Reflections on the Sacrament of Baptism, part II – “Fulfilling all righteousness”

Last time, we contemplated the question, “Why did Jesus get baptized?”  We continue our contemplation by wondering what the phrase “to fulfill all righteousness” means.

The Baptism of the Lord, Fra. Angelico, OP

The Baptism of the Lord, Fra. Angelico, OP

Matthew 3:13-15

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.  John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.”

The keys to understanding what Jesus is saying to John—and why John is obedient to Jesus—lies in the word ‘righteousness’ and the Jewish priesthood.

(Disclosure: I not have a degree in scripture studies.  I am not, as such, qualified to teach about the sacraments at the University level.  These are my thoughts and my thoughts alone.  Forgive me if I lead you astray.)

There are two lines of priests—Aaronic, and Levitical.

The Aaronic is from Aaron, the brother of Moses.  Moses ordained him and his family to preside over sacrifices and other cultic occasions. There is also the Levitical priesthood, from the tribe of Levi.

When the Chosen People claimed the Holy Land, the Tribe of Levi did not receive a portion of the Holy Land; rather, they were entitled to certain fruits of the land for their cultic service for the people of God.

John’s father, Zechariah, is a priest from the division of Abijah of the clan of Levi, Elizabeth is from the tribe of Aaron. the Jewish priesthood is hereditary, John is a priest—from both sides.

Not only is John the greatest prophet of Israel’s history, he is also, by heritage, a priest on both sides—thus, when John proclaims “Behold the Lamb of God”, he is the first priest of the Old Covenant to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, and High Priest.

The priests of the Jewish Law—as they are in the Christian Law—are the keepers of the Covenant.
The priests are the ones that invoke the Holy Name of God on the Day of Atonement. They are the ones who handle the sacrifices in the Temple.  They are the ones who speak to God on the behalf of the People of God.

It is the priest—both in the Old and New Law—that are the intermediaries between God and His Chosen People.  Moreover, we remember the terms ‘righteousness’.  In the Torah, the righteous are men and women who are faithful to God’s promises.

SacrificeAbraham is considered the righteous one.  Ironically, he doesn’t have a good track record—in Genesis, he twice told his wife to deny that they are married, he cast off Hagar the mother of Ishmael.  Nonetheless, he is called righteous because he was faithful to God’s promises.

He never gave up on the notion that a son will be born from him and Sarah and that this son will be the father of nations.

Abraham is called righteous because he is faithful to the promises that God had given him.

So when Jesus says to his cousin, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness”, Jesus is doing two things at the same time.

1)      Jesus is submitting himself to all of the Covenants that have been made between the Father and the Chosen People.  Jesus is making himself righteous in the Abrahamic sense—he is submitting his will in order to be obedient to the Abrahamic Covenant in the Mount, the Mosaic Covenant at Sinai, and the Davidic Covenant as spoken by Nathan the Prophet in Jerusalem.  Thus, when Jesus initiates his own Covenant—the Passion, Death, and Resurrection—it is in-line and in the context of the other Covenants made between the Father and the His Chosen Ones.

2)      The priesthood.  It passes from a tribe to a person, Jesus Christ.  The Aaronic and Levitical priesthood—of which John is a member of both via heritage—is flowing from John, the prophet and priest par excellance of the Old Law—into his cousin, the High Priest and Great Prophet of the New Law.

Again, these are my contemplations on the aforesaid topics.  My own prayer and research has gone into these pages, but they are not ex cathedra as such.  I am open and willing to receive any corrections from a proper authority.

We will continue our contemplation on the Sacrament of Baptism, asking what do our ruminations mean for you and me in 2014?

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner – 5th Sunday of Lent

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. (John 11:3-45)


Tears. Weeping. Mourning. Our story begins with Jesus’ late arrival after Lazarus has already died. At first glance, this timing seems curious. If Bethany is only 2 miles away from Jerusalem, why does Jesus wait 4 days until after Lazarus is buried before he makes the journey?

Two spiritual principles emerge from this curious delay. First, Jesus’ lateness provides the opportunity to manifest his divine power. If he had raised Lazarus from his death bed immediately, the skeptic might wonder if Lazarus was truly dead. Waiting 4 days after burial removes any doubt of the authenticity of the ensuing miracle. In fact, the same folks who seek Jesus’ life also threaten Lazarus once he is raised from the dead, because Lazarus’ living presence is a witness to Christ’s power. Second, Jesus’ delay reveals God’s attitude toward suffering and death. In the face of his loss, “Jesus wept” (11:35). Jesus’ tears teach us that mourning is not simply a human emotion, but also God’s first response to death.

