My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
It is wonderful to be with you all for our Sunday Eucharistic Celebration at Congress.
We are all familiar with the beautiful Gospel passage that we have just heard, the mystery of the Transfiguration.
But these days, as we all are trying to ‘enter the mystery’ of God’s love and the beauty of His Church, I have heard this Gospel in a new way. First, I find myself reflecting on the character of St. Peter, the first Pope, then I feel the need for a new conversion and a new awareness of our divine filiation: we are children of God.
These days we all have been praying about the Church and about St. Peter’s successor.
As you know, Pope Benedict XVI will step down as Pope next Friday. I think his decision is the act of a saint. It shows the Pope’s humility and his love for the Church.
So in this Eucharist, let’s pray for him and for the universal Church. Let’s also pray for Cardinal Mahony and the College of Cardinals as they prepare to carry out their sacred duty to elect the new Pope.
The season of Lent always reminds us that our lives are a journey of conversion. The journey begins when we are baptized. And the goal of our journey is the Transfiguration. Because the Transfiguration is the sign of our Resurrection.
In the second reading today, St. Paul promises us that Christ will transfigure our lowly bodies and change them into the image of his glorified body.
This is the hope of the Resurrection! We are called to live by faith in this promise. Like Abram in our first reading this morning.
Abram put his faith in the Lord. And so should we, my brothers and sisters. We have been given an even greater promise. We have been given the promise of the Resurrection.
So today we need to go deeper in our conversion. Our conversion to Christ is never finished. It is the work of our lifetime.
And in our times, we can’t afford to take our faith for granted anymore.
The world we’re living in is changing — and it’s changing fast.
Those of us who believe in God, face strong pressures to live as if our beliefs don’t really matter in our daily affairs. But my brothers and sisters, we have to resist this temptation. We can never settle for a “privatized” faith or a “cultural Catholicism.”
We always need to guard against mediocrity in our Christian lives! There are no “good enough” Christians. There are only Christians who are not doing enough good.
So conversion must be our daily decision, my brothers and sisters. We have to say every day — “Today, again, I will live for Jesus. I will give God the ‘first place’ in my life. Today, again, I am going to try to follow Jesus more closely and to be more like him.”
In our Gospel today, God tells us to listen to Jesus. We need to make his Gospel the “way” for our lives. When we do this, we allow God’s grace to work in our lives. And we need to open our hearts more and more so that he can transform us into the image of his Son.
As you know, there are two moments in the New Testament where God, the Father speaks to us directly about Jesus. At his Baptism and at his Transfiguration. And it is very interesting that both times God says the same thing. We heard his words in our Gospel today: This is my ... Son. (‘this is my chosen Son’)
God is telling us who Jesus is. But he is also telling us who we are. When we are baptized, God says the same thing to each one of us: You are my son. You are my daughter.
This is our great dignity! We need to live every day from this beautiful reality — that we are children of God.
There is a story about this that I want to tell you from the life of the Servant of God Dorothy Day.
As you know, my brother bishops and I are promoting Dorothy Day’s “cause” to be canonized as a saint. And I found it very interesting that Pope Benedict chose to talk about her on Ash Wednesday, in his final audience as Pope. How interesting to think that she will be the last example of holiness that this Pope offers to our Church — the example of this lay woman from 20th-century America.
I know many of you know Dorothy Day’s story already. It’s a great story. One of the great conversion stories of our times. As a young person, she lost her way, got mixed up and confused. She suffered an abortion; became an unwed mother; and she spent much of her energies working for a communist revolution.
But her search for truth left her open to God’s grace and the gift of faith. She came to repentance, confessed her sins and she was baptized. She went on to lead a transfigured life, in the image of Jesus Christ. She became our country’s most radical witness to Christ’s love for the poor and his call for us to be instruments of his peace and justice.
Now, the story I wanted to tell you is this. One night, Dorothy Day was in Arkansas where she was giving a speech on the rights of farm workers and African Americans.
But when she was done that night, she came back to her room and she felt totally overwhelmed. She felt a terrible sense that what she was doing with her life and ministry didn’t really matter. That she would never see results. She was feeling desperate and she started to pray — and this is what happened.
These are Dorothy Day’s words:
“And suddenly, a most wonderful sense of the glory of being a child of God swept over me. So joyous a sense of my own importance that I have reflected on it since. I would pray that [you] have it, and grow in it. This sense of [our] importance as ... sons of God, divinized by his coming. All things are possible to us. We can do all things in him who strengthens.”2
My brothers and sisters, we need this same sense of our own dignity. The dignity of being partakers of God’s divine nature.3 We need to realize that God wants us to be great! That God wants us to be saints! To be holy as he is holy! And that he wants us to inspire others to be holy, too.
Dorothy Day once said that, “Love is a cross — transfiguration a necessity.”4 So my brothers and sisters, let us renew our commitment to our journey of conversion. Let us ask for the grace to truly lead transfigured lives. For the grace to love as Jesus loves, with the love of the cross.
When we meet again next year, we will have a new Pope! So let us pray hard in these coming weeks for our Church and for the future Pope. And let’s thank God today for the life of Pope Benedict XVI.
And may our Blessed Mother Mary guide us all to a new conversion, so that “truth, faith in God, and love become the most important thing of all.”
1. Readings (Second Sunday of Lent, Year C): Gen. 15:5-12, 17-18; Ps. 27:1, 7-9, 13-14; Phil. 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36.
2. Catholic Worker (Jan. 1954).
3. 2 Pet. 1:4.
4. Catholic Worker (Oct.-Nov.1978).