Homily – February 2021


 Readings  Jb 7:1-4. 6-7  1 Cor 9:16-19. 22-23  Gospel Mark 1: 29-39

 It is a beautiful sunny morning in Canberra. We have very few Covid-19 limitations in comparison to the global context at the moment. Thanks be to God! But let that not breed a sense of indifference. The world is suffering very much due to this pandemic.

Yesterday I was in touch with a priest friend of mine in Scotland. The pandemic there is causing widespread social dislocation. The Churches are all closed. People are only allowed to go out of their homes under certain circumstances. Even the local Bishop, the Archbishop of Glasgow, recently died of Covid-19!

There is much suffering around the world.

What do the Scripture Readings today tell us about how to respond to suffering? We see in the First Reading today Job’s lament. It is life before Christ.

Job is a God fearing man but he finds himself in the midst of inexplicable suffering and pain. He says “My days have passed and vanished, leaving no hope behind. Remember that my life is but a breath, and that my eyes will never again see joy.” Job is having a bad day!

But he does trust in the Lord and his lament is really more of a yearning for God to intervene and bring hope into his suffering.

In the Second Reading from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he says that the joy has come through in his life by preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ in His Death and Resurrection.

He says, “Do you know what my reward is? It is this: in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free…” With the preaching of the Gospel comes our relationship with God and the different stages of our pilgrimage of Missionary Discipleship with the Lord that we considered in last Sunday’s Gospel.

In today’s Gospel we learn once again from our Master, Jesus! Recall last week was the first half of His first day of public mission. There was the Exorcism of the man. Today’s Gospel is the second half of this first day of His public mission. We find now an account of His first healing: the healing of St Peter’s Mother-in-law.

First of all, there is a movement from the Synagogue to the home. This is literally seen with Jesus preaching in the Synagogue and now moving towards the home of St Peter and his brother Andrew. This is a movement which takes place over the next hundred years where there is a movement from Judaism into the fullness of Christianity. Before we had the Cathedrals, the Churches and Basilicas we had private homes. They were called Domus Ecclesiae.

In this movement from the Synagogue to the Domus Ecclesiae of St Peter we see Jesus responding quickly. In today’s Gospel there is this word, “straightaway.” Throughout Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus going quickly from place to place. It is a very dynamic rather than static image of Jesus and His Ministry.

Please notice, also, that Jesus heals Peter’s Mother-in-law not because we have heard from the Mother-in-law herself but because of the intercession of Peter and Andrew. There are very few healing miracles indeed in the Gospel’s without some faith being shown beforehand. Generally this is by the person asking for healing. It can, however, be because of the intercession of others. So let us always remember, particularly in this Mass today, we can pray for others and ask God to heal them through our intercessory prayer of faith.

And now for the healing itself. The Scripture says that Jesus “took her by the hand and helped her up.” It is almost a sacramental dimension here. He touched her hand and raised her up. He says nothing. She says nothing. It is nonverbal, almost sacramental in the way this takes place.

Let us keep this in mind when we also visit the sick. Sometimes because of the awkwardness of the situation we tend to over talk. Once the sick have recovered they often say that the best visitors they had were the ones that said very little but were present with a sense of real care. So the stress here is on the action of Jesus (grace) rather than the action of the Mother-in-law. The Mother-in-law did not put her hand towards Jesus, Jesus put his hand first towards her and she responded…the dance between grace and faith!

It seems that there were two healings of the Mother-in-law. First of all there is the physical healing. But secondly there is the hint of a deeper and more lasting healing. Mark’s Gospel says that after she was healed “she began to wait on them.” This is a sure sign that she received the great gift of becoming a Missionary Disciple. This is something that will take her into Heaven.

The two major characteristics of being a Missionary Disciple of Jesus are that the person receives Jesus into their heart, body and mind and, secondly, they then express that healing encounter with service. This is precisely what Peter’s Mother-in-law did. Let us keep this in mind. To be a Missionary Disciple is to be “with Christ for others.” We don’t say to Jesus once we feel we are healed, “thanks very much for the healing. Now I’ll get on with my business and you get on with yours!” We can never be the same when we are touched by the Lord! The deepest of all healings is to have a transformed heart that expresses itself in the service of the Lord!