Death was not an original part of God’s plan for us. Death is the consequence for sin, and Jesus’ reaction reminds us of the profundity of God’s love (e.g., the verb, turbatio, which St. John uses to describe Jesus’ state of mind in this moment is the same verb that is used to describe the storm which Jesus calms on the Sea of Galilee). Even though Jesus knows that he will raise Lazarus from the dead, death stirs a storm in his soul, his heart is “churned up,” and he grieves. And in this grief he gives us permission to mourn our own losses, to recognize that death is not what God wants for us and lets us glimpse the unfathomable depths of God’s compassion.

But this is not the end. Jesus’ tears are not without effect. Love is stronger than death. Approaching the grave, Jesus lifts up his gaze to the Father, gives thanks and cries out to Lazarus, “Come out!” Life emerges from grave. As Lazarus emerges from the grave, the act brightly foreshadows Christ’s own resurrection. Just as Lazarus is unfettered from his burial shroud, so we too live in the promise that Christ has the power to lose our sins, to reconcile us with our loving Father, and to raise us to eternal life. This is the hope which allows us to continue with whatever struggles burden our Lenten journey and to persevere in following Christ who is our way, truth and life. For those who believe, the daily veil of tears forms the river which leads to our heavenly harbor.

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Reflections on the Sacrament of Baptism – part I, “Why did Jesus get baptized?”

As we prepare for the Easter Sacraments, let us reflect on the first Sacrament that all Christians have partaken: BAPTISM

We will engage in a three part discussion about the Sacrament of Baptism:

Part I: Why did Jesus get baptized?

Part II: “Fulfilling All Righteousness”

Part III: Baptized to be holy

Let’s begin part one with the Gospel of Luke, 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

After all the people had been baptized
and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,
heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him
in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”


Crisis of the Situation.
According to Jewish liturgical practice, what we know as baptism is a cleansing ritual that prepares the High priest for the Day of Atonement.  The High Priest would go to a bath of ‘living water’, bathe in it, and from there, prepare all of the rituals for the Day of Atonement.  What we call Baptism was linked, from the very beginning, to sin.

It makes sense that John the Baptist would call people to repentance, to cleanse themselves from their sinful ways, and to live in accordance to the Jewish law.  Baptism, at least as John understood it, makes a lot of sense…for people who sin.

But it doesn’t make sense for Jesus.  Why did Jesus get baptized?
Why did the Sinless Lamb of God, he who was tempted but never strayed, get baptized by his cousin John?


Beginning from the End

When I was taking Fundamental Moral Theology, we were taught that an action is determined by its end, or final cause.  Why does a mom sweep their kitchen floor?  Because she wants a cleaner house.  Why does a boy drink a hot drink?  Because it is cold outside and he wants to warm up.  An action is determined by its end, or final cause.

Why did Jesus undergo baptism?  Why did the Sinless Son of God, do this?

As some of your know, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a three part book series entitled, “Jesus of Nazareth”.  It’s his own spiritual journey in learning who Christ is, and who Christ wants us to be.  The Holy Father tracks Jesus entire ministry, from his Nativity to his Ascension.

52733683FO001_pope(Now, remember, these books were not ex cathedra statements.  He wrote these books as a fellow theologian, one amongst many, and not as the Pastor of the Western Church as such.  His words are not definitive, but nonetheless, they are illuminating.)

He writes, “Immersion in the water is about purification, about liberation from the filth of the past that burdens and distorts life—it is about beginning again, and that means it is about death and resurrection, about starting life over again…..  So we could say that it is about rebirth.” Vol 1, page 16

It’s pretty self-evident what he is saying here.  That immersing oneself into the waters of Baptism is a new beginning.
It’s about leaving one’s former way of life and entering into a new life, a life with different presuppositions, different ways of being in the world and looking into the world, different ways of interacting with other people.

By entering into the waters of baptism and coming out the other side, you are reborn into a new way of life.

Seeing John’s baptism this way, then, we continue the words of the Holy Father:  “Looking at the events in the light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depth of the Jordan.  He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners.  His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross.   …The Baptism is an acceptance of death for sins of humanity, and the voice that called out ‘This is my beloved Son” over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection.”

Or, as St. John Chrysostom once said, “Going down into the water and emerging again are the image of the descent into hell and the Resurrection.”

What happens when we think about water?  We drink it, it refreshes us, and cleanses us.

But what happens when you have too much water?  You die—you drown.

Water—the protagonist of baptism—gives death and gives life.  Jesus bore the sins of the world as he descended into the waters of baptism. But when he rose from the waters, it was then that he was anointed as the Beloved of the Father, set on a mission to bring the world back to God.  When he descended into the Jordan, he took our place as a sinner, and rose from the waters anticipating the resurrection.

