March 12, 2017 – Second Sunday of Lent – Gospel of Matthew 17:1-9
This homily was delivered during Lent of 2013 at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis:
When I was the Director of Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House, we had a program called Morning for Moms. We offered a morning retreat for the ladies in the upstairs conference room, and provided babysitting services downstairs. There would be 25-30 little kids, from infants to pre-school.
On one particular occasion, we were short-handed and I was called on to help with the babysitting. One of the babies, Patrick, who was sitting in a swing, began to cry. A staff member, Cheryl, started toward the swing to pick Patrick up, and said to me, “Watch this, it’s amazing.”
By the time she had gotten to Patrick and taken him out of the swing, Patrick’s mom was walking through the door. Cheryl told me it happened all the time. There was a presentation going on in the conference room, the air handler was running full speed, the babies were on an entirely different floor of the building, behind closed doors, and yet Patrick’s mom heard him cry. Just as amazing, no other moms came down; each mom focused on and recognized the distinct cry of her own child.
About 12 years ago, we invited a gentleman to our school to give a basketball free throw shooting demonstration. With 700 students sitting all around him on the gym floor, he proceeded to shoot 100 free throws. He was talking the whole time, kids were making noise, occasionally someone would walk across the lane in front of him, but nothing phased him. He hit his first 41 free throws, and ended up making 94 out of 100 shots.
Such demonstrations of focus amaze us, don’t they?
We marvel at someone’s ability to block out all distractions and focus on whatever it is that is important to them – the cry of their child or sinking a free throw.
We are amazed when we see this, yet I’m sure we have all shown this same ability at one time or another. I know the girls in my family can attest to my ability to shut them out when there is a Colt’s game on TV.
The ability to filter distractions is not a special gift. It comes out of desire.
For those of us in education, we see in today’s Gospel that God is an accomplished teacher. He implemented some very effective teaching methodologies.
Step 1, grab the students’ attention. When Jesus’ clothes became “white as light,” He got the attention of Peter, James, and John.
Step 2, teach the lesson. Moses was there, representing the Law of the Church. There was Elijah, representing the prophets, those who had foretold of things to come. And with them was Jesus, whose divinity had been revealed, but who was also fully human and fully present to them. He was the “here and now.”
Obviously the disciples didn’t understand the point of the lesson, so God summarized it for them: The law was important and the words of the prophets were important, but if there was ever any conflict between the law and the prophets and the message of Jesus, you are to follow Jesus.
Step 3, assign homework. He could not have been any more clear in his parting words to Peter, James, and John up on that mountain: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
The Transfiguration is one of the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary. To be luminous means to radiate light, to radiate truth. The disciples learned a valuable lesson, learned the truth, directly from the source that day.
Why was this necessary? Why the sense of urgency?
Jesus was preparing to head to Jerusalem. He knew that the disciples were still having difficulty understanding Him and His mission. Jesus was “taking it up a notch” with the disciples.
They had distractions all around. The scribes and Pharisees were criticizing many things Jesus and his disciples were doing. There were questions swirling around Jesus: Who was this? John the Baptist come back to life? A new, greater prophet?
And then there was their relationship with Jesus, this unusual man who was spreading a simple message of love for God and one another, and encouraging them to do the same
What, and who, were they to believe?
To help them focus on what was important, God radiated the truth through the Transfiguration and made absolutely clear his message:
“… listen to him.”
It makes sense that the story of the Transfiguration is read during Lent. During Lent, we are also called to take it up a notch, called to focus on that same message the disciples heard on the mountain: “Listen to him.” Not to all of the false voices of the world, but to Him.
This is easier said than done. Like the disciples, we have many distractions. A 2011 study on how Americans spend their time on average each day speaks to these distractions:
- 41-70 minutes each day is spent on personal grooming
- 90 minutes is devoted to household activities
- 45 minutes or so each day for shopping
- 4 hours spent in leisure activities, which would include running, going to the gym, watching television, surfing the internet, visiting with friends, and other such activities
As for religious activities, including personal prayer, we spend on average of 15 minutes per day…less than on personal grooming.
There are many things that society, or our own selfishness, tells us are more important than our faith life. We need to be successful. We need to make money. We need to be beautiful. We need “things.” We need to be entertained. We need immediate gratification. It is clear that these things are distractions, because they consume so much of our time.
God, our Teacher, asks us the following questions as part of our homework assignment:
Do we try to “squeeze in” 5 minutes for morning prayer, but have no problem spending over an hour shopping online?
Do we say we would do more charitable work if we had the time, and meanwhile spend 3 hours on the golf course or 5 hours a week in the gym?
Do we go to Mass and check it off the list, our commitment done for the week?
Do we neglect our obligation to take the Gospel message out to the world?
What are your distractions??
Are you able to filter these distractions and focus on what’s important, like Patrick’s mother and the free-throw shooter?
When God says to you, “This is my chosen Son. Listen to Him,” do you hear Him, or does it just get lost in all of the noise of your life?