Transfiguration of Jesus and the poor

In the Catholic lectionary the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent is the Transfiguration of Jesus, this year from Luke 9: 28-36.

Back in Honduras, after a pilgrimage to Italy, I realize how much my experience with the poor in the countryside influences my reading of scripture.

This morning I read the reflection on the readings in The Word Engaged, by the late Fr. John Kavanaugh, S.J. It is a great reflection and you can read it here. But I realized that it is meant especially for North American readers.

Here in Honduras, I see the readings today as signs of hope for the poor.

This was reinforced by my reading of sections of St. Leo the Great’s Sermon 51, as found in Benedictine Daily Prayer:

 The Transfiguration showed that the members of Christ’s Body could expect to share in the glory, revealed in their Head.

Jesus, St. Leo went on to explain:

…took upon Himself the full burden of our lowliness…

Yesterday I went out with Father German to two remote villages in the parish of Dulce Nombre de Copán where he celebrated Mass. The poverty of the people is clear, as is their faith.

In the second village he remarked that in a capitalistic society, where people are valued by what they produce and consume, the poor are nothing, without value. But, he said, you have a great worth and dignity, made in the image and likeness of God.

This reinforced my concern that the people we serve have to recover their dignity, which the Honduran society, economy, and culture often deny them.

They have to realize that they are beloved sons and daughters of God, followers of a lowly God who became flesh among the poor, of a God who transfigures us.

In Philippians 3:21, from today’s second reading, Paul tells the people

The Lord Jesus Christ will give a new form to this lowly body of ours and remake it according to the pattern of his glorified body.

The Lord truly raises up the lowly, as Mary sang in the Magnificat (Luke1:58) – something that our culture and economic systems fail to understand, worshiping the god that fills up our bellies (Philippians 3:19).

But this is the message that we need to hear this Lent, a time for conversion, for recognizing that our glory comes from a God who sees us as His beloved sons and daughters.

And it is a message that the poor, the marginalized, and the abandoned of the world especially need to hear and that we who are among the rich and comfortable need to take seriously, especially in our relation to the lowly of this world.

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