Finally we find that Jesus, at the end of His first long day, retires from the crowds and goes “off to a lonely place and prayed there.” But the Disciples hunt Him down. They say to him, “Everybody is looking for you.” In other words they seem to feel that they want Him to come as some sort of superstar and be a great success.

But Jesus is not in the slightest bit interested in success. He is interested only in being faithful to that which the Father sent Him.

No doubt to the great surprise of the Apostles he says, “Let us go elsewhere…so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.”

So let us too never court popularity in our Missionary Discipleship. Jesus didn’t win a popularity contest when He died on the Calvary Cross. But in all things he was totally and utterly faithful to His Heavenly Father who He addressed as “Abba”. Let us do the same.

14 FEBRUARY 2021

 Readings  Lv 13:1-2. 44-46  1 Cor 10:31-11:1  Gospel Mark 1: 40-45

 Amongst other things, the Covid-19 world that we are now enduring brings much fear, isolation, sickness and in some cases death. Many of these responses are also shared in today’s Gospel and First Reading which speaks about Leprosy in the community in the time of Jesus and in the Old Testament.

Perhaps, first of all, a word about Leprosy in the Bible. Recall that we are engaging here with a pre-scientific, pre-medical world. What was called Leprosy is what we often call today Hansen’s Disease. But in the Biblical world the word Leprosy was used far more generically. It denotes all sorts of skin complaints.

We get a hint of this in the first paragraph from the Book of Leviticus – a passage that Jesus shows awareness of in today’s Gospel.

Leviticus says, “If a swelling or scab or shiny spot appears on a man’s skin, a case of leprosy of the skin is to be suspected.”

This is hardly the precise medical definition of Leprosy or Hansen’s disease as we now know it.

Then comes the procedure in which the Biblical world responds. First of all the community must be informed. There is a determination which says, “The man is leprous: he is unclean.” The person with Leprosy is then moved outside the community to live as a social outcast. He “must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, unclean, unclean.” But the main thing is, “He must live outside the camp.”

It is into this world that Jesus moves with the leprous man coming to Him in today’s Gospel. The leprous man takes a big risk. He defies social requirements and approaches Jesus and says politely, “If you want to…you can cure me.”

Jesus too takes a risk. He engages with this man. Indeed He “stretched out His hand and touched him.” By so doing, He Himself becomes unclean. He responds immediately and says, “Of course I want to! Be cured!”

There seems to be a double healing going on here. Like last Sunday’s Gospel of the healing of St Peter’s Mother-in-Law, there seems to be a double dimension to this healing as well.

On the deeper level let us consider this “second” miracle.

The Scripture notes “(Jesus) feeling sorry for him.” Biblical commentators say that particular description is rather weak. Really it is almost as if Jesus felt angered that he was automatically dismissed to the periphery of society. Jesus went against the social taboos of the time in touching him and clearly wants to bring him back into the centre. Jesus does not send him away. The Kingdom of God is breaking upon the world in Jesus Christ and there is no place even for disease. There is certainly no place for social taboos which automatically send people to the outer of society.

So in bringing this man back into the centre Jesus has worked a more subtle miracle. He instructs the man, “Show yourself to the priest.” By so doing, the healed man will be given a certificate whereby he can re-join his society and no longer remain on the outer. The down side of all this, however, is that Jesus’ own Ministry becomes somewhat impeded.

We see that Jesus says to the healed man, “Mind you say nothing to anyone.” However, and understandably so, the man “then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere.” When you are touched by the Lord, healed and become a Missionary Disciple, your life can never be the same. You are filled with joy and hope. You want to tell the world of the greatness of God in Jesus Christ. In other words the man living out this deeper miracle becomes the Missionary Disciple of Jesus. This will never be taken from him, not even after his death.

Regrettably Jesus “could no longer go openly into any town, but has to stay outside the places where nobody lived.”

Again Jesus is seen purely as a miracle worker and is impeded from calmly proclaiming the Kingdom of God in not only actions, but also word. It is a proclamation calling for conversion and discipleship.

The irony of this whole Gospel is that at the beginning Jesus was on the inside of society and this man was on the outer. Once healed, the healed man returns to the inside of the community and Jesus is placed on the outer “where nobody lived.”

