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Lent 2C
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18 / Philippians 3:17—4:1 / Luke 9:28b-36

St. Paul went through a lot—
a whole lot.

Five times he was whipped—
taking forty stripes on the back—minus one.

He was practically beaten to death—
with rods.

He was stoned—
He was robbed—
He was shipwrecked.

He had Jews out to get him—
and he had Gentiles out to get him.

He faced danger in the city—
He faced danger in the wilderness—
and he faced danger at the sea. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)

And all for Jesus!!!

St. Paul was certainly no lightweight
when it came to Jesus.

And listen to what St. Paul wrote
to the Corinthians:

If you want to live the way of Jesus Christ—
Then imitate me.

If you want to live the way of Jesus Christ—
Then imitate me.

Again, Paul was no lightweight
when it came to Jesus. (1 Corinthians 4:16-17)

And yet—
yet at the very same time—
St. Paul would write this—
and he wrote a couple of times.

“I am the worst of sinners.” (Romans 7:14-25 / 1 Tim. 1:15)
The worst.

What’s going on here?

False humility?

Schizophrenia?

No!—No!

All the great saints in the great tradition—

all the great saints in the great tradition—
knew they were great sinners.

Or else they were like St. Therese—
who knew that it was only by sheer grace
that she wasn’t.

The greatest saints believe that
they are greatest sinners!!!

Blaise Pascal—
the genius Frenchman of the 17th century
said that are only two kinds of people:

The righteous who think they are sinners. . . .
or the sinners who think they are righteous.

What’s going on here?

The greatest saints believe that they are
the greatest of sinners.

Here are two images that
give us an idea of what’s going on.

First is an image that Fr. Jacques Philippe
used when he was here.

If we walk into a dark room—
and a curtain is slightly opened allowing
a ray of light to enter into the darkened room—
what do we see in that ray of light?

We see all kinds of particles of dust and dirt.

Here’s another image.

If we’re driving somewhere on a cold winter’s night—
and there’s a mix of slush and snow coming down—
if our headlights are on and
our windshield wipers are working—
we can see the road—
we can see where we’re going
and we can reach our destination.

But in the morning—
when the sun is shining—
when we get in the car to go to the store—
we can’t see a thing through the windshield—
because of all of the grit and the grime and
the dirt and the smudge.

Well, that’s what’s happening with the saints.

As they get closer to Jesus—
As they move closer to the Light—
all of their faults—
all of their dirt and smudge—
become ever more obvious.

As they get closer to Love itself—
And experience that Love—
they realize how far away they
are from loving like that—
How far they away from loving like Jesus.

That’s why the greatest saints—
in the great tradition—
believe they are the greatest of sinners.

They’re going towards the light—
They’re going toward Jesus—
They’re going toward love itself.
And we can see that dynamic in
the Transfiguration scene.

Jesus is transfigured—
Jesus’ glory—
Jesus’ love is revealed in the most dazzling light.

And what happens to Peter, James and John.

In incredible humility—
they are reduced to utter silence!!!

What can they say?!?!?

And in the Matthew’s telling of the transfiguration—
in incredible humility—
Peter, James, and John prostrate themselves
before the Transfigured Jesus.

The greatest saints—
in the great tradition—
believe they are the greatest of sinners.

They’re moving closer to the Light.

But it doesn’t end there for the saints does it?

It doesn’t end with the
realization of what sinners they are.

If it did—
What a joyless—
What a downer Christianity would be—
Leading to nothing but despair.

For the greatest saints—
in the great tradition—
Who believe they are the greatest sinners. . .

As they approach Jesus—
As they approach the Light—
As they approach Love itself—

They also realize that in spite of being great sinners—
they are loved anyway.

I call that “the sweet spot” in the spiritual life.

That’s the place where we want to be.

The saint—
believing that they are greatest of sinners—
yet loved any way—
can only respond in one way.

Having moved closer to Jesus—
experiencing more of His divine and infinite love—

They respond back to the One who loves them so!!!

They respond back to Love with their own love.

And on their own part—
the saint will do anything to
keep from offending their Beloved.

Anything.

That’s why St. Ignatius of Loyola—
in his Spiritual Exercises—
says that the very first stage of humility—
the most basic form of humility—
is to stay away from sin.

And remember Maximillian Kolbe—
facing death at the hands of the Nazis—
when asked if he was afraid to die—
He said, “No—
I’m afraid to sin.”

With Love responding to love—
the saint is no longer content with
the way they are living and
want nothing more than to
please the One who loves them so.

And as the saint moves every closer to Jesus—
Closer to the Light—
Closer to Love itself—

Have such a clear self-knowledge of
themselves and the depth of love they are called to—
they know there is no way they
can achieve this love on their own.

And in their incredible humility—
the grace of the Transfigured One then
transfigures them.

It’s in this sweet spot of the spiritual life—
The sweet spot of Mt. Tabor—
where the saint undergoes a transformation—
a transfiguration of their own.

Loves does that!!!

Love elevates—
Love transforms—
Love transfigures.

So, St. Paul can eventually say:
“It is no I who live—
But Christ Jesus who lives in me.”

“Imitate me!”

See how exciting!!!!

See what’s ahead of us!!!

Look at the great journey that
lies before us if we chose the path up Mt. Tabor.

Transfiguration.

And Lent—
being the Penitential season that it is—
a season of true self-knowledge—
is that sacred time—
that blessed time that the Church gives us—
to help us move into that sweet spot of the spiritual life—
the sweet spot on Mt. Tabor.

The spot where all the great saints in
the great Tradition find themselves in. . . .

That as they move toward the light of the Transfigured One—
They see themselves as great sinners—
But loved anyway.

And they respond to that love with love.

And they are transfigured too.

Happy, Happy Lent

Holy Spirit 03/16-17/2019