Cleanup
here and now.

Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.

Another poignant Gospel testimony. Jesus borrows a boat and is teaching people along the shore. We can picture this beautiful day, crowds gathered, wanting to see what was going on, eager to hear this new prophet. The sea – calm. The fishermen continue washing their nets, half paying attention to Jesus, half involved in their duties. Then, Jesus asks one of the fishermen to put our farther. “Lower your nets,” He says. The fishermen are incredulous, there are no fish out here! Maybe they laugh to each other thinking that it is a joke. They lower the nets just to see what would happen. Either He is a prophet or a joke. Then the nets are full, full to overflowing, so full they need another boat. Jesus’ revelation is confirmed in their sight and by their experience. 

Jesus’ revelation, His appearance and His words have brought renewed life; essential change in the lives of those who chose to encounter Him. It was not just netting full of fish or beautiful sunny days for those who accepted Him and listened. Rather, it goes much deeper and is not just long-lasting, but everlasting.

Today’s reading from Isaiah makes the change the Lord brings very clear. If you notice, the words from Isaiah 6 are used as the basis of the priest’s prayer before proclamation of the Gospel and the Sacrament of the Word.

Isaiah saw the Lord and was enveloped in unworthiness. Isaiah is shocked and scared. He says: “Woe is me, I am doomed! Yet the Lord will not let that sense of doom and gloom stand. He sends His angel who takes a coal from the heavenly altar and touches Isaiah’s mouth, making him clean and worthy. Isaiah’s life is renewed. When the Lord asks: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah readily answers: “Here I am, send me!”

What have we done with the renewed and everlasting lives our encounter with Jesus provides? How has Jesus appearance and revelation mattered to us? Are we caught up in fear and trepidation or will we say: “Here I am, send me!” Those who get discipleship see not just where they are, but where their cleaned and renewed everlasting lives will take them.   

you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.

Jesus again enters the public scene. What better place to do that than at a wedding?

From Christmas forward we see the revelation of Jesus increasing. First, His obvious revelation to Mary and Joseph, the first to behold Him. Soon the crowd starts finding their way to Jesus. Helped by angels, the shepherds see Him, believe, and go forth to proclaim Him. Simeon, the priest and Anna, the prophetess, behold Him in the Temple. The wise men, guided by a star, find Him and the nations of the world pay Him homage. The people of Egypt come to know Him as a refugee and exile. Next, it is the inhabitants of Nazareth, the crowd on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the teachers in the Temple, John and his disciples at the Jordan and the heavenly proclamation: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

What’s amazing about the Christmas season is the repeated opportunities the world had and has to encounter Jesus. We don’t just jump from shepherds to Magi to John the Baptist to Cana. Rather, it is thousands of smaller, more intimate encounters with Jesus. It is chances (focus on the plural) to encounter Him, be changed by Him and be something different.

The wedding at Cana is a reminder of the encountering and the changing, as well as the work of those who point to Jesus (at Cana, it was Mary). Cana reminds us that things have changed. We are called to reconnect, to re-recognize the ways in which we are different and the ways we fall short of how different we must be. Things have changed – we are changed by our meeting with Jesus. We have more capacity and room for encounter and change.

At Cana, the usual was changed. The good wine came our later. The disciples came to believe. The usual became wonderfully unusual.

Isaiah reminded us that things would be and must be different. We get a new name – we are called differently. What was usual in us becomes wonderfully unusual. Encounter to change, change to further encounter, more change.

Encounter be changed. Call to mind and bring to action the discipleship of being something different in Jesus. 

Did that
happen?

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.

As we look into the experience of Peter, James, John, and Jesus at the Transfiguration we first face the question of: Why did this happen? Is there a specific purpose for this account? Let’s take a moment to analyze the possibilities.

The Transfiguration was limited to only a few of the apostles. Why weren’t all apostles invited? Often times the Transfiguration is used to point to the fact that Jesus wanted to give His apostles reassurance before his Passion. If they were to face His humiliation and death, and maintain some level of faith, seeing Jesus in His Divine state would provide this reassurance. So, the question, why weren’t the rest of the apostles there, why were they excluded from this Divine reassurance?

Perhaps the Transfiguration was to point to the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Law and the prophecies. The appearance of Moses and Elijah who represent all the Law and the words of the prophets signifies that fact. More than that, Jesus transcends the Law and the Prophet as the Father’s voice directs the apostles, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Again, who would know all this except Jesus and the three apostles?

