Our Lenten Mission

A Homily by

Dcn. Wayland Moncrief

One day Fr. Candido Amantini, the late chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, was performing the Rite of Exorcism for a thirteen year old girl who suffered from demonic possession. During the exorcism Fr. Candido asked the demon a question. He said, "Two enemies, hated each other all their lives, hated each other to death, and both ended up in Hell. What relationship will they have, since they will be with each other for all eternity?" 1

The demon responded, "How stupid you are! Down there everyone lives folded within himself and torn apart by their regrets. There is no relationship with anyone; everyone finds himself in the most profound solitude and desperately weeps for the evil he has committed." 2

The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration
by Carl Heinrich Bloch 1

The poet Dante and others have offered similar descriptions of Hell, of a person folded within themselves, torn apart in eternal grief over their sins, eternal regret at the choices they have made, and the eternal torment of the loss of God's grace.

Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent we hear the gospel of the Transfiguration. Have you ever wondered why the Church selects this text for the beginning of our penitential journey? In the gospel text Jesus is preparing for His Passion and Death. He is being encouraged by Moses and Elijah. Then Moses and Elijah vanish and Jesus stands alone. Jesus has \supplanted Moses, the law giver, and Elijah, the prophet. Jesus is the new Adam, the new Moses, and the new Elijah; the One Who sea and sky obey, the One Who casts out demons, the One Who speaks with authority. Jesus stands alone, as the only One who can save us, as the only possible substitute for all sinful mankind. He offers himself as Issac offered himself in complete obedience to Abraham, in complete submission to God, His Father

Certainly these readings are in complete accord with our Lenten journey where we offer sacrifices in atonement for our sins, where we bring our remorse and regrets to Our Loving God, begging for forgiveness of our sins and restoration of the Divine Life within us.

Perhaps the Church selects this gospel, at this time, to remind us that our Lenten journey has a deeper purpose and a broader scope than we might imagine. In the gospel, Jesus' clothes become dazzling white, and He is filled with Light. And, God, His Father, says, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." As we journey through Lent, offering our sacrifices, making atonement, and trying to repent from our sins, the Church wants us to see the larger picture. Our repentance, our sorrow and regret are truly essential, but that is only the beginning of our Lenten journey.

Lent is a time of repentance, and a time when God unfolds us from our sorrow and regret. In our Lenten confession we are forgiven and stand upright in our God-given divine dignity. We are restored to the fullness of His Love and Grace, which were blocked by our self-absorption and sin.

Lent is only the first stage of the great season of our re-creation. Lent is followed by Easter, when we bring our sacrifices to the altar, die to ourselves, and rise anew with Christ. In this Great Solemnity, we renew our baptismal promises; the gates of Heaven are opened, and we gain access to eternal life with Our Good and Loving God.

However, the blessings do not stop there. Our Exodus continues and the promised land still lies ahead. In instituting the Feast of Divine Mercy, Jesus raised receiving communion to the level of a second baptism. Even the punishment for our sins is remitted. We are truly set free in every aspect of our spiritual state. Jesus has unfolded our guilt, our sorrow, and released us from our prison of despair in preparation for what is to come.

And what is to come is Pentecost. Not only are we forgiven, but Jesus grants His ministers the power to forgive others. Though not all can forgive sacramentally, we are all called to forgive – even to the point of and including forgiving ourselves. Otherwise, we cannot go forth, we cannot function, if we are folded up in regrets, confined in bitterness, frozen in indifference, or seared by the flames of revenge.

In Pentecost, we are renewed, filled, completely transformed by the Holy Spirit and sent forth, like the Apostles, to renew the world. The Church does not want us lose our way, or fail to see our ultimate destination. It wants us to keep our eyes on the Risen Christ. Our Lenten sacrifices are a single step on the journey. The real objective is that we too are transfigured, filled with light, filled with truth, filled with zeal, love, and courage, and transformed once again into Our Father's Image and Likeness. Such is the generosity of Our God that our small insignificant sacrifice enables such a profound transformation, such a radical transfiguration, if only we allow His Grace to operate within us, and eagerly follow the path that set before us,

In our Lenten journey Jesus calls us to be holy and He is holy, to be perfectas He is perfect. He reminds us that we are "the light of the world."4 Jesus wants us to become that light, that light we were intended to be. He wants us to shine as bright as the midday sun, transformed in forgiveness and transfigured in hope. How does such a small sacrifice enable such a great reward! Such is the generosity of Our God, that with a single small step He welcomes us with open arms and calls us His sons and daughters. That is our journey. That is our destination - to be instruments of his love, apostles of His mercy, and one in His grace. That is what we are, and that what we were meant to be.

Baruch HaShem!