This does show the Lord’s flexibility in adapting His way to the new circumstances.

We too, in our Missionary Discipleship in our time or place, should also have the flexibility of moving our routine into the new situations that daily evolve.

How many times have we been about to do something and someone interrupts us, or some new event occurs which changes our daily routine. Rather than becoming angry about it, we should imitate Jesus in adapting to the new circumstances with grace and determination.

Perhaps this is something we should keep in mind as in a few days, on Ash Wednesday, we begin our Lenten pilgrimage to the Eastern Mysteries of our faith.

In doing what Jesus did we too should go out of our way and be “inconvenienced” by others who live in the margins of society, particularly in this Covid-19 world. Maybe there are vulnerable and sickly people living in your neighbourhood or even in your family. Giving them priority and bringing them into the centre from there Covid-19 isolation, is most certainly doing the work of the Lord of today’s Gospel.

We are helped in identifying the need of others by purifying ourselves during Lent in the traditional ways of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Let our penance help us to become clearer of mind for those in most need.

During this year of St Joseph let us ask him to help us to see Jesus in the different needs of our daily life. Also today is St Valentine’s Day. Although this feast has been totally overtaken by commercial and marketing interests, there is something to be said for promoting the romance of God with us and sending Jesus to us. We live this out in our relationship with others.

As a final comment, you may be interested to know that St Valentine is not only the patron Saint of romance but also of Epilepsy, Bee Keepers and most pertinent to our time and place, is one of the Saints we pray to in times of Pandemics.

St Joseph pray for us, St Valentine pray for us!

21 FEBRUARY 2021

 Readings  Gen 9:8-15  1 Pt 3:18-22  Gospel Mark 1: 12-15

 So we now begin our special Readings for Lent and then Easter. So the Liturgy of the Word suspends its systematic Readings of Ordinary Time and now moves to this great journey for all of us towards Easter.

The Gospel today concludes the brief Mark prologue and begins the first account of Jesus’s public Ministry. The first words of Jesus in St John’s Gospel in the direct form are as follows, “Repent, and believe the Good News.”

Biblical repentance means a 180 degree turn around from the darkness and evil of sin and placing ourselves completely and totally face to face with the merciful light of Jesus.

The belief comes from our proclamation and claim that in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ we have Redemption. We believe this will all our hearts!

The First Reading today is from one of the Creation stories of the four Creation stories found in the first eleven Chapters of Genesis. In these four Creation stories we hear of God’s initiative of grace and love, humanities ingratitude and apostasy, which means they follow other gods. God punishes and then relents showing mercy.

Today we hear of the Creation story pertaining to Noah and the Ark.

In Noah’s time God’s people have forgotten God and have found other little gods to take His place.   This is one of the big Biblical lessons to be learnt forever. When we dump God, we will take up other gods. These small gods will not save or redeem! They will not give us the peace and meaning in life that we hope. How easily we forget this!

God punishes by sending a flood to cleanse the earth. He then relents by offering a cosmic Covenant with people and all creation. The sign of this is the rainbow. The water of Noah reminds us of the waters of Baptism. This is explicitly mentioned in today’s Second Reading from St Peter when he says of the cleansing waters of Noah’s time, “That water is a type of the Baptism which saves you now.”

The Gospel of today sees Jesus move into the desert for a forty day period. Forty days is very significant. There is the forty years of wandering in the desert of God’s people. Their forty years is because of their forgetfulness of God and their apostasy in showing faith in other gods. It also reminds us of the forty days of Lent that we have now begun in faith as we approach the Easter Mysteries.

Typical of Mark’s Gospel, there are many words spoken in a very condensed form each could be developed into a wonderful Teaching about the mysteries of our faith. We find, for example, words such as “drove…wilderness…forty days…Satan…wild beasts…Angels…”

Now Jesus moves into this Biblical world and is tempted in the desert. In the Biblical world the desert is an ambiguous place. It is a place of God’s redemption but it is also a place of human infidelity and forgetfulness. But, it is from this desert that Jesus begins His public Ministry which redeems humanity in the New Covenant. This supersedes the Covenants of the Old Testament, including Noah’s Cosmic Covenant. It is not the water that cleanses but now we have the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Crucified and Risen that seals the New and Eternal Covenant.

