06 August 2014

Neither terrorists nor viruses. . .

Feast of the Transfiguration
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

I'll be the first to confess: I can be a bit jaded, world-weary. That is, when it comes to watching the world and the problems we humans create for ourselves, I am more likely than not to think, “Well, that's hardly surprising.” When the news broke about the Ebola virus in Africa, I was concerned but not surprised. When that Malaysian plane was shot down over the Ukraine on the same day that Israel starting blowing up terrorist tunnels in Gaza – not surprised. This morning I read that the federal database for tracking terrorists in the US contains 1.1 million names and that almost 80% of American parents think that their children's lives will be worse than theirs – not surprised. One of the advantages of being a Catholic in this day and age is that very little shocks us. Why? B/c we have an excellent understanding of what it means to be part of the fallen human race. We know sin. Evil is no stranger. If we stopped there – at our fallen, sinful nature – we would be despairing as well as jaded and world-weary. 

Thankfully, right on time, Christ shows us our gifted end; he shows us where we can end up if we trust in God and surrender ourselves to His will. That's the whole reason for the dramatic revelation on Mt. Tabor – to show us our gifted end, to show us where we can end up if we trust in God and surrender ourselves to His will. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the mountain top to show them what they can become – transfigured, changed in such a way that they become unflinching beacons of God's living glory. As witnesses to this truth of the faith, Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah – prophets of the Law. The Father sends these two prophets to bear up under the truth that Christ is not only His beloved Son but the literal flesh and blood of His promise of eternal life as well. His promise – to keep us with Him always – is given a figure; it's illustrated, changed into a shape, a form, a person. . .the person of Christ. Radiating His Father's glory, Jesus sees the growing despair of his disciples – our worry and dread – and he injects our flagging hope with a simple tonic, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” Rise. And do not be afraid. Our end, our gifted goal is the glory of the Father. And nothing He has planted will ever be uprooted.

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  1. Anonymous7:19 AM

    I think many of us are a bit jaded and world-weary. Upon reading your words, I was once more reminded to rise and do not be afraid. Thank you, Father.

  2. The reminder, "do not be afraid" is always good to hear. The homily itself is one I would place in the "decent" category - there were a couple of parts I really liked, such as the phrase "unflinching beacons of God's living glory" and the explanation of Jesus as the "literal flesh and blood of His promise." But this morning, as you read the Gospel during the Mass, a line jumped out at me which had never jumped out before: "... the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus...." They saw no one but Jesus - I don't think any homily could have competed with that phrase as it affected me this morning :-)!

    And thanks for the prayers! I am most grateful. God bless.

    1. While preparing some assignments for the seminarians during my vacation, I went back and read several of my earlier homilies (2005-2007). I was struck by how unnecessarily complex they were. . .rhetorically complex and intellectually scattered. I enjoyed writing and preaching those homilies, but I get the feeling now that I was writing them for the sheer pleasure of exercising my long-dormant literary muscles. One of my former students from UD sent me a longish critique that I've taken to heart: she noted that I often sound like I'm trying too hard to be profound. I can't say that I've ever noticed myself being profound intentionally (!), but I get what she's saying all too well.

      In response to all this, I've made a conscious effort to streamline and simplify my style. I'm thinking of Paul when he writes to the Corinthians that he speaks to them "not with an eloquence of words" but from the heart. Of course, this doesn't mean that I have to compose simplistic homilies. . .it just means that I need to keep the decorative verbiage to a minimum.

  3. I'll write more later, but simply put, if this is the style of homily you are consciously trying for, then I will probably stop critiquing them for there is almost nothing to critique. It is basic, hits on a good basic idea, but that is it. When listening to the homily this morning my thoughts went elsewhere, which never happens to me during your homilies - there was a point a couple of minutes in where I honestly didn't care what you had to say, then something in the second paragraph brought me back. Sometimes what is from the heart IS an eloquence of words. And Paul could turn a phrase when he wanted to, but he apparently just wasn't a very good preacher :-).

  4. Anonymous12:34 AM

    ^Things to to say in order to make a homiletics professor's head explode.

    1. HA! Well, not explode exactly. . .maybe throb a little.