When Jesus was baptized, it was in anticipation to the passion event.  Every action is determined by its end. Why does a person drink coffee in the morning?  So that he may be able to be awake at the office.  Why does a person study biology?  In order to be a doctor.

Why did Jesus get baptized?  In order to prefigure or anticipate the Passion, Death and Resurrection.


What does this mean for me?
When we are baptized, we are reborn into the Mystery of Christ, to live this mystery and his life in the here and now. That we will be praised, rejoiced in, rejected, mocked, scourged and loved just as he was in his short ministry.  That we obtain the genealogy that he was born into, that that history of the Covenants, Abraham to Moses to David, are now ours by virtue of our being Baptized into the Mysteries of Christ.

Fra Angelico, OP St. Dominic & Christ

Fra Angelico, OP
St. Dominic & Christ

What does this mean?  That when we suffer, are persecuted, are going through rough times and glorious times, we ought not be surprised.  We are undergoing the Life of the Savior.  What we went through is our lot.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Fourth week of Lent – Humility revisited

I was walking back from an off-site appointment.  As I had crossed the sidewalk, and I hear someone scream my name.

It. Totally. Made. Me. Freak.

Instantly, I knew that I was in trouble.  But more importantly, I was wondering which government agency had me in their sights.  There was a small part of me (okay, a large part of me) that said, “I wonder if S.H.I.E.L.D. finally found me.  I wonder if they had finally figured out that priests have powers that more comprehensively legit than Iron Man and Thor combined, and they want a D.N.A. sample.  Oh my goodness! I have to tell Michael and Emmanuel!  I have to tell Steve that I’m going to be late to Evening Prayer!  This is going to be so cool!”

downloadI mean, c’mon!  Everyone wants to meet Captain America.

I felt the color in my face drain.  I was seriously worried—I was wondering who was going to call out my name in the middle of the day, in the middle of Bush Street.  I wasn’t even on-call—you know what those days are like—this was supposed to be as low-key as my life gets.

I turn around, and in a really nice car sat a man whom I vaguely recognized.  Then he yelled, “Father!  That homily the other day!”

Oh, it’s that guy, I said to myself.  I flashed back to Sunday, remembering where he sits and which Mass he attends.

“How’s it going?” I asked.  I look at the red stop light.

“You killed it on Sunday!” he yelled over the traffic.  “My Mass was totally convicted.  You could hear a pin drop.  Quiet, man.  You totally killed it.  I need a copy of that homily.”

Hardly anyone asks for a copy of the homily—afterall, we have the podcast.  “Uh, okay,” I respond (yeah, I know, I was totally Father Elegant).  “Sure.  Just email me.  I don’t have your address.”

Green light.

“Seriously?  That easy?” he said, inching his car ahead.  “Okay—I’ll email you, like, tonight.”

He races off, waving goodbye, with me finding a chuckle as I walk back to the Priory.

Shield c

St Thomas Aquinas teaches that the humility is a virtue that allows us to who we really are.  Yes, we are limited and imperfect and we oftentimes fail.  But we have been given numerous gifts as well.  We may not be able to keep the living room clean, but we make the best pancakes this side of Antioch.  We may not be the best test taker, but no one else can play a meaner guitar.  We are limited, but God has also given us numerous graces and gifts.

We are the Order of Preachers. We are privileged to be Dominic’s sons.  We have been given to the Church to be a company of Christians who can bring down the Thunder of God on a daily basis.  But at the same time, we are inefficient, silly, slow to change, and vulnerable to awful land deals.

Fra Angelico OPI hesitate to acknowledge that the Lord has granted me this beautiful grace of preaching the Gospel well.  I also acknowledge that He had given me this beautiful gift of writing, which I had recently re-discovered.  But I am also aware of my countless faults and things in which I need to work on.

It was humorous and beautiful to be interrupted while crossing the street the other day.  But it was also a time where I was reminded of the virtue of humility.  A time where, yes, I thank this parishioner for this compliment.  A time that, yes, I am reminded of the One of gave the gift.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Sunday 11:30 Mass preview

Hear my Prayer

Guest post: Simon Berry

picMendelssohn composed the verse anthem, or hymn, Hear My Prayer to a paraphrase of the opening verses of Psalm 55 by his friend the English lyricist William Bartholomew. Scored for soprano solo, mixed chorus, and organ, it was composed for London’s newly renovated Crosby Hall, the venue for many sacred concerts in the 1840s.

London audiences of the time relished this work. Its four sections present mellifluous airs for the soprano in the outer verses, connected by a dramatic, responsorial dialogue between soprano and chorus, and then a recitative.

