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LET US WALK IN THE LIGHT OF CHRIST AND AVOID THE PATHS OF DARKNESS
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, Second Sunday of Lent, February 21, 2016
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18, Psalm 26, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 9:28-36


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzlingly white" (Luke 9:29).


This is Jesus' transfiguration. St. Matthew says, "And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light" (Matthew 17:2). And St. Mark says, "He was transfigured before them, and his garments became glisteningly white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them" (Mark 9:2-3).


This was a significant revelation of Jesus' glory to his apostles. It revealed to them his true identity as a divine person with a divine as well as a human nature. This would greatly help them during his passion and death on the cross, when he would appear to be merely a weak human being. This experience of his transfiguration would help them persevere in their faith in him during those hard times. And, in fact, it helps us too to persevere when we are tempted if we keep our eyes focused on the glorious, transfigured person of Jesus Christ, our Savior.


The transfiguration is also meant to show his apostles, as well as us, the glory that we too are destined to share as his followers, because of our faith in him. This glory, in fact, begins even now through our faith. This glorious transformation begins the moment that we truly put our faith in Jesus Christ for our justification and salvation, with a correct Biblical understanding of exactly what justification means; and it will be completed when Christ returns in glory on the clouds of heaven with all his saints in great light to consummate all things, for then "the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43).


But our transfiguration already begins now in our life of faith. In the first reading from Genesis we hear the key verse that Abraham "believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). God considered him as righteous, because of his faith. This is already the beginning of our transformation or transfiguration or metamorphosis in glory. St. Paul quotes this text and then tells us, "But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5 NKJV).


The fact is that we are not transformed as a result of our works, but rather because of our faith, in the first instance. God reckons righteousness to one who believes. The one who works is Christ. He does his work on the cross, the work of making reparation for our sins, freeing us from their burden, freeing us from any need to make further reparation for them before God, so that God simply declares us to be righteous, not guilty, acquitted, exonerated, in the right, and free to go, our price having been paid, our reparation having been duly and justly made for us on the cross; and God reckons our faith to us as righteousness, because of what Christ did for us on the cross. So we go forth justified by God through our faith "apart from works" (Romans 4:6). This already makes us resplendent in God's sight, and in reality, and it is Christ's work, not ours.


Then we must cooperate with this free gift of justification and avoid temptation and try to control our thoughts, so that we remain in this light and continue to be holy, righteous, and resplendent in God's sight. This requires serious effort on our part to avoid the thoughts and snares of the devil that will stain our righteousness and put us into darkness, guilt, and depression.


St. Paul then assures us that this applies to us too, not just to Abraham. He says, "But the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,' were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord" (Romans 4:23-24).


This resplendent righteousness of Christ, because of his work and merits, not ours, that shines now in our heart through faith is the light of Christ in which we are called to walk. He enlightens us and shines his light upon us and within us now in this present life. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). This light of life is God's gift whereby he declares us to be righteous. We will have it as long as we do not turn away from Christ.


So it is most important to fight against temptation, even temptations of thought (especially temptations of thought!), and to remove ourselves from what causes temptations of thought; and this requires that we recognize these temptations for what they are and make a real effort and work hard at avoiding them. So "do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8).


Yet this shining righteousness is in itself a gift that we simply receive through faith, without any effort on our part, for the work involved is Christ's on the cross, not ours. But then, once we have been justified, we must actively fight off the devil's temptations, and avoid the snares of the devil, and ever redirect our thoughts to God in order not to fall out of this light. Indeed, Jesus says, "I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness" (John 12:46).


So this glorious light is something that Jesus wants us to have and walk in now. In fact, he wants to shine in our heart now, filling us with his own righteousness. "For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,' who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). It is only unbelievers who do not see this light within themselves. "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4).


In fact, through faith and the experience of contemplation, we behold or contemplate this light and are being transformed into light ourselves, growing from one degree of glory to another, as we contemplate the glory of Christ. "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are being transfigured (metamorphoumetha) in glory as we contemplate his glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).


Because of Christ, "the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining" (1 John 2:8). So let us keep the darkness from returning by battling against temptation and focusing on the Lord. "For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8). So "take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11). That is where our work comes in, avoiding and turning away from the snares of the devil. This means recognizing his snares for what they are and avoiding them.


"Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Romans 13:11-14).


This glory that begins now, because of faith, and that is protected by fighting off the devil's temptations, will be fully manifested at the Parousia, when the Lord returns with all his saints in great light, for "our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Philippians 3:20-21). Jesus' transfiguration gives us a glimpse of our future glory, "for this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:53).


Our body is like a seed that is sown in the ground in death. Although "what is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power" (1 Corinthians 15:42-43).


So we must put our faith in Christ and in his work on the cross that makes us righteous and resplendent in God's sight, and we must be vigilant about all the tricks and snares of the devil that want to lead us astray and put us into darkness and the depression of guilt, even for sins of thought. Let us rather follow the light of Christ, for "he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). If we follow Christ, we will remain in his light and continue to grow in it.


Therefore during Lent we seek to put our whole focus on Christ and sacrifice other worldly delights, so that we can find all our delight in him and love and serve him with all our heart, with an undivided heart, not divided by the temptations and harmful and inordinate pleasures of the world. We therefore seek to live a simple life, totally focused on the Lord, and we turn away from false, worldly ways, "for you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness" (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

 

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