At the end of St John’s Gospel the writer has Jesus shedding all His Blood, even to the point of water coming out of His side. This New Covenant sealed in the Blood of the Lamb links us both with the waters of Baptism and the Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

Let us not forget to whom St Mark is writing this Gospel. It is to the persecuted early Christians. They find themselves in the “desert” of the circuses and arenas of Rome and elsewhere as they are martyred to death. In this new type of desert, St Mark is writing to them in the Gospel so they will remain firm and be encouraged in the faith. He is basically saying to them, “Stay firm in the faith and claim your victory in Christ.”

So as we begin our forty days of Lent let us too remind ourselves that we are in a “desert” in many respects here in Australian. There is so much forgetfulness of God in our new but ancient country. Although fifty percent of Australians claim they are Christians in the census, it is most troubling that the most dynamic rising statistic is those that state they have “no religion.” At present this number is over thirty percent and rising quickly.

It seems that Australians are forgetting God! But what other little gods are Australians replacing the God of Jesus Christ with?

So therefore in this troubled “desert” of Australia let us begin Lent alert, repent and believe in the Good News. That is what prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us with. They make us spiritually alert to dedicate ourselves as Missionary Disciples to the Lord. In the midst of our deserts of today let us also hear St Mark saying to us as he said to the early Christians in one way or another, “Claim the victory of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.”

As the early Christians were being martyred on the arenas of ancient Rome as the sport of quite a demonic culture, let us recall how they yelled out to God in their trial and placed their complete trust in Jesus, Risen in Glory.

I therefore conclude with a very ancient prayer which calls on us all to claim the victory of the Risen Christ. It is called the Anima Christi. It is as least 500 years old and possibly even double that. At the beginning of Lent let us repent and believe in the Good News in the following words:

Soul of Christ sanctify me.
Body of Christ save me.
Blood of Christ inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within thy wounds hide me.
Separated from thee let me never be.
From the malicious enemy, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come unto thee.
That I might praise you with thy Saints forever and ever. Amen!


 Readings  Genesis 18:1-8  Gospel Luke 6: 46-49

 We have been enjoying beautiful weather here in Canberra in recent days. Last weekend I went for a ride on my bicycle around part of Lake Burley Griffin. There was much happening on the lake with all sorts of sporting activities. Something caught my eye. I thought it was a good theological image of the Catholic Church. It was people rowing. There were perhaps eight people in the boat. The reason I felt it was a good theological image of the Church was because they were moving forward but facing backward.

As we go forward for the next 200 years of Catholic Education here in Australia we also look backwards over the last 200 years. In our theology, we always do the same. We go forward evangelising and proposing Christ, Crucified and Risen where ever we are. At the same time, we do this by looking lovingly backwards to the great foundations of our faith – the living Scripture and our living Tradition. A major expression of this is in Catholic Education.

You would be aware that in recent days the Australian Catholics Bishops Conference has issued a special letter of encouragement to you all called, “200 Years Young.” Some of the themes I would like to bring to you now can be found in one form or another in this sincere letter of thanks and encouragement from all the Bishops to all involved in Education.

Although it has been 200 years of Catholic Education, it all began 2,000 years ago in the school of Nazareth. The first teachers of Jesus were his mother, Mary and St Joseph. We especially remember him in this “Year of St Joseph.”

The First Reading today from the Book of Genesis talks also of another type of education. It was “Abraham’s School” in the tent at Mamre. Abraham thought that he was offering hospitality to three strangers in this particular “school.” But as Christians look at this important moment of education in the Old Testament we find that indeed the three strangers weren’t strangers at all. Christians see these three Angelic figures as the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Gathered together in this ritual meal we also recall the Eucharist as the source of all Catholic theology and Church practice.

Using this image of “rowing” let us look back over the last 200 years and look forward to the next phase of Catholic Education by making a few observations.

There are many but let’s consider just two legacies as we look back over the last 200 years of Catholic Education in Australia. In the first Catholic School in Parramatta in 1821 were just 31 students. The Bishops in their letter wanted to especially thank all those who have been involved in this great Education Apostolate over all these years.

