YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF LENT
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’” (Luke 9:28, 35)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 9:28-36
We’ve all had powerful experiences, I’d guess, that have left us standing awestruck before the mystery of life. The experience may be such that our spirits are lifted up in near ecstasy, or it might be that an exquisite pain hurls us into depths unimaginable. In either instance, though, we are left humbled by our inability to comprehend what has happened. And even more, we stand before the mystery of God’s abiding presence. Such was the experience of the disciples who, as we hear in today’s gospel passage, accompanied Jesus to the mountaintop where they stood terrified and dumbstruck as God claimed Jesus as his beloved Son. “Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’” (Luke 9:28, 35)
So many centuries later we, heirs of those same disciples, continue to climb the mountain where, with Jesus at our side, the mystery is ever unfolding. I have been particularly blessed that, as a hospital chaplain, my treks to the mountaintop are frequent, sharing in moments of both great joy and sadness with patients, families and staff members as together we struggle to make some small sense of the mystery of God and the life God gives.
Some years back Maureen, one of my fellow chaplains, shared a poem she’d written about an experience on the mountaintop where she and a family had stood face to face before an event that bespoke no earthly explanation. Ascending each day to the Labor/Delivery Suites, Nursery, Neonatal and Pediatric ICUs, Maureen’s days were spent on the cusp of new life. Her warm, gentle presence permeated even the assaulting “whooshes” and “bleeps” of 21st century medical technology as she stood witness to the loving presence of God. But, as Maureen attested in her poem, God’s abiding love is first of all and forever a mystery, a piercing challenge even for a person of deep faith. I share with you an excerpt from her poem entitled, “Standing by Nathan White: born/died November 28, 2005”:
“The nurse came out of the room. ‘She’s delivered. It’s on the sink.’ / Bloody lump, child formed but not complete, medical debris on a white cloth.
“On the other side of the curtain, sobbing mother and tearful father. / ‘I’m so sorry,’ I choke out. ‘Nathan White, our baby Nathan White.’
“I hug them and move away, hiding behind the curtain as / Medical personnel check bleeding and quietly murmur reassurances.
“I am standing by Nathan White whispering prayers for his safe journey. / Never leave a baby alone, even if he never cried.
“I am standing by Nathan White listening to the muted sobs, / Parents confused and dumb with grief. They loved you, Nathan. They love you.
“I am standing by Nathan White as his parents cradle him. / As the nurse weeps, I bless his short life.
“I am standing by Nathan White. Don’t let our hopes die with you, Nathan. / You mattered; you matter still. Stand by us, Nathan White.”
On that late November day, a mother and father labored to welcome their newborn child, and he sprang directly from the womb into God’s embrace, forfeiting earth.
On that late November day, a mother and father strained to bear a pain that lay beyond words as a chaplain stood beside their stillborn son, silent witness to the mystery of God’s presence.
And on that late November day, Nathan White, God’s chosen, cupped his small hands to carry heavenward the tears of his parents, his nurse and his chaplain. Nathan White, stand by us, too.