Deacon Jim’s Homily on the Second Sunday of Lent
Seeing is believing. Some things are just too incredible to believe without seeing them ourselves. The disciple, Thomas, had that problem after the resurrection. Without personally seeing the risen Lord, he could not believe. When Jesus appeared to him, he became a believer. Jesus commended him for his belief but praised those who believe without seeing.
This week scriptures give us two profound events. First, we hear of Abraham, the Father of Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faith. This old man with an elderly wife was promised an immeasurable legacy. Who could believe such a thing? Then Jesus shows his divine brilliance to the disciples. If they wondered, and I bet they did, about the reality of Jesus as more than a man, this appearance with Moses and Elijah reset their beliefs.
As an ancestor of Abraham, we share in God’s great offer. God says, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” We promise to love God above all things in return for God’s great love. This is the foundation of our human relationship with God. As we read scripture, we understand human existence within this relationship. We call it a covenant. There have been ups and downs throughout history as we live the covenant. At times, our free will drives us to reject the ways of God. We want to do our own thing. Then God demands repairs. We have to wake up and come home. But without fail, God holds up his side of the covenant. That’s the underlying theme of the entire Old Testament.
Beginning with Adam and Eve, then the Flood. Finally, God selected a slice of humanity to shape and coach into actively living his covenant. That started when God singled out Abram renamed Abraham to be the foundation of a chosen people. God made what seemed like an impossible promise: Abraham, look up at the sky and count the stars. So shall your descendants be. We now see the truth of that in the billions of people who are decedents of Abraham.
When it comes to believing the unbelievable, Mystic Ruth Burrows says God touches us in a way that is too deep for words, thoughts, and even feelings. Faith is more profound than thoughts and feelings. She says what we know. We all have experiences beyond what we can explain. We know things that we cannot think, sense things that we cannot feel, and often make decisions based on something beyond our imagination. Faith tends to operate like this. It is not the stuff of thought or feelings. It’s something deeper.
Think about what makes us do what we do. It comes down to three parts of our human person: the head, heart, and gut. The first two are easy to grasp: The head is where we think and imagine. The heart is where we feel and experience emotion. The gut is something more profound. Think about what we say when we get down to making a hard choice. “I know it in my gut.” Or, “My gut says.” This gut incite is beyond feeling. In the gut, we sense more than feel. Some might call it intuition or conscience. Our conscience is the ultimate steering wheel in our relationship with God.
As Christians, we strive to build an informed conscience. We come to places like this and hear the Word. We read scripture. We think about right and wrong. This is the basis for an informed conscience that we call gut. The gut is more than intellect and heart. The gut is our “ought to do” center. It’s where we sort out the things that we “have to” do rather than those we would want to do. The challenge is our feelings sometimes go against our gut. This is what we do when we succumb to temptation.
We all have some experience of this. Our emotions tell us what we would like to do. Sometimes this does not align with what we know we ought to do. Our gut can bail us out if we let it. When we follow that gut or informed conscience, goodness will prevail. God’s love will prevail. That is the promise given to Abraham and the promise given to us. We have to allow that love to fill our heads and hearts as our gut tells us what we ought to do.
This is where gut and faith meet. Faith is trust and love beyond what we can see. Abraham had to trust the practically unbelievable, and so do we. Faith engages the head and heart giving us the strength to follow conscience. Faith provides us with the courage to follow the gut inside us, telling us what is right even when uncomfortable. But we have to feed that gut the good food that God gives us. We find it in prayer, scripture, and fellow believers. As we spend time with God, we get some brilliance that provides a new level of belief now and then.
In the Gospel, the disciples got such a moment. The Transfiguration of Jesus into his divine brilliance in the company of Elijah and Moses was profound. On that day, Peter, James, and John saw the timeless existence of Jesus. The centuries between Jesus and Moses meant nothing. Think about what it must have been like to be there. The disciples saw Jesus in a light so far beyond human head and heart. The only reaction could be, wow, in my gut, I believe!
The road from Abraham’s encounter with God to the disciples’ encounter with the transfigured Jesus was long. We humans, at times, are strong in faith. At other times we slip away. All the while, the covenant goes on.
We recognize that “we have our citizenship in heaven,” but in the meantime, we exercise our citizenship on earth for the coming of the kingdom of God. That’s living the covenant. In Lent, we do things that control our desire to have things our way instead of God’s way. Our extra prayer in Lent gives us a chance to have our transfiguration moments when we see the divine in a new, clearer light.
Pope Francis reflected on the Transfiguration and gives us a challenge. He tells us to take that event into our gut. He says, “That feeling of Peter that “it is well that we are here” must not become spiritual laziness. We cannot remain on the mountain and enjoy the bliss of this encounter on our own. Just like Peter, we have to get on with life. For those disciples, the transfiguration brilliance was gone in a moment. The disciples had to get on with the mission of Christ. When we get our brilliant moments, so do we.
Looking back on some recent week’s scriptures, we have to be genuine in faith. Our faith must take us out into the world. It is so much more than ritual prayers and liturgies. Faith never means avoiding life. We are called to experience Christ so that, enlightened by his light, we might take it and make it shine everywhere. Faith lives in places like this. By that, I mean the whole of Molokai and beyond. Faith draws strength from beyond this world to feed our lives in this world. How we live should be a light to build lights in other people’s hearts. That is our mission as a Christian.
So, think about what others see in you regarding faith. Do you provide a light, an illumination, that shows the brilliance of Christ? Do they see Christ in what we say and do? We can bring the transfigured Christ to others. God will feed our gut to guide us. The good news is the more we do it, the easier it gets. The brilliance of Christ, the truth of the covenant will get clearer and clearer. We’ll know it in our gut. All we have to do is follow that gut and carry that brilliance to the world.
May the light of Christ shine in you. AMEN