Bottom line: God calls us to gratitude: for small gifts like a raisin, large gifts like family and country and even for misfortunes which God allows for a purpose. Above all we are grateful for Jesus who shares his glory with us. "It is good we are here." Amen.
Last Sunday we heard about the devil tempting Jesus. You might remember the etymology of the word "devil". It comes from the Greek diabolein: to tear apart, to divide, to scatter.
The devil works on you and me to tear us apart inside, to make us lose focus and become scattered, distracted. Jesus on the other hand wants to brings us back together, to regain focus, to serve God alone. Or as Brother Lawrence expresses it, to Practice the Presence of God. (hold up book)
This Sunday we see one of the most powerful means to regain focus, namely gratitude. Peter says, "It is good we are here." He's referring to Jesus' transfiguration and the appearance of Moses and Elijah. The response applies more broadly, "it is good we are here"
In Mindful Catholic, Dr. Greg Bottaro begins with a basic exercise of awareness and gratitude. It's sometimes called the raisin exercise. It involves taking a raisin or a nut, spending time appreciating how it looks and feels: first in the hand, then in the mouth moving it slowly, finally to crunch it, notice what it's like to chew and swallow.
To take a few minutes with a single raisin is so different from how we normally experience food. I can grab a handful of Cheez Its, devour them while I'm looking at a computer. Reaching for another handful I hardly notice what I'm doing. The raisin exercise has helped me slow down - a little - and to appreciate.
To be grateful for something small is enormous. Last October I took a delegation to Peru. The members included a high school student. She observed how the children there have so much less than children here. Yet, she said, they seem so much happier than our children.
A person can have less and still experience happiness - if he has gratitude. A person who fasts learns gratitude for simple food. During Len we also "fast" from the Gloria, Alleluia and flowers in the sanctuary - so we can have greater appreciation when Easter arrives.
The books I've read about mindfulness emphasize gratitude. In one course a university professor encouraged keeping a gratitude journal. I have to admit I hadn't kept a journal for years. It has made difference for me to write down words - people, events or things which make me say, "It is good we are here." Here's a few I wrote down: library, tamale, central heat, walk with Sister Carmen, sun, new baby. Once I got started, it was easy to fill a notebook page, especially with names of people.
Gratitude has power. We can see it in the saint we honor this weekend. When Patrick was a youth, Irish pirates kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. After six years he made a harrowing escape.* Patrick could have said, "I will never go back to that island". Or "I'll get my revenge." Instead he saw his misfortune as part of God's providence. He worked, studied and became a priest, then returned to Ireland. He brought those rugged people to Christ.
You and I may not become great missionaries but like Patrick we can see even our misfortunes as part of God's providence. It all begins with gratitude.
St. Paul gives a great motive for gratitude. He says that we possess dual citizenship. We belong to our country and in Jesus we have citizenship in heaven. I don't know about you, but I'm grateful to belong to this country. In spite of our nation's problems and sins, people envy us: our freedom, opportunities and abundance. In comparison with other nations, children born here have won the lottery. They can have a beautiful future. We should be grateful for our country. At the same time our citizenship here is small potatoes compared with citizenship in heaven - in Christ.
Today we get a small glimpse of Jesus' reality. With Peter, James and John we see some of his glory. And with Peter we can say, "It is good we are here." Next week we'll see what's involved in claiming true citizenship in Christ. Today God calls us to gratitude: for small gifts like a raisin, large gifts like family and country and even for misfortunes which God allows for a purpose. Above all we are grateful for Jesus who shares his glory with us. "It is good we are here." Amen.
*You can read about it in his Confessions.
From Archives (Year C homilies for 2nd Sunday of Lent):
Homilies for Second Sunday of Lent ("Transfiguration Sunday")
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru