Why was Jesus standing on a mountain

Readings:  Gen. 15.5-18; Ps. 27; Phil. 3.17-4.1; Lk. 9.28-36

 Why was Jesus standing on a mountain with Moses and Elijah?  The Synoptic gospels and the letter of St. Peter report that Jesus took his inner circle of apostles, namely, Peter, James and John, and went up a mountain to pray.  The apostles fell asleep.  When Peter woke up, he observed Jesus dressed as in a dazzlingly white robe speaking with Moses and Elijah.  Jesus is portrayed as the new Moses, the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law.  Elijah, who is the most ancient of the Old Testament prophets, is present with Jesus, who is the final prophet.  Jesus fulfills all that the prophets had proclaimed.  The word prophet means “to speak on behalf of God”.  Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God himself.  One very important phrase in today’s gospel is: “This is my chosen Son.  Listen to him.”

Listen to him.  Are you drawing closer to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit during these 40 days of Lent? In our spiritual journey, we go to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.  During Lent, how well are you applying the universal and traditional means of drawing closer to God through the practice of prayer, fasting and almsgiving?

Prayer.  During Lent, many more people come to daily Mass: we jump from our normal 45 people to almost double that number.  Why not try to come to daily Mass at least once a week during Lent.  And bring your child(ren) with you one day a week.  Last night at Stations of the Cross, 80 people came to pray.  Immediately after Stations, we held our usual Lenten Lecture.  About 20 people attended.  Tonight at 7 o’clock, we at St. Joseph Church will host the Ecumenical Prayer Service.  At our homes, I trust that we all are praying more than we usually do.  Me?  Many people throughout every week approach the priests and say, “Please pray for so and so, for such and such a reason.”  Over in the rectory the priests have a list of people who have asked us to pray privately for them.  All of us priests take that to heart.  I pray for those persons throughout the day.  During Lent this does not take a lot of extra time, but I try to pray with extra intensity for those who ask me to pray for them.

Fasting.  The Lenten rules of fast and abstinence instruct us to not eat meat on the six Fridays of Lent, and to fast by having only one solid meal on two days: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Everybody chooses something else too from which to fast.  This does not sound like a lot until you do it.  Personally, I am a member of Nibblers Anonymous.  Chocolate or cookies or candy look twice as nice when I fast from them.  I think it is the Forbidden Fruit Syndrome.  This year, I am fasting from red wine.  I love a glass of red wine when I watch TV at night.   Now I find myself saying, only four weeks, six days and 15 hours until I can have a glass of wine.  For over half of my life, I have eaten PB&J sandwiches for lunch.  Last week, I saw some boiled ham and Swiss cheese in the refrigerator.  I started to salivate for a good meat sandwich.  I remembered it was Friday.  I calculated, I’ll bet at this very moment it must be Saturday in China.  Fasting makes us aware of our physical dependence on food.  Hunger reminds us of our total dependence on God.  Fasting strengthens our self-discipline for doing what is good and right.

Almsgiving.  We save money during Lent by sacrificing food, drink, entertainment.  We are encouraged to send that money to people who have less than ourselves, to those who suffer from greater needs than ourselves.  We grow closer to God by offering up these material sacrifices in praise of him and in service to others. 

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving: these three traditional means of praising God and serving others help to draw us closer to God.  These time-consuming, self-sacrificing and self-giving actions re-focus us on God and others.  In being re-focused, we become more attentive and responsive to God’s instruction: “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.”

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley