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Father Muench Says...

Encountering Jesus

February 21, 2024

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

For me, the Scriptures of Lent are old friends. All these years I have been a priest, each Lent I return to these same Scriptures, and again hope I can see them in a new light. Again, this year I hope I can be inspired to write meaningful homilies.

Today, I would like to consider with you a real favorite of mine, the Transfiguration of Jesus. This story is the Gospel reading at the Masses on the Second Sunday of Lent. Let me begin by reminding you of the story: Jesus takes only Peter, James and John with him. They go off to climb Mount Tabor. At the top, Jesus is transfigured before them. We learn of this experience in each of the three synoptic Gospels. It is a well-remembered story. St. Mark describes this event in this way: “his clothes became dazzling white such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” The three apostles were truly amazed. They recognized the divine in Jesus. Peter says, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!” Peter wants to stay right there forever.

I have been taught that Jesus wanted the apostles to realize his divinity to support them, to strengthen their faith. Their future with Jesus will not be easy. There will be stress and difficulty as they join with Jesus. Jesus wants them to remain bold and unafraid to become leaders of his Church.

I love this Gospel story. I walked up that road on Mount Tabor. I celebrated Mass at that Basilica that now stands on the top. This is a sacred and very special place. Today, I would like to suggest that this story of the Transfiguration of Jesus is our story, a story for all of us as the People of God.

What I mean is this: I believe that frequently in the lives of us all, we faithful Catholics, we followers of Jesus, our Lord Jesus comes to us to be present with us in a special way when we pray in faith and with an open heart, present just as the Lord was with those apostles. Jesus comes to support us and strengthen us. The Lord wants us to live with confidence, to live powerful, good Christian lives. Jesus knows we often face challenges as His dedicated followers. We need the help and power of the Holy Spirit.

Our experience of the Transfiguration of Jesus will not be as dramatic as it was for the apostles. When we come to the Lord Jesus with an open living heart, we will realize the presence of Jesus who longs to bring joy and peace to us all, and we will be confident the Lord Jesus walks with us.

I am speaking here of each time that we participate in the celebration of the Holy Mass. Our Lord Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Eucharist. This is a powerful and transformative presence; we will be guided just as Jesus guided his apostles.

I further believe that every time we take some time to pray – maybe alone, possibly while visiting Church – Jesus will come and sit with us as we open our hearts in love Him. It is then that we should quietly listen. The Lord has a message for us every time. I know that it truly is like the Lord Jesus placing his hand on our shoulder.

So, this is the first of my old friends coming up again during Lent – the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus.

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