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2nd Sunday of Lent : Fear and Transfiguration (Homily)

When I was younger, I recall being especially afraid of going to haunted houses. There is a particular element to haunted houses that keeps people away, but also attracts people to them at the same time. On one particular occasion in high school, I recall going to the “Nightmare in Painesville” set of haunted houses with some of my friends. I really dreaded this task as we made our way to Painesville on one Friday. I even went so far as to try to come up with some excuses to turn around my car, but I couldn’t think of any that would have been satisfactory for my friends. So we arrived at the haunted houses and stood there in line to walk through the first haunted house. I remember literally shaking as the line moved forward. Then, to my dismay, I saw a little girl in front of me who could have been no more than 7 years old. She was with what appeared to be her father and older brother. What struck me in my place was seeing this little girl clinging to her father. Here I was, 17 years old, and I was just as afraid of this haunted house as this little girl. In an attempt to be more courageous, I stood up taller, stuck out my chest, and lowered my voice to show everyone how cool I was with this haunted house. Although I was completely terrified on the inside, I tried not to show my fear for the sake of this little girl.
In today’s Gospel, Peter, James, and John show great fear after hearing a
voice coming from a cloud. The Gospel actually tells us that they fell prostrate on the ground, which means they literally fell face first into the ground in fear. Strangely enough, they didn't fall in fear because of seeing Jesus transformed in front of them and apparitions of Moses and Elijah standing next to Jesus. The three Apostles fell in fear when they heard a voice coming from a cloud. I don’t know about you, but if I saw two apparitions in front of me and one of my good friends transform into a bright white light, I would have most likely fell prostrate in fear right there. Surprisingly, Peter actually tells Jesus that it was good for them to see such a sight. For the Apostles, their fear actually came from the unknown. They saw in front of them the transfiguration and they were content with it, but upon hearing the voice of God, an unknown voice to them coming from the clouds, they became afraid.

I think that many, if not all of us can attest to being afraid of the unknown. As a teenager, one of these unknowns for me was haunted houses. For the Apostles in today’s Gospel, they were afraid of a mysterious voice coming from the clouds. In the year 2000, the fearful unknown was whether the computer systems were going to click over to the next millennium or whether there was going to be a massive blackout. In recent years, one of the greatest fearful unknowns has been natural disasters and the damages associated with them. We’ve been witness to some of the most devastating hurricanes, some of the largest tornados, horrendous blizzards, disastrous floods, and most recently devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. We fear these natural disasters because we’ve seen their destruction. Because of today's technology we are able to keep up with natural disasters from around the world. Seeing the pictures on the news and the internet really has us aching for our brothers and sisters around the world. It can feel like our heart is leaping out of our chest for them.
When we see pictures and video clips from natural disasters like the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, many of us can feel very helpless being so far away. The tsunami caused catastrophic damage to homes, businesses, and to a nuclear power plant. We are half way around the world, but it seemed like it hit the whole world. I actually remember getting text messages from friends last Friday sharing their grief over this catastrophe. What struck me most about each one of these messages was that each one of them ended with some type of prayer or intercession. Even though none of us were near to Japan to help out physically, all of us could pray. It sometimes takes eye opening events like natural disasters or our own fearful unknowns to realize our absolute dependence on God. I actually had a friend of mine who didn't go to church for years tell me that she went to Mass in order to pray with the community for the people of Japan. The thought of our loving God in heaven truly brought a sense of comfort to people. Even the three Apostles at the transfiguration felt a sense of comfort in Jesus’s touch and words: “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
Despite whatever happens to us throughout our lifetimes, God is always there to lay His healing hand upon us saying: “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  We might not see His hand or hear His voice at first like the Apostles, but He is always there. Just as parents are there to hold their frightened little ones like the little girl at the haunted house, so too is God there to hold us and tell us that things will be okay when we are afraid. Jesus became transfigured before the Apostles to show us that there is indeed a beautiful world beyond our own. He died on a cross and rose from the dead not only to bring us salvation, but to show us that death is merely part of our journey as human beings. We can conjure up so many images of the unknowns in our lives and scare ourselves like I did as a teenager at the haunted houses and the Apostles did when they heard the voice from the clouds. Despite the fears that we have in our lives, Jesus assures us that the Father is with us through it all calling us His beloved Children and telling us to “not be afraid.”  The Eucharist is one way that God tells us that He is still with us. Through the Eucharist, we are strengthened and in the innermost part of our souls, we are told to “not be afraid.”