We think of today’s Gospel from St Luke. Here we can say that the Education “house” over the last 200 years has been built on rock. It has left us a splendid foundation for the years ahead. The Scripture suggests, that when a “flood arose, the river burst…but could not shake it… it had been well built.” Over the last 200 years we have had many different types of “rivers” and “floods” but Catholic Education, in this ancient but new country of Australia, continues to be founded on the rock of the Gospel.

Even in our own geographical “patch” we think of July 1962 and the Goulburn strike. This was a courageous symbolic way of insisting that Catholic Education should be available as a “live” option in Australia and be supported by Government finances. We are so grateful that this has happened and look forward to many years of continuing great partnership with the Local and National Governments of Australia to ensure that Catholic Education, financially, remains viable.

When we consider the legacy of committed Catholics, we think particularly of a somewhat fading demographic in Catholic Australian: the teaching Religious Orders of Sister, Brothers and Priests who have dedicated their lives to Catholic Education over so many generations. Whereas in times pasts the vast majority of teachers would have been from Religious Orders, today we find there would be very few teaching in our schools and their role has been, like a baton in a relay race, passed on to wonderful and dedicated lay faithful.

We only have to go to the Goulburn cemetery and see the hundreds and hundreds of very humble crosses which represent the graves of wonderful Religious who, over the years, have given service to Catholic Education and Catholic Health in this part of Australia. We remember them in our Mass and pray for the repose of their souls.

Apart from the legacy of committed Catholics, we also think of the educational ethos that has been left to us.

Just before the 2018 Roman Synod on Youth, which produced the Apostolic Exaltation, Christus Vivit, Pope Francis gathered together young people for a question and answer session in Rome. In his input at the start, Pope Francis mentioned that, “Education should talk three basic languages.”

Firstly, there is the language of the “Head.” The Pope said there must be an emphasis on, “Thinking well and Learning well.” How true that is. We hope and pray that the language of the “Head” has reached such as sophistication in Catholic Education that future Prime Ministers, Judges on the High Court or Governor Generals here in Canberra, as well as poets, musicians, scientific discoverers of fresh vaccines, and so on, would be people who were students of Catholic Education in their infancy.

For this language of the “Head” we could perhaps invoke the intercession of patrons. One thinks immediately of the great philosopher theologian, St thomas Aquinas. Also, St Thomas More who showed the world of his time and ours what political statesmanship is all about.

Secondly, the Pope talked about the language of the “Heart.” The Pope talked about, “Understanding our feelings our emotions throughout our life in Christ.” Here we have the encounter with Jesus. Here we have conversion to the love of God made present to us in the Lord’s Death and Resurrection. It is the source of our community as Church. We think of the great mystics of the Catholic faith who excelled in this language of the “Heart.” We think, for example, of St Teresa of Avila, St Therese of Lisieux and invoke their presence in helping us learn this language afresh by an evangelisation appropriate to our time and place.

Thirdly, there is the language of the “Hands.” The Pope makes the comment, “Making use of the gifts we have to create new things.” Our hands must reach out to those in need and offer, not simply Justice but a Justice that is imbued with the mercy and charity of Christ. In doing so we propose Jesus in practical charity as a living language of the Gospel for today.

We are very much aware that this is a wordless language and we invoke the presence of St Joseph, who we remember in this “Year of St Joseph.” His direct speech is not recorded in the Gospels, but we cannot imagine the infancy of Jesus without the language of his hands to help practically in His education. More recently we think of (Mother) St Teresa of Calcutta as exemplar of practical charity.

Let us leave these two brief reflections of the legacies of the past and begin to look forward to the next 200 years of Catholic Education in Australia. Of the many challenges that present themselves, could I limit myself to humbly offering two challenges that for me are striking.

The first challenge, is the challenge of passing on the precious gift of the Catholic faith to new generations in an era of perpetual change.

As we are grateful for past generations of Religious in Catholic Education, it could be said that the cultural composition has changed so much since those days. Pope Francis says that in the world today, “We are not living an era of change but a change of era.”

The rising question here is – Are the present and future Catholic Educational Leaders equipped to be Teaching Evangelisers (proposers) in this new world?

