Tag Archives: Transfiguration

2nd Sunday of Lent B Jesus is Transfigured

To listen to today’s homily, select the audio file below:

Immediately before the account of his transfiguration on the mountain, which we read in Mark’s gospel this Sunday, Jesus and his disciples go up north to the villages around Caesarea Philippi, a major gentile city of the day. Mount Hermon, the great snow capped mountain that’s the principal water source for the Lake of Galilee and the Jordan River dominates that region. In bible, mountains are places close to God, where God reveals himself.

So here Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Some say you’re Elijah, John the Baptist come back from the dead, the disciples say. “Who do you say I am?” he said. “You are the Messiah,” Peter replied.

But as Jesus goes on to tell them he’s going to “suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes and be killed and rise after three days,” Peter stops him. No, that’s not going to happen to you. That’s not the Messiah I mean. Jesus turns to him and says “Get behind me Satan, you are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”

‘You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” Mark’s gospel, more than the others, insists that despite his teaching and the wonders Jesus works, his own disciples whom you would expect would know him best, don’t understand him that well. They think as human beings do. Of course we do too.

And so Jesus takes them up the mountain and is temporarily transfigured before them. It’s a temporary experience. A brief encounter. His clothes become a dazzling white. The great traditional figures of Moses and Elijah appear; a terrifying cloud overshadows them, a voice says “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” That’s the way the gospels describe it.

The disciples want more. Peter wants to set up tents so they can stay there. But then it’s over. They only have a glimpse of the One who walks with them. After they come down from the mountain they still don’t understand him.

But, still, they follow him.

The mystery of the transfiguration of Jesus reminds us that God periodically reveals himself to us. Periodically,we have intimations,  glimpses of God. We can’t create that experience on our own. God makes himself known. In St. Luke’s account of the transfiguration, he seems to indicate that prayer is one way to enter God’s presence.

And so we do all we can, we wait for him like  the disciples, but we’re absorbed in our human thinking. “Thinking like human beings.”

The mystery of the transfiguration also offers the promise of something that awaits us, something that is permanent, and not temporary. “Follow me.” Jesus says. We try to get ready for him. God will come, but here in this life he comes when he wills. We wait, we watch, we listen.  Jesus saysa Kingdom is coming, where the limitation of human thoughts and actions passes away and our waiting is ended and we shall see God face to face, not for a time but for eternity.
“This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

The first reading for today is from the Book of Genesis. It begins “God put Abraham to the test.” He’s tempted. He takes his only son up a mountain to kill him. What a test that is to our human way of thinking. His only son, his beloved son. Everything he put his hopes in.

For Abraham this was the greatest temptation he or anyone could face. Everything’s lost; nothing more to live for. But God tells him  he’s not lost everything. No, he hasn’t. Go beyond your human thinking. God is for us, not against us.

Father Quentin Amrhein (1926-2014)




Yesterday I preached the homily at the Mass for Christian Burial for Father Quentin Amrhein, a Passionist priest who died at Queens Hospital, New York City, on July 31st and was buried at St. Paul’s Monastery, Pittsburgh, Pa., August 7, 2014. He was a member of the community at Immaculate Conception Monastery, Jamaica, New York, at the time of his death.

“Each of us is a witness to the gospel; we’re living gospels, however imperfect we may seem. What gospel did we see in Quentin?

We’ve been reading the parables of Jesus recently at Mass; the parable of the sower; the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, the mustard seed, the parable of the net cast into the sea. I wonder if Quentin’s life might tell what some of those parables mean. Parables need to be explained and sometimes the best explanation comes, not from books, but from people who are living gospels.

God the Sower is one of Jesus’ most important parables. He’s the sower who sows seed in the field of humanity. He never stops sowing; from the first moment of creation, from the first moment of our lives, God is at work sowing good seed. Sometimes the growth is quick and obvious, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes the growth is delayed, but all our life long, God is the sower sowing good seed. And he doesn’t stop.

In a poem called “Putting in the Seed” Robert Frost describes what he calls “a farmer’s love affair with the earth.” It’s spring and getting dark, but the farmer keeps working his field. Someone from the house goes to fetch him home. Supper’s on the table, yet he’s a

“ Slave to a springtime passion for the earth.

