Hi everyone – here’s my homily for the SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT – February 28, 2010. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/ . Thanks as always for reading and all your comments and feedback. God Bless – Father Jim
MTV, with the help of there newest “infamous” celebs that they’ve created- Snookie, “The Situation” and whatever the rest of their names are – have really ticked me off (I’m sure they care). They’ve trampled on the meaning of something that’s special to me. Because I can’t talk about or say the phrase “Jersey Shore” without those idiots popping into most people’s minds. Before these imbeciles showed up, when people heard the phrase “Jersey Shore” they had a pretty clear idea, at least us Jersey-ites, of the beautiful beaches and boardwalks and great summer vacations people have down there. And despite Snookie, and that crew– hard as they try to co-opt that term – well they can’t destroy the real meaning of Jersey Shore. The Jersey Shore is still one of my all time “happy places.”
Because every year, every summer my whole life – that has been my family’s vacation spot. Usually all the way at the tip of the state in Wildwood Crest. When I was little, my whole family from my parent’s and brothers to my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins would all be down at the Jolly Roger Motel. We would get 4 or 5 motel rooms and would be running from one room to the other. Having meals together… Going to the pool, the beach, the boardwalk… They are some of the happiest memories I had growing up. Even as we got older, you know that time when you’re in High School or during College, when you get to that point when you kind of start to moan when you’re parents want to go on vacation, and all you want to do is stay home while they are away – obviously not for any bad reasons… – I can say my brothers and I still had a good time going down there with my family and some friends that we would meet up with.
About 15 years ago my parents were able to get there own place down there and so did my godfather and my aunt and uncle just a few blocks away from each other. So all these years later, it’s still my “happy place.” Just a few months ago I was down with my family for a long weekend with my parents- my brother, sister in law, my niece, their dog Buff- and it was just a perfect get-away. [ Yes that’s me on the beach last summer! ]
Just seeing a picture from down there, or seeing a video on my iphone or even hearing the phrase Jersey Shore when those boobs at MTV promote that stupid show are all able to summon those memories. And you know, after a weekend like we’ve just had – I appreciate those memories. What did they call that thing a Snow-i-cane? A Nor’easter? – I don’t know what it was, after 18 inches of snow, being cooped up for a few days, and THEN slipping and falling on my rear on some of that snow as I was walking outside (because there was a turkey walking across the street – seriously… for some reason- totally random – there he was, just standing there, walking in our neighborhood, anyway… ) then having to postpone our long anticipated retreat, because of this blizzard. Yeah after these last few days – I’m DONE with winter. And so memories of sitting on a beach with family and friends down the Jersey Shore are a welcome thought. My happy place was a little better than the reality of the last couple days.
What is it for you? What is your happy place? Maybe it’s not something like an annual vacation place. Maybe it’s a Birthday or a Holiday when everything was perfect – not because you got that awesome gift, but something more – the family, the friends, the setting – it all came together in such a way that it’s just a special thing for you. Maybe it’s a milestone – a graduation, a wedding, something big that happened in your family that excited everyone. Whatever that happy place is, it holds a book mark in your mind that you turn to when things aren’t so good. It’s that special place in your heart that you go to when you’re weighed down with sadness or loneliness. We kind of rely on them to get us through whatever rough patches we face…
Today’s Gospel is one of these things that if we get caught up in all the details – there’s too much here that we can get lost or confused by and a lot of different things are going on. Jesus takes Peter, John and James up the mountain to pray… Nothing too out of the ordinary about that. In fact, Peter, John and James fell asleep – Christians falling asleep during prayer – guess that’s a bit more ordinary than we thought. Anyway, all of a sudden, Jesus’ face changes – his clothes become dazzling white (insert your own joke on bleach here) Moses and Elijah appear and talk to Jesus, (just a reminder these were two guys who were big, big deals in the OT and they had died hundreds of years earlier) and just in case that wasn’t enough drama for you, the voice of God the Father is heard.
A pretty awesome day for the apostles… which is why like little kids who don’t want to leave the amusement park after being their all day… Peter (who woke up by now to catch all that was happening) wants to set up camp and stay “lets build tents… let’s stay here…”
Yes, this has become truly a happy place for Jesus and the three disciples. Not just because of all these pretty amazing things that have just happened, but for the one absolutely essential thing. What God the Father says “This is my Chosen Son; listen to Him.”
Last weekend we talked about Jesus being tempted by the devil. And one of the things that Gospel ended with was the words that after Jesus had defeated the devil in those temptations, the Gospel said that “the devil…had departed from him for a time.” He’s not done with Jesus (or any of us for that matter) So as Jesus goes forward to Jerusalem, forward to complete what Moses and Elijah had laid the foundation for, the salvation of humanity by God, the devil is going to come back:
– in the rejection Jesus will experience by the world,
– rejection even by those who would cheer for him on Palm Sunday turning and saying “crucify him” a few days later.
– The devil would come back at Jesus as his closest followers desert him and even our “lets build a tent here Jesus” yes, the one who’s supposed to be the “rock of the Church” Peter would betray him.
– The devil would come back laughing as Jesus ends up suffering and dying a miserable death on the cross – all for following God the Father’s plan.
In all of that, Jesus would need this “happy place” to go to: The transfiguration – where Jesus heard his Father’s voice clearly tell him that no matter what he faced, no matter what the devil would try to do to thwart him and distract him – nothing would ever change that Jesus was His “chosen Son” as he experienced a glimpse of the glory that awaited him. Jesus would have this moment, this time, this happy place to go to in his heart and mind when he would need it the most.
As we continue in this season of Lent, the Church is focused on how each and every one of us from the Pope down to you and I need conversion. We need to look at our lives and keep looking at how the devil comes at us as we do the difficult work of turning away from the devil, turning away from our sins, turning away from the things that diminish us, and turning towards God so that He can change our hearts. That can be rough work, especially if we take it seriously and really want to become who it is God is calling us to be – his chosen sons and daughters. In the day to day battle of that, we can get down with ourselves that we still struggle with some of the same sins or even though we know better that we somehow we fall for the same temptations over and over again.
Tonight we have our Jersey Shore (sans snookie), our happy-place memory in this Gospel. Jesus takes us up the mountain to this place of Transfiguration. We are brought here, so that we too can “wake up” and remember why we enter into this difficult work. To catch a glimpse to see the hoped for promise of the fullness of Jesus’ glory which deep within our hearts we long for. God the Father promises it can be ours, if we keep focused on his son and “listen to him.”