Please note that even if you heard this homily earlier today critiques and comments are welcomed. Thank you. Peace. RV
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18, Psalm 27:1,7-9, 13-14, Philippians 3:17-4:1 or 3:20-4:1, Luke 9:28-36 (Link to today’s readings.)
If you have ever been camping and pitched a tent you know there are some things that cannot be overlooked. Pick a site that’s not in a gully, clear the rocks and debris underneath, avoid dripping pine trees overhead and remember to secure the stakes.
In today’s gospel, Peter was absolutely beside him. He just witnessed an awesome event and wanted to set up three tents. The tents are biblical references to the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. They are reminiscent of the booths set up by the Israelites as they trekked through the desert and of the fragile tents now set up around Port du Prince in Haiti.
The Festival of Tabernacles anticipates a messianic age, an age of salvation. Pope Benedict the 16th writes that the great events in Jesus’ life are always connected to the Jewish festival calendar.  This gospel is linked to the first reading from the Hebrew bible. Using an ancient ritual God and Abraham entered into a contract that guaranteed the people of God would have a land where justice and peace prevailed. In the Christian world Jesus is the fulfillment of that covenant.
In this gospel Jesus just got through telling his disciplines that there was a change in plans and that he was going straight to Jerusalem to “challenge religious authorities.”  That would turn out to be a dangerous trip one that ended in his suffering and death. Jesus asks if the disciples will stick with him on the journey. They go to the mountain to get some rest and pray.
The transfiguration is a paranormal experience that shows Jesus in messianic splendor. Theologian John Pilch says that such alternate realities [in the bible] are intended to provide enlightenment about things not easily understood.  How someone gets transfigured is one of those mysteries. How suffering and death can turn into something good is a mystery. Why do bad things happen to good people?
Jesus was transfigured but so were the people he touched, those he loved and healed, those he taught and challenged. The epiphany on that mountain triggered a response in Peter and others to pitch a tent, to mark the moment and then to come down from the mountain to continue the mission. This is what companions of Jesus do — claim a sacred space in a troubled world. We can keep that tradition alive by acknowledging the holiness in our own lives. (That is what is meant when we say, “God loves you, or God be with you, God bless you.”) To lead holy lives we take the journey with open eyes. We walk gently, humbly, wisely and patiently so that the trip will not wear us down.
We ask ourselves in this Lenten season what ground are we laying claim to as we move through life. The second reading reminds us we are citizens of heaven who, in the end, will be completely transformed. No need to wait. That transformation has begun. The kingdom of God, although incomplete, is already here. So, every place we pitch our tents, drive our stakes, becomes a sacred space on a fragile planet. Wherever we go, whomever we touch, whatever we do becomes holy. This place of worship is holy because you are holy. (John Chrysostom)
The weather forecast is not always pleasant. Mainline religions are struggling to stay on track. Many Catholics are disenfranchised from their own church. Civic leadership on local and federal levels has lost its way. The global village at times appears to be spinning out of control. Perhaps our own lives are in need of reassurance. In every case we have to secure the stakes.
Let’s take the transfiguration story for what it is. An invitation to stay on course, to keep our moral compasses in front of us, to rest when we are weary, to provide shelter for one another, and to share our courage and strength as we continue the journey.
1 Ratzinger, Joseph. Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press) 2007, 307
2 Fuller, Reginald. Preaching the Lectionary:The Word of God for the Church Today (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition) pp. 407-410.
3 Pilch, John. The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 1997, 49-51.