Sunday, February 21, 2016

Homily On The Feast of Transfiguration

Peter, James and John had gone with Jesus to the mountain to pray. Unlike Jesus,  the three apostles soon fell asleep. (We are not surprised because we read elsewhere of Jesus' disciples sleeping while he prayed)

They were awakened by the sound of three people talking nearby. As they rubbed their eyes open they were surprised to see Jesus talking with two men. Jesus’ face was aglow and his garments were bright white in color. Suddenly they were wide awake.

Jesus and the two men were talking about what would soon happen in Jerusalem, his death and resurrection. Peter begins babbling about putting up tents but he doesn’t make mush sense. Suddenly the mountain is covered by a cloud and all fall silent.

Then they hear:

“This is my chosen son: Listen to Him.”

James had been a disciple of John the Baptist and may have been present two years earlier when Jesus was Baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. On that occasion he would have had heard a voice from heaven say:

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 

At the Baptism the voice from heaven addressed Jesus and addresses him as Son. Now, on the mountain, the heavenly voice addresses Jesus’ disciples and commands them to listen to Jesus.

When the cloud clears they are alone with Jesus  and they are speechless about seeing their leader talking with the two great men from the history of Israel, Moses represent the Law and Elijah the prophets.

Now that we have recovered our speech, what are we to do with this command of God to listen to Jesus?

Since Pope Francis has designated this year as “The Year of Mercy” lets see what Jesus says about Mercy. In Luke 6:35 Jesus says to a large crowd:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”   [Luke 6:36]

Jesus always gives his commands in the form of a cross. A vertical beam referring to our relationship with God { “|”}  and a horizontal beam referring to our relationship with each other {” –“}.

He does the same here:

“Be merciful (to each other), just as (God) is merciful to (you)”     [Paraphrase of Luke 6:36]

Jackie Francois-Angel, a popular Catholic Speaker and youth minister, says,

 “Thus, every time we go to Mass and say, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy,” we know that the God who is relieving us of a heart of misery is also empowering us by his Holy Spirit to go and do the same for others.”[1]

Jesus goes on to list seven examples of this horizontal (person to person) mercy. The first three of these are [2]:

  - Stop judging and you will not be judged.
  - Stop condemning and
you will not be condemned.
  - Forgive and you will be forgiven.  [Luke 6:38]

Today I want to talk about one aspect, Jesus’ fourth example, forgiveness.

Every day in our daily prayer and at every Mass we renew our commitment to this command when we pray the Our Father:

“forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”

Forgiveness on the horizontal level (person to person) has two aspects: (1) forgiving another person and (2) being forgiven by another person.

Today I will be talking about the first of these as most of us find this the more difficult thing to do.

I want to be clear about what  FORGIVENESS  is and is not:

If you’re like me, it’s hard to forgive. It helps to keep a few things in mind:

Forgiveness is not an emotion, it’s an act of the will; an act of love.
                                               You don’t have to feel forgiving to forgive.

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. That would be denial.

Forgiving doesn’t mean excusing the wrong or saying it doesn’t matter.
           Things that don’t matter don’t need to be forgiven.
            Forgiveness says, “I know what you did. It hurt. But I won’t hold it against you.”

Forgiveness is letting go of your “right” to be right. It means offering up your anger,
                                 Letting go of your “right” to revenge – and leaving justice to God.

Finally, don’t confuse forgiveness with reconciliation.
          Reconciliation requires repentance – but forgiveness does not.
          From the cross, Jesus forgave people who had not repented and maybe never would.
          We must do the same.

Practical Steps to be Forgiving

From my experience, I offer three practical steps to help you forgive:

Take your mind off of the person you can’t forgive. Do not allow yourself to grumble, or justify your situation, or feel sorry for yourself, or dream about ways to get even. Kill those thoughts as soon as you see them coming.

Remember that you are a sinner too. Recall specific ways you’ve needed forgiveness. Ask God to help you, if you can, go to Confession, The grace of that Sacrament will help. Meditate on the Psalms, many of which deal with forgiveness. Practice being grateful for the mercy God has shown you.

 Every time that person comes to mind, say the words “I forgive you” whether you feel it or not. Make it an act of the will and ask the Holy Spirit to pour God’s love into your heart. Over time, start asking God to bless the person. Romans 12:14 says “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Force yourself to do it. Make it a habit. And watch how that sets your heart free.

Turning to The Vertical Beam
 (Our Relationship with God)

Our relationship with God also involves forgiveness. Since our God is outside of time and space he already knows our sins and has already forgiven us.   Why then does Jesus and the Church teach that we must come to him for healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession, as us older folks called it)?

This Sacrament is called a Sacrament of Healing. Healing from the hurt and guilt  of  division (sin) requires the following:

Reparation – repairing the damage
        Apology – regretting the harm / confession
Repentance – Revise your Conscience
Penance – making repentance visible
Forgiveness – seeking it, receiving it

I began this topic by talking about forgiving. We are now talking about BEING FORGIVEN.

On the human relationship or horizontal level all five of these actions are required to bring about reconciliation even among those who do not believe in God. Jesus knew this fact about our humanity and requires these same actions to bring about reconciliation with God on the vertical axis.

Truly the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the Sacrament of Mercy because it heals the wounds of sin and guilt.

On Friday March 4 there will be Festival of Mercy and Forgiveness for our area at Our Lady of Victory in Fergus Falls. From 10am to 10 pm the church will be open for prayer examination of conscience, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the performance of penance and Adoration. Please take advantage of this opportunity to reconcile with God in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

Let Us Pray:

Lord Have Mercy  - (R) Lord Have Mercy
Christ Have Mercy  - (R) Christ Have Mercy
LORD Have Mercy  - (R) Lord Have Mercy

[1] Jackie Francois-Angel, “What Does Mercy Mean?”
5 December 2015 on Dynamic Catholic Web Site:

[2} A listing of all seven of Jesus' examples of horizontal (person to person) mercy can be found here:

© Copyright 2016 Joseph E. Hilber. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author. This post may be printed and shared  with those without internet access if no changes are made to the original text.

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