Fr Frank’s Homily: Second Sunday of Lent

By Fr Frank Brennan SJ, 25 February 2024
'Transfiguration of Christ' by Luca Giordano (1634–1705). Image: The Uffizi Gallery, Italy/Public Domain


Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent, Year B

Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Psalm 116; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10

25 February 2024

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Last Friday night, I was in Melbourne on a train passing near the MCG towards the end of the first Taylor Swift concert.  At one stop, a number of Taylor Swift fans got on board, though I presume they did not have tickets for entry to the inner sanctum with the 96,000 lucky fans.  There is no way anyone with a ticket would have left until the final curtain after all those hours. These would have been some of the Taylor-gaters outside looking in.

At one end of the carriage was a group of girls on quite a high.  There were also some mature women who were very animated.  One young woman, on her own, sat down opposite me.  She was wearing the hat and boots of a cowgirl.  She looked neither happy nor sad.  She beavered away on her phone sending lots of text messages.  Melbourne was abuzz with the Taylor Swift phenomenon.  The artist obviously spoke to the young girls on a high, to the adult women in enlivened conversation and to the young woman who was alone, but digitally anything but alone.

I’m old enough to know little about Taylor Swift and her music.  But over this past week, even I, a male cleric approaching three score and ten, have become curious.  I’ve consulted some experts.  I’ve watched some extraordinary videos on YouTube and I am still wondering what  is the phenomenal attraction.  I must confess that I could still not call myself a fan.  During this past week, a letter to the editor stated: ‘I’m beginning to wonder if Taylor Swift could now lay claim to something John Lennon once claimed of the Beatles? That she is now more popular than Jesus.’[1]

What is it about this woman?  And is there any take home message in light of the readings for the second Sunday of Lent?

One American mate of mine who is an astute reader of his pop culture told me: ‘I think a lot of her work is mythological in origin—she plays out modern American teen female archetypes—the nerd, the girl next door, the cheerleader, the bitch, the broken hearted, the star. And then she makes the very modern and kind of basic move of using them to empower women and girls.  I’d love to see her use these archetypes to explore what it means to be alive today, and maybe her fans would say she does.’  Taylor Swift’s performances are just as much theatre as concert.  Looking back over the eras, she is empowering girls and women of all ages.

In this Sunday’s readings, we are treated to two of the great theatrical dramas of biblical literature – Abraham’s commitment to execute his only son Isaac and the last minute reprieve for each of them, and Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain with Moses and Elijah in the presence of Peter James and John.  In each, the stage is carefully set with a truly fantastic setting, plot and characters.  In each, the characters then return to situation NORMAL. Like the fans on the train, they leave the stadium.  Abraham finds a ram to sacrifice; Jesus and the disciples come back down on to the plain.  They return to situation NORMAL, though abundantly blessed.  Abraham returns with Isaac, hearing the words: ‘I will bless you abundantly  and make your descendants as countless  as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;  your descendants shall take possession  of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing— all this because you obeyed my command.’  Peter, James and John come down the mountain reflecting deeply and at length on  the words: ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’

By all accounts, most of Taylor Swift’s fans came away being able to see something of themselves and their life situation in the songs.  Australian song writer Paul Kelly went along, and asked himself ‘Why is she so popular?’ He responded: ‘She’s like the girl next door, with a pistol in her purse. She’s got steel, she’s got edge; she’s kicking against the pricks in quite a few of her songs, and all the young women in the audience loved it, and were singing along to every word.  But she kicks against herself, too; there’s push-back in her songs.  It’s not “me against the world”, because she’s critical of herself in her songs, as well – and we can all relate to that.’[2]

In her song ‘You belong with me’ which is about the girl next door who compares herself with the flash girl who the neighbour is courting, she sings:[3]

Hey, what you doing with a girl like that?

She wears high heels
I wear sneakers
She’s Cheer Captain, and I’m on the bleachers
Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find
That what you’re looking for has been here the whole time

If you could see that I’m the one
Who understands you
Been here all along
So, why can’t you see?

In her song ‘Innocent’, she gives hope to the listener who has fallen and who despairs of ever being able to be redeemed:[4]

I guess you really did it this time
Left yourself in your warpath
Lost your balance on a tightrope
Lost your mind tryin’ to get it back

Wasn’t it beautiful when you believed in everything
And everybody believed in you?


Oh, who you are is not where you’ve been
You’re still an innocent


Who you are is not what you did
You’re still an innocent

Time turns flames to embers
You’ll have new Septembers
Everyone of us has messed up too, ooh, ooh
Minds change like the weather
I hope you remember
Today is never too late to be brand new

Lost your balance on a tightrope, oh
It’s never too late to get it back

For us Christians, her Christmas carol ‘Christmas must be something more’ carries a hopeful message:[5]

What would happen if Christmas carols told a lie
Tell me what would you find

You’d see that today holds something special
Something holy, not superficial
So here’s to the birthday boy who saved our lives
It’s something we all try to ignore
And put a wreath up on your door
So here’s something you should know that is for sure
Christmas must be something more


It seems the last thing on your mind

Is that the day holds something special
Something holy, not superficial
So here’s to Jesus Christ who saved our lives

That’s the message that Peter, James and John brought down the mountain after the Transfiguration.  It’s a message of blessing and hope – as was the message to Abraham once he’d replaced Isaac with a ram on the altar of sacrifice.  Lent is a time for renewing our resolve to kick against those perpetrating wrong and injustice in our world, to kick against ourselves when we are absorbed by self-pity or feelings of powerlessness and non-responsibility and irresponsibility, and to remind ourselves that ‘Today is never too late to be brand new…Lost your balance on a tightrope, it’s never too late to get it back.’  ‘So here’s to Jesus Christ who saved our lives.’


I have to confess that Taylor Swift is still not my cup of tea. There are a lot of other lyrics which jar with me.  If offered a ticket, I’d have happily given it away to one who would come away empowered and refreshed.


From the start of 2024, Fr Frank Brennan SJ will serve as part of a Jesuit team of priests working within a new configuration of the Toowong, St Lucia and Indooroopilly parishes in Brisbane Archdiocese.  Frank Brennan SJ is a  former CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA). Fr Frank’s latest book is An Indigenous Voice to Parliament: Considering a Constitutional Bridge, Garratt Publishing, 2023.


[1] See

[2] See

[3] See

[4] See

[5] See



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