How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed

On through the watching for that early birth

When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,

The sturdy seedling with arched body comes

Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.”

Isn’t that a good image of God: a Sower, passionately in love with our world, casting saving grace on it in season and out, and watching it grow?

God blessed Father Quentin. He came from a good Pittsburgh family with strong Passionist roots. His grand uncle, Father Joseph Amrhein, served the Passionist community in Rome and in the United States. His uncle, Father Leonard Amrhein, was a missionary in China and then the Philippines. His younger brother, Raphael, was a Passionist priest, and his sister, Mary, was a Passionist Nun who died a missionary in Japan. Quentin was always proud and grateful for his family.

He was blessed by God with a keen mind and an exceptional memory. Those who knew him marveled at the way he recalled in detail things that took place 20, 30, 40 years ago. I remember him telling me the line-up of the 1944 Pittsburgh Pirates.

But much of Quentin’s life was clouded by sickness of one kind or another, which prevented him from doing many of the ministries a Passionist priest does. He loved preaching, yet for many years he wasn’t able to preach. He loved to study, and yet sickness kept him from doing that as well.

What we noticed in him in recent years, though, was not the sickness but the way he persevered through the suffering and disappointments that sickness brings. He wasn’t beaten by it; he fought the good fight. He was an exceptional fighter. At our wake service for him in Jamaica, a doctor and members of the medical community who cared for him through recent life-threatening crises spoke admiringly of Quentin’s determination to live. He came back again and again from death’s door.

How did he do it? Was it simply him? Was it his strong personality, good constitution, or German determination? We usually explain things like this in purely human terms.

Yet, if the gospel is at work in us, was God at work in him? Do we see in him God the Sower tending the life of his seed and seeing it grow?

Last week before he died, Father Quentin celebrated and preached at the community Mass at our Jamaica monastery. He hadn’t done that in years. The thirty of us who were there that day will remember that Mass for a long time, I think. It was a beautiful Mass: we were watching a promise come true. A resurrection, a Lazarus come to life.

It was like watching the birth of a seed, as Frost describes it in his poem:

“The sturdy seedling with arched body comes

Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.”

I said to Father Quentin after that Mass, “ I hope you are going to do that again.” “Yes, I am,” he said, “ the vicar has me down for celebrating Mass for the Feast of the Transfiguration.” Then he went on to tell me with his usual enthusiasm, how the Lord shares his glory with us as he did Moses and Elijah and the apostles. But first, we have to follow him in suffering, as he told his apostles when he predicted his passion to them.

Last Wednesday was the Feast of the Transfiguration, but Quentin was not going to preach that day. God was going to bring him up the mountain to share his glory with him.

We’re living gospels and Quentin was a gospel to us. He’s a reminder that God the Sower is always at work in the world, in a world where we think that people with long term disabilities are going nowhere, in a world where we think that life ends with youth, in a world where we think that suffering has no meaning, where we think there’s no resurrection and God has given up on us.

The Gospel of Quentin. I know he would be the last to call it his gospel, because he saw it as the gospel of Jesus, whom he served and love and prayed to and relied on all his life. Today as we commend him to God we read from the Gospel of John a passage he himself chose for this Mass.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

The seed has fallen to the ground, but it will bear much fruit.”

(Vincent Van Gogh painted the Sower (above) many times and found the subject filled with spiritual significance. He once said “one begins to see more clearly that life is a kind of sowing time, and the harvest is not here.”).

2nd Sunday of Lent

Lent 1
en español
for Swahili
Matthew 17,1-9

The Transfiguration of Jesus takes place at the midpoint of Matthew’s gospel, after Jesus announces to his disciples that “he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Take up your cross and follow me, he tells his disciples.
“God forbid, Lord,” says Peter. who doesn’t understand this at all. We find it hard to understand too.

Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain where they experience him glorified, surrounded by Moses and Elijah. It’s a transitory experience, even though Peter, awed by the vision, asks to prolong it. After falling to the ground, the disciples looked up and “saw no one except Jesus himself alone.” But the experience strengthens them for the journey they’re called to make.

“The main purpose of the transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of Christ’s disciples,” says Pope Leo the Great. God doesn’t want us to be weighed down by suffering.

