Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Last Sunday after Epiphany, 2020.
One of the main points of my preaching last Sunday was that the Gospel teaches us that whenever we feel wronged by another person, flee to Christ and ask Him by prayer for help. And to be more specific, ask Him in your prayer for help to pray for the person who you feel wronged by. When we feel wronged, we are hurt and wounded. It matters not whether the incident that caused the wound was today, last week, last year, last decade, last century—it matters not whether the incident that caused the wound happened in our adulthood, our adolescence, or even our early childhood: we often try to forget what all went into the moment that caused the hurt (and psychologists call this repression)—what was said, how it felt, and the rest; but when we call it to mind (“unrepress it” you might say) real hurt is often as painful today as it was when it happened. And for this hurt, for this wound, the Church teaches us to flee to Christ, and to ask Him by direct prayer for help to pray for the person who you feel wronged by.
This is so very important for many reasons: doing this acknowledged God’s power and sovereignty as Creator of all; it puts us in right relationship with God through our humility as His creature; and this simple act in effect is a profession of faith in the Resurrection of Christ, because it is only through the Resurrection of Christ that our hearts can be lifted, that our hearts can be filled with charity and peace—and this goes also for the person who caused the wound in our heart, to ask God for help in praying for the person who wronged us we are acknowledging that God is active in the perpetrator’s heart, and through the Resurrection soften that person’s heart. Praying for another person is the primary way we seek and serve Christ in them.
But what comes prior to asking for help to pray for the person is fleeing to Christ. That simple phrase—fleeing to Christ—means we call Him to mind, and the most direct way to do that is to call an image of Him, an image we have gained through our life in the liturgy and having the scriptures opened and the bread broken. There are so many images or icons (“icon” means image; “image” means icon) that we have in our memory, moreso the longer we are active Christians growing in the faith. Since the season of Advent we have had the icon of the nativity, the icon of the Wise Men from the east bringing gifts and worship, the icon of the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan which reveals the holy Trinity, the icon of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, the icon of Jesus preaching His sermon on the mount—and now, as we enter into the season our Lenten observance, the Church provides us with the stunning and mysterious icon of Christ transfigured on the holy mountain.
The Psalmist David gives us the words “Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God; he is the Holy One.” The transfiguration of Jesus is the experience that lies behind those words. In the transfiguration the Church find what the great of God feels like, and what holiness looks like. Before the apostles Peter, James, and John Jesus was transfigured, His face shining like the sun, his garments white as light. Let us be able by grace to flee to this image, this icon of Who Jesus truly is. I am talking about imagining ourselves on the holy mountain with Peter, James, and John—and Moses and Elijah.
Undoubtedly that was another question the three apostles had for Jesus as they walked down the mountain: “by the way, Lord, who were the two on your right and left that you were talking to?” “It was Moses and Elijah,” Jesus must have said in response. And to help the disciples to be able to enter into the transfiguring light of Christ after His Ascension, the very first acts of Christ Resurrected was to teach how the scriptures of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms speak of Him: He did this on the first Easter morning with the two disciples walking to Emmaus, and He did that that Easter evening with the disciples gathered back in the Upper Room.
And this remains today the way to experience the transfiguration of Christ: to read the scriptures commonly called the Old Testament properly, as Christ Himself taught—in John’s gospel Jesus says, “Moses wrote of me”—is to be caught up in the stream of redemption by God Who has never not been speaking to men, women, and children, never not been guiding men, women and children into His likeness and the image of true humanity given us by God: speaking and guiding people from the beginning to help them understand the Christ has made all of us His own, and that by learning how to hear His guiding, loving, healing voice through the scriptures, we would ever be drawn closer and closer toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us this Lent flee to Christ—flee to the heavenly image of Christ, Whose face shines like the sun, with garments white as light. Flee to Him, because from His Face of Light in our heart and mind comes love, comes peace, and comes healing.