There is no doubt that both in nature and grace we have a new generation of absolutely wonderful teachers. But, in the times ahead can we confidently say that they will be equipped to rise up as Educational Leaders. This is a challenge for us all.

The key issue could be phrased in the following way. Do future Education Leaders really see the Catholic Church as a Theological community (remember the rowers) with an educational expression? Or do present and future Educational Leaders in the Catholic Church see their role in an Educational community which happens to have a Theological expression? These two questions seem subtle but they do have crucial implications for the future of Catholic Education.

For example, when I a visiting a school, at the back of my mind I am often wondering will the leaders I meet be of the first of the second category.

One way I can come to an assessment of this is, when I visit the school am I greeted by the Educational Leaders as the Chief Evangeliser and Catechist of the Archdiocese and of their school? In other words am I seen as a Spiritual father and a presence of Christ in their midst? Or am I greeted, in fact, as an esteemed visitor amongst others to this educational facility which just happens to have a Catholic Theological expression?

What do you think about this?

I think a second challenge, amongst many as we move forward, is the challenge to learn a “fourth educational language.”

If I could be so bold as to add to Pope Francis’s “three educational languages” with a fourth. Could we not only have a language of the Head, Heart and Hands but also a language of the Feet?

By this I mean, Catholic Educators both in the present and the future need to have a certain nimbleness to walk in and out of various “cultural worlds” as Catholic Evangelists with Jesus as “The word of eternal life.”

For example, bringing the language of “Feet” into the very fluid family world of Australia today. How do we bring the radiance of Christ into a family life that is so different from generations in the past?

It is always true and will always be true that parents are the prime educators in faith of their children. But, could we also say, in the future the children themselves, refreshed with Christ, may also be seen as bringing Jesus alive in the Church to their parents? This really is turning the pyramid upside down. We need both directions!

Also bringing the radiance of Christ to the cultural worlds of philosophy and cultural thinking. We are bombarded with half-truths and fake truths attractively presented in the various cultural ideologies and elites of today. It is so difficult to see what is full truth. This is why the Church needs to move into the culture of philosophical scrutinies to be able to enable the radiance of Christ to purify half-truths and turn them into full-truths. This is the prime work of Evangelisation. We see this world particularly in great Saints like St Paul, St Francis Xavier and more recently St John Paull II.

A third world is the “Periphery world” or sub cultures of our society. The nimbleness of our language with the “Feet” should always walk towards and stand alongside those on the periphery of society. We have and can always make even deeper commitments to walking into the cultural world of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We also think too of the world of those with disabilities. I am delighted to see in this Archdiocese that Aboriginal enrolments in the Archdiocese are increasing, as indeed is hospitality for students with disabilities. May this long continue!

Fourthly, there are so many other worlds that this language of the “Feet” could walk through with the presence of Christ. I am thinking of the subcultures and “worlds” of sport, social media and care for the earth our common home and so many other worlds that often become too separated from Christ.

Could I therefore conclude my somewhat tentative reflections by returning finally now to the early image of “rowing.”

As we go forward by looking backwards, may we as “rowers” work together in harmony, respecting each other’s individuality, but at the same time working as a Gospel team. St Paul uses the expression, “The Body of Christ.” A human body is another good way of looking at this Theological matrix. In the world of rowing, as I noticed last weekend observing this sport being played out on our lake here in Canberra, rower are very much dependant on the Cox and the Coach to guide them.

May we never forget, that in all our best human efforts to bring the light of Christ to the future generations in Catholic Education, all this is done under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that guides and aluminates us to be a discerning and acting community and brings us into the radiance of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

28 FEBRUARY 2021

 Readings  Gen 22:1-2. 9-13. 15-18  Rom 8:31-34  Gospel Mark 9:2-10

 What a beautiful response to the Responsorial Psalm we have just sung, “I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living.”

We trust and hope that the Lord in this Penitential Season of Lent will help us walk in His presence more deeply through repentance and faith as we await His Second Coming.

In the Gospel today we have St Mark’s version of the Transfiguration. St Peter, St James and St John were walking in the presence of the Lord in a most dramatic way in this pivotal Gospel passage midway through St Mark’s Gospel.