So, like Peter, James and John, Jesus takes us up a mountain throughout our lives to strengthen us as we share in his cross. What mountain do we ascend? St. Paul of the Cross and other spiritual guides say it’s the mountain of prayer, where we experience intimations of God’s glory, brief encounters, transfigurations of a lesser kind. We’re strengthened as we pray.

“Don’t think that the trials and crosses you experience turn you to go another way. Trials don’t indicate you’re straying from God. We know it’s just the opposite from the scriptures we read and the saints we honor. The way to go is the way our Savior gives us grace to go. Saint Bernard wasn’t the first to know this truth when he said: ‘The cross is the way to life, the way to glory, the way to the Kingdom, and the way to the inhabited City.’”

(Letter 1194)

Lord Jesus,
lead me to that mountain place
of stronger light and surer sound
where I may see your glory.
Strengthen me through prayer.

Light and truth,
bright as blinding snow,
whom Peter, James and John saw,
“Bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling place.”

en español
2do domingo de cuaresma (Año A)
Mateo 17.1-9

La Transfiguración de Jesús ocurre en el medio del Evangelio de Mateo, después de Jesús haber anunciado a sus discípulos que ” él tendría que ir a Jerusalén, y pasar grandes sufrimientos bajo las manos de los ancianos, los jefes de los sacerdotes y los maestros de la ley, ser matado, y al tercer día resucitar.”

Carguen con su cruz y síganme, les dice a sus apóstoles. ” Diós no lo quiera, Señor!” le dice Pedro, que no entiende esto en lo absoluto. Nosotros lo encontramos muy difícil de entender también.

Seis días después Jesús toma a Pedro, a Santiago y a Juán a una montaña donde ellos tienen la experiencia de verlo a él glorificado, rodeado por Moisés y Elías. Esta parece ser una experiencia transitoria; después de postrarse en la tierra, ellos levantaron la cabeza y ” ya no vieron a nadie, sino a Jesús solo.” Pero esta experiencia los fortalece para el resto de la jornada que les espera.

“El propósito principal de la transfiguración de Jesús es de remover el escándolo de la cruz de los corazones de los discípulos de Cristo,” dice el Papa Leo el Grande. Diós no quiere que nosotros seamos oprimidos por el sufrimiento.

Así, como a Pedro, Santiago y Juán, Jesús nos lleva arriba a una montaña durante todas nuestras vidas mientras compartimos su cruz. ¿Qué montaña es la que ascendemos ? San Pablo de la Cruz y otros guías espirituales dicen que es la montaña de la oración, donde experimentamos intimaciones de la gloria de Diós, encuentros breves, y transfiguraciones pequeñas que nos fortalecen.

Nos dice San Pablo de la Cruz ; ” No créas que las pruebas y las cruces que experimentas te viran hacia otro camino. Las pruebas no son indicaciones de que te estás descarriando de Diós. Nosotros sabemos que lo opuesto es cierto basado en las Escrituras que leemos y los santos que veneramos. La ruta que tomar es el camino por donde Diós nos da la gracia para ir. San Bernardo no fue el primero en reconocer esta verdad cuando exclamó; ‘ La cruz es el camino a la vida, el camino a la gloria, el camino al Reino, y el camino a la Ciudad Habitada.’ ” (Carta 1194)

Señor Jesús,
guíame hacia ese lugar montañoso
de fuerte luz y sonido claro
donde pueda ver tu gloria.
Fortaléceme a través de la oración.

Luz y verdad, brillante como la nieve deslumbradora,
a quién Pedro, Santiago y Juán vieron.
” Tráeme a tu monte sagrado ,
al lugar de tu morada.”

Tafakari ya jumapili ya pili
Kugeuka sura kwa Yesu kulitokea katika kipindi muhimu cha Enjili ya Mathayo, baada ya Yesu kuwatangazia wafuasi wake kwamba “atapaswa kwenda Yerusalem na kupitia mateso makali katika mikono ya wazee wa kanisa, makuhani wakuu na mafarisayo, atauwa na siku ya tatu atafufuka.”

Chukua msalaba wako na unifuate, anawaambia wafuasi wake. “Mungu apishe mbali, Bwana, “alisema Peter, ambae hakulielewa hili hata kidogo. Inakuwa vigumu kwetu pia kulielewa.

