Sunday, March 20, 2011

Is Real Change Possible? (Lent 2.A)

I wasn't too pleased by the idea of having a second priest in our parish. I told the Archbishop I thought that an assistant pastor would just cause me extra work—and besides, he'd probably leave his dishes in the sink.

As you already know, I couldn't have been more off-base. It's hard to imagine how we managed before Father Xavier came—and, let me add, he never leaves dishes in the sink!

One of the joys of having another priest in the rectory is talking over the Sunday readings while we're thinking about our homilies. It's very helpful to have someone to share ideas with, and to hear a different view of the readings.

At lunch yesterday, Father Xavier pointed out that God the Father says "This is my Son the beloved… listen to him," but if you take a close look, Jesus has almost nothing to say!

And certainly, His words in today's Gospel are few and not very startling. He seems to be talking to the frightened trio, not to us. So what is Jesus telling us at the Transfiguration?

Father Xavier suggested that our Lord's actions speak louder than words—that we find a message in how Jesus is changed on that high mountain. Because change is something every one of us thinks about, especially at Lent.

Which one of us is completely satisfied with the way we are—with the way things are in our lives? Who wouldn't like things to change for the better? Many of our prayers try to change things.

You can be sure that Peter and James and John were ready for change as they followed Jesus up the mountain. They'd been his disciples for a long time; they were all set for their Messiah to start sorting things out. This journey with Jesus had to be the start of something big.

And it was—but not the way they'd figured. Jesus didn't give them new powers. He didn't make the rain fall on the desert or the sun shine brighter. It was Jesus who changed. And in that moment he invited Peter, and James, and John, and every single one of us to change also.

Radiant on Mount Tabor, Jesus showed us that change comes from God's power, not ours. Jesus showed that conversion is a gift from God. And the words His Father spoke told us how it starts: by hearing the Word of God.

Pope John Paul wrote that "The proclamation of the Word of God has Christian conversion as its aim… Conversion is a gift of God, a work of the Blessed Trinity." (Encyclical Mission of the Redeemer (1990) 46.)

I don't want to run down my own homilies, but I am far from sure that ten or twelve minutes of preaching can convince anyone they need to be radically and totally changed. That's why we've bought a copy of this little booklet for every parishioner. It's called "Is Real Change Possible," and it's by my friend, the Catholic evangelist Peter Herbeck.

Peter's booklet tells the story of a Hollywood screenwriter who turned from cocaine to Christ and experienced a live-saving change. There's likely no-one in Church today whose life was quite so troubled, yet all of us have tried in some way to manage without God. And all of us want life-giving change in our lives—the freedom and transformation that Jesus offers.

I invite you to take this small booklet home, and to read it—and pray it—with an open heart. Ask the Lord what He wants to change in you this Lent. Ask for a share in His radiant purity.

"Holiness," Peter Herbeck writes, "is first God's work, but it demands our full cooperation and consent. It is a work that requires concentration, devotion, energy and trust."

Will you offer those things to the Lord this Lent, and allow him to offer a share in His holiness to you?

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