Ernest Lough, 1911-2000, made this piece famous with his 1927 recordings, from the Temple Church, London, directed by George Thalben Ball.

The record was issued a few weeks later and its success was due in some degree to the fact that it was issued on H.M.V.’s cheaper plum label. Nevertheless, the sales figures took everyone by surprise and it was H.M.V’s biggest seller for 1927. Six presses had to be set aside at the Hayes factory for its production. Later, it was to sell a million copies and in 1962 GTB and Lough were presented with a golden disc to mark the occasion.


Its still a famous piece of music and one that makes the psalmist’s words come to life.

Come and pray the Mass with us on Sunday, 11:30 Solemn Mass, and be elevated in mind, body and spirit.

How to make a good confession, part III

There is such a thing as Sacramental Abuse.

The blessing and curse of having confessions so often at St. Dominic’s is the fact that many people can come into the box on a regular basis.


The road to the confessional box.

However, almost every priest I know has encountered that one penitent that is not very penitent.  There comes a time in every priest’s life where they meet a person who comes into the box on a regular basis, asks for forgiveness—but at the end of the story, is not really sorry that they did wrong.

Why?  Because they can do that repetitive sin once again and go to confession before Mass and believe that they are good to go.

You know it’s happened.  And you know it happens.

So here’s the thing.  The matter of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is contrition—that is, the state of being in which you willingly say that you will sin no more. What makes the Sacrament of Reconciliation what it is is the contrition of the penitent.  This ain’t Catholic guilt!  Rather, it is a willingness and conviction of knowing that having a good relationship with God takes a lot more work that I am currently putting in.

imagesSo when a person comes into the box, you have to ask yourself if you are really sorry?  Or are we the type of person that says, “I’m going to commit this sin now, and go to the box tomorrow, receive communion, and then sin on Monday.”

One type of person sees their religious life as a series of check boxes.  The other wants a relationship with Jesus.

Which are you?

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner – 3rd Sunday of Lent

iamhe2A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father, Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” (John 4:13-15, 26)


St. Dominic’s is privileged to welcome almost 50 catechumens and candidates into the Church this year. Through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) process, they have journeyed for eight months towards receiving Christ’s loving embrace in the arms of our Faith. Our Easter Vigil will be quite a celebration!



The Gospel we hear this weekend is the story of the woman at the well. For the next three weekends, we will hear powerful stories of Jesus’ ministry that are saturated with the dynamics of what it means to believe, e.g., woman at the well, healing of the blind man, and the raising of Lazarus. Each of these Gospels is connected to the Rite of Scrutiny, which is part of the RCIA process. You might ask, “What exactly are the scrutinies?” The Church says, “The scrutinies are rites for self-searching and repentance and have above all a spiritual purpose. They are meant to uncover, and then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. These rites, therefore, should complete the conversion of the elect and deepen their resolve to hold fast to Christ and to carry out their decision to love God above all. In order to inspire in the elect a desire for purification and redemption by Christ, three scrutinies are celebrated. By this means, first of all, the elect are instructed gradually about the mystery of sin, from which the whole world and every person longs to be delivered and thus saved from its present and future consequences. Second, their spirit is filled with Christ the Redeemer, who is the living water (Gospel of the Samaritan woman in the first scrutiny), the light of the world (Gospel of the man born blind in the second scrutiny), the resurrection and the life (Gospel of Lazarus in the third scrutiny). From the first to the final scrutiny, the elect should progress in their perception of sin and their desire for salvation.”

Lent is a time when we join with those journeying through RCIA. Just as they are learning and discovering the power of Christ in their lives, we too ask the Lord for a renewed sense of our need for Him. In fact, at the heart of the story of the Samaritan woman is the recognition of this deep need we have for God. The fabric of the human heart is woven with and by God’s love and only this love can truly make us happy. In their conversation at the well, Jesus awakens this desire and invites her to “drink from the living water” of His words. The desire for God is written in the human heart, because we are created by God and for God. Since He never ceases to draw us to Himself, only in God will we find the truth and happiness for which we never stop searching. As we continue our 40-day journey, we join with those preparing to enter the Church in recognizing our thirst for God. Driven by this thirst, we eagerly approach the fount of His mercy by listening for His words and receiving His love in Eucharist.

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

Third Week of Lent – Humility

Humility is a fleeing virtue.  The moment you think that you have obtained it, it flies away.  It’s for a simple reason, really.  The moment you think that you have obtained humility, you would like to boast that you are humble, and well—it just doesn’t work.