Siku sita baadae, Yesu akamchukua Petro, Yacobo na Yohana kwenye mlima ambapo waliuona utukufu wa Yesu, kando yake wakiwepo Musa na Elia. Ilionekana kuwa kipindi cha mpito ambacho wasingerefusha zaidi. Baada ya kuanguka chini, waliinua macho, na hawakumuona yeyote ila Yesu peke yake.” Hali hiyo iliwaimarisha kwa kipindi cha safari yote waliyoifanya.

Lengo kuu la kugeuka sura ilikuwa ni kuondoa uzushi juu ya msalaba katika mioyo ya wafuasi wa Kristo,” Anasema Papa Leo Mkuu.

Ni katika mlima gani yesu anatuchukua sisi ili kutuimarisha katika safari ya kuibeba misalaba yetu? Mt. Paulo Wa Msalaba pamoja na viongozi wengine wa kiroho wanasema ni mlima wa sala ambapo tunapata ukamilifu wa utukufu wa Mungu, kwa kifupi tunakutana na utukufu wa Mungu.

The Transfiguration of Jesus

Today’s Feast of the Transfiguration was celebrated as far back as the 4th century by the Syrian church. Then, it spread to other eastern churches, and finally in the 15th century came into our Roman liturgy, probably through western pilgrims to the Holy Land who visited the great mountain shrine of the Transfiguration in Galilee and brought the feast back to Europe. Some of our feasts have come to us like this– from pilgrims to the Holy Land.

All three synoptic gospels have the account of Jesus ascending the mountain with Peter, James and John after he has announced his passion and death. He’s transfigured before them. His face is changed in appearance,“dazzling like the sun,” Matthew’s gospel says. “His clothes are dazzling white;” the other gospels say, reflecting a body we can’t look at directly. It happens “while he was praying,” Luke says, who always sees prayer opening up the mysteries of God.

The mountain in the scriptures is a favorite place where God reveals himself. It’s where you can take in everything, everywhere. Later this week in our readings from Deuteronomy (4,32-40), Moses tells the children of Israel to remember that God’s voice came from the heavens and spoke to them from the mountain of Horeb and led them by a cloud to a land that was their heritage.

Now, God speaks from the Mount of Transfiguration. A cloud envelopes Jesus and his disciples. “This is my chosen Son; listen to him,” God says. “Keep this mystery in mind,” Peter says in his letter; it’s “like a lamp shining in a dark place, until the first streaks of dawn appear and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Our liturgy today tells us that Jesus “revealed his glory to his disciples to strengthen them for the scandal of the cross,” that’s the dark place God wishes to lighten. “His glory shone in a body like our own, to show that the Church, which is his body, would one day share his glory,” our liturgy says. So our bodies share this mystery with him.

Moses and Elijah are there speaking to him, Luke says, “about his passage, which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.” The passage from Egypt to the Promised Land will take place now through the mystery of his passion and resurrection.

The disciples fall silent after experiencing this mystery. They can’t explain it, even if they wanted to. So they fall back on the familiar stories of Moses and Elijah who spoke to God face to face. The mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mystery we anticipate, we cannot explain. Later, his disciples will say simply: “We have seen the Lord. He is risen, as he said.”

The Transfiguration of Jesus

Feasts like the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, which we celebrate today, are gifts from God, helping us to recall who we are and what we’re meant to be. We so easily forget.

Here’s a short excerpt from a sermon byAnastatius of Sinai from today’s Office of Readings.

“Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.

It is indeed good to be here, as you have said, Peter. It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here for ever. What greater happiness or higher honour could we have than to be with God, to be made like him and to live in his light?

Therefore, since each of us possesses God in his heart and is being transformed into his divine image, we also should cry out with joy: It is good for us to be here – here where all things shine with divine radiance, where there is joy and gladness and exultation; where there is nothing in our hearts but peace, serenity and stillness; where God is seen.

For here, in our hearts, Christ takes up his abode together with the Father, saying as he enters: Today salvation has come to this house. With Christ, our hearts receive all the wealth of his eternal blessings, and there where they are stored up for us in him, we see reflected as in a mirror both the first fruits and the whole of the world to come.”