Transfiguration of the Lord Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee


Today Peter, James, and John have a special divine experience on the mountain. Jesus leads them into this sacred scene and place. And then astounding events are unfolded before their eyes: “he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” And Moses who is the founder of the Israelites Laws—Torah, and Elijah who represents the prophets appear and converse with Jesus. Peter is in awe and responds by acknowledging, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He doesn’t know what he is saying because of wonder and awe that this divine experience brings. And then the cloud, which is the ancient sign of the very presence of God, overshadows them and a voice comes down from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” The disciples gaze in awe after they get a glimpse of Jesus’ glorious divine figure.

When I reflect on today’s Gospel which gives us an important message, I wonder where I—like the disciples--find Jesus’ divine figure in my life. Have you been to Mt. Tabor where Jesus is gloriously transfigured in today’s Gospel? I have been there. Before I visited the Holy Land, I thought the mountain was big. The reason why I was assuming the mountain was big was because that is where Jesus reveals His divinity before the disciples and the two saints who appear and converse with Jesus. It was a sacred place. I thought the mountain was supposed to be big. But it is a small mountain. You can get to the top by car. The mountain looks normal like other mountains. There are no special or unique signs that indicate the transfiguration took place. And there is a church sitting on top of the mountain in commemoration of Jesus’ transfiguration. Of course, the church is decorated with beautiful pictures and splendid sacred things and painted with inspirational frescos and mosaics. There is a fresco painted on the rounded ceiling above the altar of Jesus floating in the air raising both His arms, Moses and Elijah are on the cloud standing on both sides of Jesus, and the three disciples are on the ground in awe and wonder. But the church looks run of the mill compared to many other beautiful basilicas in Europe. There is nothing special on the mountain.

When I had silent time inside the church, I thought to myself, “The mountain and the church look normal. This probably tells me that where I can experience Jesus’ divinity is probably in my normal life. My life is full of normality and routines. But that is where Jesus is transfigured. My normality is where I can get glimpses of Jesus’ presence.” Often we don’t see Jesus in our lives. We don’t recognize His divine figure in our lives like the disciples.   

The disciples have been following Jesus for a long time but they don’t know who Jesus really is. They eat, preach, walk, travel with Jesus but they have no idea about Jesus’ divinity. But today’s momentary divine experience of transfiguration opens their eyes and makes them see Jesus’ true figure. Likewise, we have to ask ourselves if we see Jesus’ presence in our lives and do we realize how intensively Jesus transfigures us by giving Himself in the form of bread and wine? Today we are celebrating Jesus’ transfiguration. We are required to remind ourselves that Jesus is being transfigured in our daily lives. We have to realize we are living in divine moments of encountering the transfigured Jesus in every Eucharist.

Jesus always invites us to this special and sacred moments like the three disciples. When we reply to Jesus’ invitation, we will be able to have spiritual awakening moments in our daily lives. Yes. Sometimes we see glimpses of God in the beauty of a fine day, beautiful mountains covered by snow, a gorgeous sunset and sunrise. We get glimpses of God when we look back over our lives and what we couldn’t understand in the past makes sense now. We see glimpses of God when we see someone making a sacrifice to help somebody else. We see glimpses of God when a passage from the Bible or a homily strikes a chord in our hearts. We get a glimpse of God when we spend time in prayer and experience the loving presence of God in our lives. We get more than just a glimpse of God when we receive the body of Jesus in Holy Communion.

These glimpses are made in today’s readings. The readings tell us how glorious God is. Daniel describes what God’s throne looks like. “His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool; his throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire.” And St. Peter says in today’s reading, “For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘this is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” The glorious God and the transfiguration of Jesus in today’s readings prompt us to become a part of God’s glory. The Transfiguration asks us to transform ourselves into Jesus’ glorious figure as well as glimpsing His presence. Even though we live our normal lives, we are required to climb the mountain where God’s presence is found and say, “Lord, it is good that we are here with you.”