As always, St Mark uses a great economy of words in his writings. There are so many key words in this Transfiguration passage that could be meditated upon at great length. However, I list just some of them. We have, “high mountain…alone…transfigured…dazzlingly white…Elijah…Moses…Rabbi…cloud…voice from the cloud…my Son…the Beloved…listen…suddenly…only Jesus…rising from the dead.”

The Transfiguration Gospel of today first says something great about God.

The voice of God the Father refers to Jesus as, “My Son, the Beloved.”

When we prayerfully meditate upon the First Reading from the Book of Genesis we see an anticipation of this in the incredible sacrifice of Abraham with his son Isaac.

The incredibility of it is that God has asked Abraham to sacrifice, “Your only son.” When Abraham does not refuse to do this and prepares to sacrifice Isaac his only son, God stops him and rewards him for his incredible faith. God says, “Because you have not refused me your son, your only son, I will shower blessings on you.”

In the Second Reading today from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, St Paul refers to the fact that “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up to benefit us all.”

So all this says great things about God. God gives absolutely everything to us even his “only Son.” This shows God’s chief characteristic and His love: It is a sacrificial love. It is total generosity to us. Clearly, today’s Transfiguration is a glimpse of the eventual death of Jesus, on the Calvary Cross, as the total sign of God giving His only Son for the salvation of humanity. It is only hinted at here and Jesus’ Resurrection is celebrated in a hopeful glimpse of the future. God’s strategy of sacrificial love is this time hidden in the mystery of God.

The Transfiguration, secondly, says something great also about the Disciples.

They are responding without knowing the full story of Christs Death and Resurrection. It is only hinted at. But, they are so caught up in the “glitz” of the scene that they respond in a confused manner. In fact, St Peter, St James and St John are together whilst St Peter speaks on behalf of the others and says, “It is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

He is responding to the immediate awesome experience in front of him. It gives them so much hope in this mountain top experience. It also indicates, not only theirs, all of our insatiable need for God’s transcendence and radiance. Clearly when the “glitz” factor diminishes they are left with “only Jesus.” That is enough for the journey of faith, everything else is somewhat extra.

Let us reflect for a moment now, in the light of the Transfiguration, on our Lenten journey and walk in the presence of the Lord, animated by today’s Readings.

The Church does this in its traditional ways of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.

First of all “Prayer.” When we are in difficulties and challenges in life seem to be overwhelming, there is a tendency in all of us to pray less. But the mystics of our great faith always share with us, in difficulties particularly, to pray longer. This requires great self-discipline. You might recall that I have sometimes used the acronym P.U.S.H. to indicate the way forward.

P.U.S.H. is an acronym for “Pray Until Something Happens.” So rather that retreat from prayer in times of hardship let us try to discipline ourselves along the P.U.S.H. prayer!

Secondly “Fasting.” This is certainly regarding food but not just the abstinence of food itself. This can get caught up in our selfish ways of dieting. Perhaps fasting could also mean a greater detachment in regard to the addictions that surround us in our very addictive society.

For example, I can think of the huge amount of time all of us spend in front of screens of one sort or another. Whether it be the television, the ipad, the computer of the iphone, our lives seem to be so preoccupied with what is happening on screens! There is always a good side to this but I am sure you would agree that we all over do it! There are some of us too that need our prayers with regard to this. The screen has become a real addiction in regard to artificiality pertaining to friendship and the demonic addictions of gambling and pornography.

We also should think of fasting from gossiping. If we think just before we speak we may find we are left with a lot more time on our hands. How much of that time is spent in useless gossiping.

Finally there is “Almsgiving.” Please don’t forget that our Sunday collection is part of our Almsgiving. In these Covid-19 times we are providing different ways of receiving collections. This has been taken up quite quickly in some parishes but in others very slowly. Let us not think that collections are extra to the Mass. They are really part of the Mass.

Of course the Almsgiving, is insisted upon in the Scriptures, to assist those who are poor and on the outer of life. They are part of our family. We reach out to them practically. In the past there was an understanding that Catholics would give up to 10% of their finance in Almsgiving. This was called “Tithing.” We don’t hear much about that these days. Whatever the “name” given this is still an important obligation as part of our Lenten journey.

Let us now continue with the Mass as we “walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living”, especially now as the Eucharist unfolds.