March 13, 2022: Homily- Second Sunday of Lent

I’m reliably informed that one of the great joys of romantic love are the sweet things that get said between the two people in the relationship.  And that usually starts very early on.  It doesn’t take very long before each person is telling the other how wonderful he or she is, or how attractive he or she is, or how special he or she is.  I miss you so much when we’re apart.  I love our time together more than anything.  I can’t believe I get to be with you.  I don’t know what I’d do without you.  You are all I think about.  And of course, there are the pet names that each person picks for the other.  Yes, these are special times. And I believe this sounds very familiar to most of you.

But there is another conversation that eventually takes place if the couple is together long enough.  And while the question that initiates this particular conversation is usually posed in a playful way, it can be a dangerous conversation to have.  I’m talking about the first time one person in the relationship asks of the other, “If you could, what would you change about me?”   And in the early stages of romantic love (and sometimes even in the later stages as well) there is really only one acceptable answer . . . .

I wouldn’t change a thing!

And this can mean a few different things.  It can mean, I don’t want to hurt your feelings.  It can mean, I don’t want to have a fight.  It can mean, I don’t want you to follow up by saying what you don’t like about me.  Or the one that people might mean the most – I love you as you are.  That’s a beautiful sentiment – a nice way of saying that our love for this person is unconditional, that it’s not dependent upon the other person’s behavior, or dependent on the other person being without flaws, or dependent on the other person having to earn our love.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Folks, is this how God sees us?  Is this how God feels about us?  Is this how God treats us?

I think that it depends.  You see, saying that we love a person as they are is not the same as saying we wish they wouldn’t change a thing.  They’re different.  In fact, to truly love another means that we want the best FOR them and even FROM them, want them to be the best person they can possibly be – the kindest, the most compassionate, the most merciful, the most joyful, the most peaceful and the most loving.  And for all of us – every single one of us, that means being willing to change, being willing to be grateful for the unconditional love of another (that we can be assured of, no matter what) while at the same time wanting to BE more, knowing we CAN be more, believing that the other person (and the world) NEED US to be more.

We just heard the well-known Gospel story of the Transfiguration, that remarkable day when Jesus gave three of his closest friends an experience of a deeper reality, a chance for them to see him in a new way, in a more complete way, in an un-masked kind of way.  Jesus wasn’t just some guy they knew who said a few insightful things and did a few unexplainable acts.  He was more.  Much more.  Much, much, more.

There is a parallel here that may or may not be obvious.  Think about it.  Peter, John, and James saw Jesus in a way they had never seen him before.  This was a unique experience for them, something Jesus chose to reveal to them.  Yet, the way those three men saw Jesus is precisely the way Jesus sees us ALL THE TIME.  He sees far beyond our ordinariness.  He sees far beyond our flaws and weaknesses.  He sees far beyond the masks we wear or have just stopped wearing.  He even (especially) sees far beyond our sin.  All he sees is the “real” us, the authentic us, the beautiful people he created us to be – and knows we can be.

In a certain sense, he sees the “transfigured” you and the “transfigured” me – he sees the deeper reality.  And while the “real” you and me are not the same as the real Lord Jesus (that is simply not possible), the real you and me are so much more than what we often reveal to the world, reveal to others, or at times even reveal to ourselves.

And that means that, what Jesus did for Peter, John, and James, he wants US to do for OTHERS.  He wants us to peel back the layers, remove the stuff that’s in the way, unleash the authentic person he knows each of us can be.  In other words, he wants the person HE sees to be the person OTHERS see as well.

My dear people of God, believing that we can be so much more than we are today, takes faith.  Believing that underneath our faults and failings and pettiness and sin is a person capable of great love and compassion and mercy, takes faith.  Believing that the person we see is not the person God sees, takes faith.  And believing that the real you and the real me don’t need to remain hidden, takes faith.

God wants us to be transfigured, He wants us to live up to our dignity and calling, wants us to be a shining light on a hill – radiating love and kindness and every good thing into every corner of the world.

That’s who we are.  That’s how God made us.  That’s the deeper reality.

May this grace-filled season of Lenten help us discover that truth.

Father Boat

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