The top of a mountain is a sacred place for encountering God in the Bible. God often chooses a mountain top to reveal Himself and His plans: Mt. Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, Mt. Calvary and Mt. Tabor. Mountains are symbolic of a holy place for encountering God. Therefore, beyond getting glimpses of God, we are asked to climb the mountain with Jesus and experience the transfiguration and enjoy staying with Jesus there. This is the moment of the perfect union with God. This is the purpose of our faith. Today we are celebrating this and asking God to transfigure us like Jesus, brightening like flames of fire. 



Vigil Service for Sister Loretta Luecke - Homily: Deacon Bill Finnegan

The readings for this Vigil Service for Sr. Loretta are beautiful and meaningful readings for all of us gathered here today.  The first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is a blueprint for how each of us is called to live our life as a Catholic.  St. John’s Gospel reading indicates what awaits us if we live in accordance with God’s will for us.

It is impossible, on this day, to hear that first reading and not think of Sr. Loretta.  Recall St. Paul’s opening words of the reading:

No one lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.  For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

This is exactly how Sr. Loretta lived and died.  She, and Sr. Joan (and you seldom saw one without the other), decided early on to dedicate their lives to Christ.  While other teenage girls, in the early fifties, were thinking of boys and dances, these two young woman were thinking about how they could serve the Lord. 

A life of prayer was important to them.  Indeed, as I recall, they chose the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, Missouri, because, among other reasons, they prayed the Breviary daily.  Such was the importance of prayer.

Diane, Cindy & I met the sisters almost as soon as we arrived in Alaska, and I have had the pleasure of working with one or both of them ever since.    Sr. Loretta loved Alaska, and the parishes in which she served here.  She served at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, our neighboring parish, for over 10 years, before coming here to Holy Cross in 2002. 

She served the people of Holy Cross through some trying times for our parish - and she was the symbol of stability and continuity that allowed the parish to thrive in spite of not having an assigned pastor for so many years.  She held us together. 

Sister was a force to be reckoned with - a great administrator.  But she also had a wonderful sense of humor.  Those of you who have heard her and Sr. Joan speak about their early life as novices, laughing the whole time, know what I am talking about. 

Those who shared morning coffee with her after daily Mass also got to appreciate her sense of humor.  But after a few stories, she would then announce, “Time to get to work”, and the daily life of the parish would begin again.

She will be sorely missed by all the members of Holy Cross, but especially by the small children who would ever so politely approach her office after Mass, each weekend, to ask for a piece of chocolate from the ever present candy dish.  And you had to be polite and say, “please”, or she wouldn’t give me a piece - I mean, she would not give the child a piece of candy until they did.

On the back of the worship aid you will find a verse from the book of the minor prophet Micah, which she, herself, picked years ago.  It reads, “This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with God.”  From my observation, this is exactly what Sr. Loretta did for her entire life. 

The Gospel today promises eternal life in the heavenly kingdom for those who hear the Word of God, believe in the One Who sent Jesus, and lead a life filled with good deeds.  Such a person, when she dies, the reading states, “has passed from death to life”.  That is what we believe has happened to our beloved Sr. Edward Marie, as she was named when she became a novice in 1953, and when she professed her vows, almost 62 years ago. 

She is now in the eternal presence of God, but she is also enjoying the loving embraces of her father, Edward, who died one day after her 15th birthday; her mother, Agnes, who died four days after her 22nd birthday, and just over a year after sister professed her vows; and of Fr. Ernie, the founding pastor of Holy Cross Parish, and a longtime friend.

She and Sr. Joan have been friends since high school, and have been virtually inseparable since coming to Alaska.  As most of you know, Sr. Loretta never liked to fly, and Sr. Joan was her comfort when she did fly.  They will take their final flight together later this week, as Sr. Joan escorts the body of her lifelong friend to her final resting place at the Motherhouse in O’Fallon.

May perpetual light shine upon Sr. Loretta; and may she rest in peace.  Amen.


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