Humility is not downplaying your gifts and talents.  It is not saying that you a worser person than you actually are.  Humility is admitting your faults and vices as well as your gifts and virtues.  Humility is knowing what you have accomplished in life—with God’s help—and knowing how much work needs to be done.  Because afterall, God gave you your gifts in the first place—of course you ought to glory in the things that the Lord has accomplished in your life.

Let us be thankful for all the good that the Lord has done.  Let us persevere in virtue and humility and obtain our life’s ambition: seeing our God face-to-face.

How to make a good confession, part II

finger-pointingI was talking to a very close friend about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  I’ve never heard her confession.  Nor will we ever be in that kind of situation.  (I know, I know, never say never.  But trust me.  This will never happen.)  But as we were talking about going to confession, she asked, “Do you really, really, really don’t remember a single confession?”

Now, here’s the thing.  At St. Dominic’s, any one priest can hear between one to five hours of confessions on any given weekend dependent on the time of year.  For one thing, you can tire of listening for such a long time. Also, the penitent really is completely anonymous unless the penitent actually names himself.  Have I had confessions in which I recognize the voice?  Perhaps…?  Maybe?  But really, if you are on my side of the box, would you take the risk and name the penitent?  Really?

Moreover, a wise priest said to me once that you hear every sin that is imaginable and possible within your first six months.  And you do.  Within six months, nothing surprises you.  You have literally heard it all.  So the myth of fear of the priest yelling “You did what?” is really a farce.

penanceOkay, what about a person comes to a priest for a face-to-face confession.  A common question would be if your opinion of the penitent would change.  I cannot speak for the other priests of the parish, but I can say this: if a long-standing member of my parish community made an appointment with me and intended that I listen in on his most intimate moment with God (second only to receiving the Eucharist), I would feel honored that I had been asked into this person’s life.  A person is having an intimate moment with their Jesus, and allowing me to listen in on the conversation.  For me, it is a most powerful honor.  It’s an honor that I cherish.  What else would I be compelled to do other than to absolve them of their sins?  It’s the only thing, the least thing, I can do!

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner – 2nd Sunday of Lent

hurleyJesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,  conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt.17:1-9)


In the days following my ordination, I had the good fortune to travel to the Holy Land on pilgrimage. It was a memorable experience. To walk where Christ walked, to see what He saw, to celebrate Mass on Mount Calvary: these moments helped to shape and encourage the initial days of my priesthood. One of the most significant moments in the Holy Land was celebrating Mass on Mount Tabor, the place of Christ’s Transfiguration. But in order to ascend the Mount, one has to traverse a number of elevated switchbacks. The large tour buses that can clog the Holy Land Highways can only go so far up. Unable to navigate the steep turns, the luxury liners sit idly side by side at a base parking lot. If you want to reach the peak, you have to be nimble, traveling a bit lighter than the normal tourist. The summit is scaled only by those willing to relinquish unnecessary and burdensome baggage.


Anchorage summer 2009 002As we continue our Lenten journey, we are encouraged to put aside whatever baggage and extraneous creature comforts might keep us from ascending to our own place of transfiguration. This is the whole reason for the Lenten discipline of fasting. By giving up certain good things we enjoy, we prepare ourselves to receive the best: a renewed sense of God’s presence in our lives.

But the journey up the mount is challenging. We need encouragement to keep going. This week’s Gospel story of Christ’s transfiguration gives us that encouragement. Aware that He will soon travel to Jerusalem and be rejected and killed, Jesus reveals his divine nature to Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor, so that they will not lose heart when they witness His Passion. Jesus manifests His divinity in order to infuse His friends with the lifeblood of hope. It is as if he says to them: “No matter what happens in the coming days, no matter how bleak and dark life becomes, know that I am God, I will be victorious, and I can transform all things, making them new.” (cf. Rev. 21:5) This is Good News for us! After the initial spiritual surge of Ash Wednesday, the routine of reality returns. Often, the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that we undertake can wane and even fall by the wayside. So for us, Christ’s moment of transformation is a reminder of the dynamic power of celebrating Lent.


Transfiguration_by_fra_Angelico_(San_Marco_Cell_6)Last week, the Gospel reminded us that we can expect temptations to assail us at the beginning of our Lenten journey. This week, we are given encouragement that if we persevere on our journey, we will be transformed. The good things we do, the superfluous thing we give up, the ways in which we lift up our minds and hearts in quiet prayer to God; these are the moments when change happens. For whenever we turn to the Lord with our hearts, He fills them with his life and grace. And so as we face the labors of Lent, whether it is endeavoring to give up chocolate or struggling to break an addiction or bad habit, we climb the mount with Jesus, we encounter the power of his glory and we pray: Transform me, Lord.

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.