The whole episode of the Transfiguration adds little to nothing to the public ministry and teaching of Jesus. It had no direct import on the wider public Jesus was trying to draw into the Kingdom. In fact, Jesus told the apostles to keep silent about it, to tell no one, until after His resurrection. Yet it is recorded in three gospels and Peter speaks of it in his second letter. Why so?

When something totally and remarkably unusual happens, a lot of people refuse to believe it. We can see this with the moon landing in 1969. There are people, who to this very day, refuse to believe it happened. The Transfiguration event is certainly amazing, it is certainly beyond our comprehension, and that’s exactly why it is recorded. It is recorded because it is unique to people of faith. We, Christians own this event by our faith in Jesus. Only the faithful get it and are changed by it.

The word “transfigured” means a change to the outside so that it matches what is inside. The remembrance of Jesus’ transfiguration is our call to get it and be changed by it. It is our call to show faith that holds hope greater than fear, that allows us to shine in godly destiny, to overcomes the earthly with glory. Let us then be changed – believing our astounding God holds amazing joyous life for us.

Relationship
changed!

I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother.

Today we encounter Paul’s shortest letter. It is a letter to his friend and co-worker Philemon and his family. This letter is only one chapter containing twenty-five short verses.

Generally any letter from Paul deals with a crisis at hand. In this case the crisis is neither doctrinal nor a confused morality. Philemon and the fellow Christians that meet at his house seem to have their faith on straight. This letter is about one man and his relationship to another. Philemon’s slave Onesimus had run away, perhaps guilty of theft in the process. Onesimus ran off and found Paul in Rome. They had likely met during Paul’s stay with Philemon. Paul brought Onesimus to knowledge of and faith in Jesus. Onesimus spent time helping and serving Paul during his imprisonment in Rome. Now Paul was sending Onesimus back as a changed man.

Paul knew that in sending Onesimus back, Philmon would have to confront the reality of his faith. Paul’s lesson here, his teaching of the Gospel, is focused on getting relationships straight. For Paul, the essential fruit of the Gospel is transformed relationships. Who was Onesimus now – and how was Philemon supposed to relate to him?

Philemon and Onesimus were both to learn that being a Christian means being transformed and being part of a new relationship between oneself, God, the rest of humanity, and the world.

Faith in Jesus is to bring change to our lives. It is not just an interior thing, but also an exterior one. They way we relate and interact with others is to demonstrate our faith – faith truly lived. This changed relationship often stands at odds with the surrounding secular order. Philemon could easily and rightly have Onesimus killed in dozens of horrible ways for even the slightest of offenses, much less running away. Thus the social conflict that emerges from being Christian in an anti-God world. Paul focuses on this interpersonal conflict and the way we must revise and reform our relationships. How will our relationships be changed despite the world’s rules? How will Philemon react? Will Christ or the world rule our relationships?

Paul reminds Philemon of his encounter with the Jesus. So we must be reminded. The strength of our life in Jesus is tested in relationship. In daily crises let Jesus change our lives and our way of relationship.

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Lent – 2014

WeWillBeChanged

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

The Lord appeared in all His heavenly glory before three chosen Apostles at the Transfiguration.

Just a short time before Jesus had asked His disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Eli’jah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.”

The Church Fathers tell us that the primary purpose of this Transfiguration was to clarify, for them, Who and What He is – God come to earth. It was also to reassure them.

Jesus knew the suffering, pain, humiliation, and disgrace He was about to face. He would be whipped and spit on, nailed naked to a tree in front of the entire city, His mother, brothers, and sisters. And, He would die. If He had not provided this glimpse of heaven, of Himself, His followers would have been completely crushed.

To further strengthen them they heard the voice of the Father – “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Going forth from that mountain Peter and James and John had a lot to think about. So do we.

We know that Peter, after having seen and experienced all this, still denied Jesus. Peter, James, and John would fall asleep in the Garden twice on the night of the Lord’s arrest. None listened very well.

We have the benefit of having the testimony of witnesses to this singular event, and the testimony of these witnesses to all Jesus said and did. We know that His death was not it, but that He would return gloriously resurrected. We have the witness of centuries of holy men and women, the saints, and our own ancestors who found strength, comfort, and power through faith and in and following Jesus. Yet, we too fall and fail. We may not outwardly deny Jesus, but we do fall asleep. We falter in our commitment. We fail to listen.

During this season of repentance and self-denial we are presented with the picture of Jesus in glory – the glory He offers to all of us. As Jesus did with the Apostles, He gives us this moment to strengthen our faith while we work toward the changes we must make in our lives. We are called to stay awake, to listen, to be changed. We clearly see not only His glory, but are helped in understanding that the struggles of today are nothing compared to the glory we will see, and change we will share, in the life to come.