Second Sunday of Lent
March 13, 2022 — Year C
Readings: Gn 15:5-12, 17-18 / Ps 27 / Phil 3:17 – 4:1 / Lk 9:28b-36
by Rev. Mr. Barry Welch, Guest Homilist
I happened upon a YouTube video of an old bluegrass gospel song called Angel Band. It reminded me of my dad, Buddy. Buddy died a couple of years ago. It’s a great song, but I think it’s the memory and really the presence of my dad that sparked my emotions while I was listening to it.
Oh come, angel band,
Come and around me stand.
Oh, bear me away on your snow-white wings
To my immortal home.
Oh, bear me away on your snow-white wings
To my immortal home.
I just wanted to make sure you know the song and what it meant. We’re from Southwest Virginia.
Later that morning, on my drive to the church at Resurrection where I work, I called my mom, which I do pretty regularly on my drive, just to catch up and see how she’s doing and how she’s feeling. I told her about the song, and she knew it really well and remembered that my dad liked it.
It’s been over two years, and yet that morning she was cleaning out the drawer to the nightstand. She experienced a flood of memories sparked by the items that he had stored there – lapel pins, watches, belt buckles, and his pocketknives – things that he had thought enough of to keep. I told her that I would love to have a pocketknife, but I don’t want one of the ones that’s still in the cellophane like a showcase pocketknife: I want one that he carried in his pocket and used and loved.
Later on, I arrived at the church, grabbed a glass of water and a protein bar, plugged in my laptop, and headed for the comfy chair in the corner of my office. I noticed that behind that chair was Buddy’s guitar. It’s a guitar that I gave him at my wedding in 1994, and now it has been returned to me. A guitar, a simple song, a pocketknife – there’s nothing particularly special about any of them, in and of themselves. And yet, they contain so much power, so much meaning for me. I ask myself, why is that? Why do these objects have so much meaning?
I believe that each one of us possesses a spiritual power, an essence, a soul, and when someone occupies space in this realm, in this world, on this Earth in our lives, they leave little bits of that on things that they touch, things that they love. That’s one reason that we find it so hard to go through their stuff when they’re gone. The room, the car, the bed, and the clothes – it’s almost like they’re still there. We can smell them, we can feel them; we can feel their essence, and we desire so strongly that they return and occupy this space again. But if that happened, wouldn’t it be great if they weren’t in heart failure, if they didn’t have cancer, or diabetes, or pain in their knees and hips, and their memory was intact?
Well, brothers and sisters, that is the promise. That is our hope. That is the result of the new and eternal covenant – not ratified by offerings of bulls and goats, and rams and birds, but by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That is the pathway generated by His suffering, death, and resurrection.
But the apostles didn’t know that yet. They had rallied around this amazing man; they had followed Him and witnessed His power to heal and drive out demons, even to raise one from the dead. And the Jews had been in this covenantal relationship with God for centuries, thousands of years, but they never could quite hold up their end of the agreement. So, they ended up at various times in slavery, and in exile, and occupied by foreign powers.
The apostles were pretty sure that Jesus is the Messiah and that He was going to end all that, but what they were not so sure about was His methods. He had just told them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and on the third day raised. He also told them, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Yeah, that’s great, Jesus, but how are you going to defeat the Romans? They were still arguing about who was to sit at His right hand when the Kingdom came. Jesus very patiently was teaching and demonstrating, trying to prepare them for the strife and the difficulty that lay ahead, but they just didn’t comprehend His meaning. So, before turning south for that final journey to Jerusalem, Jesus decided to give them some encouragement, give them some hope, something that they could draw on when the times turned darkest. He wanted to give them a real glimpse of the glory that awaits on the other side.
He took His closest friends, and He went up a mountain. Remember that in scriptures, whenever we go up a mountain, we are getting closer to God. He went up a mountain and when He got up there, the first thing He did was pray. He prayed. Jesus always prayed before something big was about to happen. That is a good example for us. While He was praying, His body was transfigured, became glowing and brilliant white, and in order to accentuate the supernatural impact of this event, He was in conversation with the two great heroes of the Jews, Moses and Elijah, also in their glory – Moses representing the law, Elijah representing the prophets, and Jesus the realization and fulfillment of them both.
Peter, James, and John did not have our hindsight on the Resurrection. They didn’t understand, and they wanted to put up tents. They wanted to remain on the mountaintop; they wanted to remain in that glorious moment. Don’t we all? But Jesus knew there was still a lot of hard work to be done to accomplish His exodus in Jerusalem. He will lead an exodus that takes us away from our slavery and to sin and death and to the new promised land – an eternal Heaven with Him.
A couple of days before Buddy died, he and I had a phone conversation about his ailments. He liked to talk about his ailments. And then somehow, we got to talking about Heaven. He was not Catholic and didn’t really understand our faith too deeply, but I told him about our Catholic faith regarding our bodies, and that our Apostles Creed ends with the belief in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. And he said (this was the last time I got to talk to him), “I believe that too, Barry.” Well, I’ll hold onto your pocketknife, Buddy.