Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Year A 2017 at Holy Name of Mary Parish, Rydalmere
6 August 2017
I want to start this homily by expressing my gratitude to you all for the way you have witnessed to your faith in changing and challenging times. It is not easy to remain a faithful Catholic amidst all the negative publicity. I pledge to walk with you through this valley of darkness to the new dawn of hope where the Church will be purified and grow into the full measure of Christ.
In many ways, the Church is in unprecedented, uncharted territory. We are being reduced in numbers, impact, and some would say, in danger of becoming an irrelevant minority if the trend in the census figures is any indication. The Church is being exiled by the secular culture. It no longer enjoys the respect and the influence it once had. The sexual abuse crisis has made sure of that. Everywhere we look, there seems to be insurmountable problems. Like St Paul says to the Corinthians: “We are troubled on every side, but not crushed.”
We feel like God’s covenanted people on their way to the Promise Land. They wanted to go back to Egypt when they were confronted with hunger and thirst in a barren desert. Yet the spirit of God called them forth and enabled them to march forward. This same spirit is with us today and he also encourages us to walk the unknown pathways ahead, with courage, with perseverance and with trust in the God of history.
Scriptures today give us a poignant lesson in overcoming our fears and in living our lives with courage, vision and hope. In the first reading from the book of Daniel, we hear a message of an apocalyptic nature consoling the people and reassuring them of the fulfillment of God’s plan. Daniel describes the coming of the Son of Man who would usher in a new era of peace and restore the fortunes of Israel. This divine being would sit on the throne of glory and receive in tribute sovereignty, kingship and power from all peoples, nations and languages. This was the messianic dream in response to the great suffering of God’s people during the Babylonian exile. Daniel instilled hope and courage in them by proclaiming that this dream would indeed be fulfilled. God would save them from shame and bring his plan for Israel and the whole world to fruition.
The Gospel today compliments the message of Daniel. The context was not the exile but the looming crucifixion in Jerusalem. Jesus had begun to speak about this openly to his disciples. It was not well received at all. They were puzzled at best and troubled at worst by the talk of a suffering Messiah and even more so by the discipleship of self-sacrifice. Aware of their fears, Jesus took Peter, James and John to go with him to the mountaintop. There he was transfigured and revealed as the true fulfillment of the law and prophets. “This is my Beloved Son, listen to him”. These words can be understood not only as a rebuff of Peter’s suggestion to build three tents but also as an invitation to follow Jesus in his imminent suffering, passion and death. The transfiguration is not something the disciples could hold on and forget about their commitment to follow the difficult remainder of the journey with Jesus. Rather it is meant to empower them to be more faithful and persevering. It is meant to give them new courage to walk the journey that would ultimately prove to be the litmus test of Christian discipleship.
Our faith today is also being put to the test as that of God’s people in exile and the disciples before the trial of Jesus. Like them, we are challenged to overcome our fears and doubts. We are challenged to embrace the unknown pathways that God has mapped out for us, just as he did for his exiled people and the disciples. It is in our human nature to cling to what we know, especially when the alternative is uncertain. They say better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Yet our call is the call not to remain anchored in calm shallow waters. It is a call to launch into the deep, with everything that it entails.
Pope Francis has made the call to go out the dominant theme of his pontificate. He constantly reminds us of the challenge not to be content with the status quo, not to cling to our security. We are told to abandon our culture of comfort and go to the periphery. We must be prepared to cross the metaphorical street. We must be less of an experience of exclusion and more of an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity. Living the faith has something to do with the movement from security to boldness, from preoccupation with our status quo and comfort zone to communicating God’s compassion to those who are on the edges of society and church.
The Eucharist this morning is a kind of the mountaintop experience for us. It is not a temporary diversion or an escape from the harsh realities of life. It is a deepening and strengthening of our faith and commitment to walk in the footsteps of Christ. May we be equipped with renewed courage and confidence in order to live the demands of Christian discipleship and reflect the light of Christ.