realize the injustice of their avarice and greed.

And finally, there is going the extra mile.  A Roman soldier could compel anyone to carry his equipment for one mile, and no more.  Going a second mile puts the Roman soldier in a difficult position: he could be severely punished by his superiors for abusing his authority.  By going the second mile on your own volition, Jesus teaches, you’re making the hated Roman treat you as an equal.  You’re saying, “You can compel my obedience but not my gift.”

What Jesus is asking his hearers in today’s Gospel is to respond to injustice and cruelty not with aggression but with humble dignity and self-respect.  To act with the righteousness of God is to break the cycle of violence and fear by initiating a new cycle of generosity and justice.

In the second half of today’s Gospel, Jesus continues to take the Law beyond the boundaries, parameters and measurements of the official interpreters. 
   
Of course, nowhere in the New Testament does phrase “hate your enemy” appear – the concept of “enemy” was an assumption on the part of the scribes and Pharisees, who defined an enemy as anyone not a Jew.  But Jesus challenges that assumption:  God’s love unites all men and women, on whom the Father's “sun rises and sets as well.”  However justified retaliation might appear to be, Jesus calls us to seek reconciliation instead of vengeance.

In the Greek text of Matthew’s Gospel, the word used in today’s text for love is agape.  The word indicates not a romantic or emotional kind of love we have for the special ones in our lives but, rather, a state of benevolence and good will.  The agape that Jesus asks us to have for our “enemies” means that no matter how much he/she hurts us, we will never let bitterness close our hearts to that person nor will we seek anything but good for that “enemy.”  Agape is to recognize the humanity we share with all people who call God “Father” – and it begins within our own households and communities.  

HOMILY POINTS:

In every tense confrontation and unreasonable expectation and to every undeserved cry for help, Jesus asks us to respond with the compassion and mercy of God, to act with the conviction that we can break such cycles of irresponsibility and selfishness, that we can heal another’s brokenness, that we can bring back the lost and marginalized by seeking to re-create such situations in the “perfect” love of God.  

Despite the violence done to us, regardless of the injustice we have suffered, Jesus asks his disciples to take that first, difficult, awkward step to forgive.  Our first concern, as Jesus’ followers, must be God’s work of reconciliation: to love the unlovable, to reach out to the alienated, to dismantle whatever walls divide and isolate people and build bridges that bring people together. 

The real challenge of Jesus’ teachings on loving one’s enemies is not “loving” some group designated by a label based on politics, sociology or economics or “loving” some remote “sinner” we will never have anything to do with; the challenge of today’s Gospel is to love the people we live with and work with and go to school with, the people we struggle with, the people who annoy us (and whom we annoy).

 “To love our enemies” is not just to declare a cease-fire but to create and maintain an atmosphere where reconciliation is always possible and actively sought.  The Jesus of the Gospel instills within us a vision that sees beyond stereotypes, politics and appearances and recognizes and honors the goodness possessed by every human being. 

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February 23 – Seventh and Last Sunday of after Epiphany [A] 

Jesus was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.
Matthew 17: 1-
9

THE WORD:

On this Sunday before the beginning of Lent, we hear Matthew’s account of the extraordinary transformation of Jesus that Peter, James and John witness on Mount Tabor.

Matthew’s account of the “transfiguration” (which takes place six days after his first prediction of his passion and his first instructions on the call to discipleship) is filled with images from the First Testament: the voice which repeats Isaiah’s “Servant” proclamation, the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the dazzling white garments of Jesus.  Matthew’s primary interest is the disciples’ reaction to the event: their awe at this spectacular vision will soon wither into fear at the deeper meaning of the transfiguration -- a meaning that they do not yet grasp.  As the disciples will later understand, the transfiguration is a powerful sign that the events ahead of them in Jerusalem are indeed the Father's will.

HOMILY POINTS:

The use of the Greek word “transfiguration” indicates that what the disciples saw in Jesus on Mount Tabor was a divinity that shone from within him.  This coming Lenten season (which begins on Wednesday) is a time for each of us to experience such a “transfiguration” within ourselves – that the life of God within us may shine forth in lives dedicated to compassion, justice and reconciliation.

Peter's reaction to the Christ of the Transfiguration contrasts sharply with his reaction to the Christ of Good Friday:  While totally taken with the transfigured Christ in today’s Gospel, Peter is afraid to even acknowledge knowing the condemned Christ.  Lent calls us to descend Mount Tabor with Jesus and journey with him to Jerusalem and take up our cross with him, so that the divinity we see in the transfigured Jesus may become in us the Easter life of the Risen Christ.

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