Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Hamilton Auxiliary Bishop - Lent 2C: Jesus Is Transfigured

Today it was announced in Rome that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Father Daniel J. Miehm, currently Pastor of St. Benedict Parish in Milton in the Diocese of Hamilton, as Titular Bishop of Gor and Auxiliary Bishop of Hamilton.

Congratulations, Your Excellency!

Aujourd’hui a Rome on a annoncé que Sa Sainteté le Pape Benoît XVI a nommé Monsieur l’abbé Daniel J. Miehm, présentement curé de la paroisse St. Benedict de Milton du diocèse d’Hamilton, évêque titulaire de Gor et évêque auxiliaire à Hamilton.

Felicitations, Excellence!
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 Second Sunday in Lent (Year “C”) February 24, 2013

The Transfiguration
by Blessed Fra Angelico, whose feast waa yesterday

[Texts: Genesis 15.5-12, 17-18 [Psalm 27]; Philippians 3.17-4.1; Luke 9.28b-36]

What to make of the mystery of the Transfiguration? This remains a puzzle in New Testament research and in Christian spirituality.

Some scholars detect in the Transfiguration story features found in the Resurrection appearances breaking into the public ministry of Jesus (e.g., white garments, the shining of the garments, fear).

In the post-Easter narratives, however, an angel or Jesus generally gives specific individuals a commission to proclaim the Resurrection. By contrast, after the Transfiguration, a command to silence is given the disciples by Jesus in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. Luke simply observes that “the disciples kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen”.

The Transfiguration remains a unique episode in the public ministry of Jesus that heralds both His coming Passion and Exaltation.

Jesus goes up the mountain to pray (only Luke gives this reason), during which He is transfigured. The Transfiguration prepares for a meeting with “two men,” who are identified as Moses and Elijah. Now the disciples, who have been kept out of view, are grafted into the scene, managing to overcome sleep to witness the heavenly trio of Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

Subtly, the perspective shifts to the interior experience of Peter, James and John. As the heavenly visitors prepare to leave, Peter tries to prevent the ending of their mystical experience. The rejoinder to Peter's remark comes not from Jesus but from an enveloping cloud that both reveals and conceals God's presence.

Evoking an awesome fear, God's voice from heaven declares that Jesus' suffering path to glory (his exodos, poorly rendered as “departure”) cannot be bypassed by extending this foretaste of resurrection glory. Once God's voice has spoken, the scene reverts to what it was before the Lord's prayer, Jesus alone with his chosen disciples. The stunned disciples not unnaturally keep to themselves what they have gone through.

Though the Lectionary selection omits it, the introductory verse of the Transfiguration story says that the Transfiguration took place “eight days after” Jesus had begun to teach his followers that he would suffer, die and rise (Luke 9.21-22). Immediately after that prophecy, Jesus declared that any who wanted to be disciples had to take up their cross every day and follow him (9.23-26).

Peter, James and John had to learn from Jesus a great deal, which they would share later with the church. They had to listen attentively, for much of what they were hearing was not what they expected. This is why the divine voice offered assurances that what Jesus taught about suffering was pleasing to God (“this is my Son, my chosen; listen to him”).

Paul challenged his Philippian converts to imitate him in his following of Jesus. For the true disciple of Jesus there remains the promise of one day sharing the glory of his Transfiguration (“he will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory”).

The first reading also reflects the biblical invitation that believers look beyond present circumstances to the hope-filled future being prepared for them by God.

Having grown old without seeing fulfilled God's promise that he would have offspring, Abram brought his complaint before God. The Lord promised Abram that, despite appearances to the contrary, his posterity would be as numerous as the stars in the night sky.

The closing actions of the Abram story depict a covenant-making ceremony. The sacrificial cutting of animals in two indicated that the parties entered into a solemn pledge. Each solemnly bound the other to be willing to die—like the sacrificed animals—if he failed to adhere to the promises made.

Here, however, it was God alone (symbolized by the “smoking fire pot” and “flaming torch” passing between the victims) who made the death-defying commitment. Though “a deep sleep fell upon Abram and terrifying darkness descended upon him”, he received God's offer of land which his progeny would occupy (“to your descendants I give this land”).

We learn in the Genesis reading that Abraham (Abram's later name), believed God “and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness”. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul described such a trusting disposition as the characteristic of every believer (cf. Romans 1.17).

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Look kindly, Lord, we pray, on the devotion of your people, that those who by self-denial are restrained in body may by the fruit of good works be renewed in mind. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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