Homily Feast of the Transfiguration Cycle A August 6, 2017

In the words of the late, great St. Paul of Tarsus, “There’s faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.”
As the song says in the popular Opera “Les Misérables,” or as others would say, Less Miserable; “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I’m usually not into opera theology, but that sentence that is sung wrings of pure truth. Loving another person and seeing the face of God is the opposite of being miserable, which is the irony of the Opera’s name with that verse in one of its songs.
St. Paul would know a thing or two about the virtue of love. The poor guy was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, abandoned, and left for dead well more than once. Yet, he never hated anyone after his conversion. Nowhere in any of his letters does the emotion of hatred at an individual come through. Challenging individuals and groups to conversion to Christ? Absolutely. But never borne in hatred. He had every reason to hate others who treated him so cruelly. But his choice was that of Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Which gives us another famous verse, not from a song, but from Scripture, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It’s a great spiritual advantage when even Jesus seems to make excuses for the bad choice of crucifying him.
In St. Paul’s very familiar verse found at the end of chapter 13, 1st Corinthians, and found also in the Liturgy of the Word at many weddings, in faith, hope, and love he gives us the triad of theological virtues, correctly naming the greatest one. Love is superior to all other human actions and emotions. Before all else, it is the virtue that defines God, and all those who do his will. It’s the virtue that will cancel a multitude of sins. So, if you haven’t been to Confession in quite some time, go and perform some profound acts of love for the right reasons, and you will, according to Scripture, which is 100% believable, cancel a whole bunch of dirty spots on our souls. And then go to Confession still.
After love, we have a tie for the 2nd greatest virtue; faith and hope. Faith allows us the capacity to address the trials of everyday life, giving us the incredible truth of Someone to believe in who invites to a better lasting place than here. How many times have we heard it said, “I don’t know where I would be without my faith!”
Faith will move mountains, meaning this theological virtue has the force to make entire towns, cities, and nations places where love for neighbor is more present and more powerful than hating enemies. Faith in God as a whole will raise up any population or gathering of people to its highest form of humanity, whereas the absence of faith in God will lead to sub-human actions where people tear each other apart. Which is why removing religion and religious symbols from open, public display, which our Founding Fathers never promoted, is so abhorrent and spiritually dangerous for a city or nation. Today, it seems we’re seriously misguided and way overconcerned for offending individuals, instead of being concerned what removing God from the public square will do to a city or nation’s heart and soul. May we prefer to move mountains the proper way.
And then there’s the 3rd theological virtue. The virtue of the Transfiguration of Christ on the holy mountain before 3 chosen Apostles. The virtue of hope. As we know how the story goes for these three, they’re going to need hope, just as we do.
Out of faith, hope, and love, hope is the most forward-looking of the three. Hope is believing there’s a reward at the end of this Christian rainbow. That all our Christian actions and words that we do and speak in the present are worth all the efforts of having faith and sharing love. That in our free will cooperation with God’s grace and favor upon us, there’s something ahead of us that will result in lasting satisfaction for our souls. And, when Jesus returns for an encore, for our bodies also.
Maybe on the mountain of transfiguration, the faith of the 3 Apostles in Christ deepened. And most likely they walked away from the experience, on their way down the mountain, with much deeper love for their Savior. But one thing’s for sure; their hope went off the charts. It broke the thermometer that measured their joy. Their hope that a greater life has been prepared for us was fully realized in that moment. Which explains why Peter wanted to build three tents and remain up there on an extended vacation from the world.
Hope is the virtue we need when doubt starts to creep in and become creepier, making us question whether the Cross and Resurrection are the real deal. Is it a dream, or is it a real vision on the mountain for these 3 Apostles who are mere fishermen? Is it a panic attack taking place up there, or is the voice really telling them to listen to his Son?
The opposite of hope is despair. And despair is the tool of the Devil. We Christians have no room for despair. It flies in the face of all that Christ has won for us.
Allow the theological virtue of hope to sustain us in our daily Christian living. The Transfiguration of the Lord belongs not only to Peter, James and John, sustaining them in being the first ones to spread the faith and grow God’s Church. This holy event belongs to each of us, providing us a visual of what God has prepared for those who love him.
Our hope is not grounded in this world. Our hope is lived out with joy in the present, but hope looks past all present trials, and keeps one eye on the forward-looking Transfiguration of Christ.