Here is my homily from the weekend. God bless all!
2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B
February 27/28, 2021
Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31b – 34; Mark 9:22-10
A student in Rome was standing before the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica and the tomb of the Apostle, taking in the splendor and wonder of the building and all the pilgrims passing through it. A man came up to him from the Far East, and was thumbing through his tour guide in his native language. He turned to the student and asked, “What is this?” “It is St. Peter’s Basilica. Right down there is the tomb of Peter,” responded the student. The pilgrim started thumbing again through his tour book, and asked the student, “And who is this Peter?” The student explained that he was an apostle of Jesus. The pilgrim thumbed again through his book, and anxiously turned to the student once more and asked, “And who is this Jesus?” The student was stunned, and didn’t know what to say, never anticipating such a question. And who is this Jesus?
“[Peter] hardly knew what to say, [he was] so terrified.” (Mk 9:6) Did you catch that verse in the gospel I just proclaimed? At the Transfiguration, when Peter saw Jesus in his glory as the divine Son of God, he did not know what to say. There is one other place in the Gospel of Mark when the same thing happened to Peter: “Nor did [he] know what to say to him.” (Mark 14:40) That time, it was at the Agony in the Garden, when Peter saw the suffering humanity of Jesus. When Peter saw in agony, he shut down; he went to sleep. Peter babbled on about tents at the Transfiguration, and he slept through the Agony in the Garden. Whether it was seeing the glory of Jesus as God, or seeing him in his suffering humanity, Peter was tongue-tied.
This may be the beginning of our story of Lent 2021. We often begin Lent not really knowing what to say about Jesus. We may be sleeping through our spiritual lives. When Easter comes we hopefully will understand better who Jesus is and what he has done for us; but between now to then, we need to clean our houses. We must be purified from all that keeps us tongue-tied or sleepy, and sacrifice some tightly-held, precious attitudes about ourselves and Jesus.
Jesus reveals himself to us during Lent, in whatever way he chooses. When he does, will we know what to say?
“Who do people say I am?” Jesus asks. Some say a great prophet. Others say a wise teacher. More and more people are saying he is a religious fiction. Jesus is asking us, “Who do you say that I am?” Do we know what to say, how to answer?
We need to start with the basics. We need to start with what the 12 apostles preached after the Resurrection. They said:
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who lived, suffered, and died for our sins, and rose again. He has ascended into heaven to the Father’s right hand in glory. He will come again with salvation for his people at the end of time. Follow Jesus for you are his disciples!
This is what the apostles taught. This is what we must remember. This requires Lenten sacrifice, repentance and purification.
We must be willing to sacrifice what was most dear to us, like Abraham in the first reading, order to follow Jesus.
God asks us to pray, fast, and give alms. He wants us to give him our hearts and our lives, not because he needs anything from us, but because he wants us to know who he is and how to speak about him.
If you don’t know what to say when Jesus reveals himself to you this Lent, he will smile and say, “Come, follow me. Come and see.” Follow him wherever he leads you. He may lead you up a beautiful high mountain, like he did with Peter, James and John in the Gospel today, or he may lead you down into a dark valley like the Garden of Gesthemani, but wherever it will be, follow him. He is the way. If you follow him, you will know how to live; you will know how to love; you will know how to tell others about him.
I would like to conclude by reading to you an excerpt from a homily that Pope St. Paul VI gave at Manila in the Philippines on November 29, 1970. St. Paul VI knew what to say about Jesus when he followed him in his life. He said:
“I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God that we cannot see. He is the firstborn of all creation; in him all things find their being… he was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead…. a man of sorrow and hope, he know us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of time he will come to be our judge; but we also know that he will be the complete fulfillment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity.
I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.
He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.
So once again I repeat his name to you…. and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, Lord of a new universe, the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it. He is the mediator… Above all he is the Son of man, more perfect than any man, being also the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary….
Remember: [it] is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and reecho for all time even to the ends of the earth.”