Fr. Mark Pilon (1943 -2018) Requiescat in Pace

Fr. Mark A. Pilon (1943-2018)


 Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine upon him.

May he rest in peace.

Fr. Pilon served as the parochial vicar of St. Raymond’s from 2009 -2012.



Date: Thursday, March 22nd

Time: 4:00pm to 7:00pm

Vigil Prayers will be offered at 7:00 p.m.

Location: St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church,  8750 Pohick Rd. Springfield, VA 22153


Date: Friday, March 23rd

Time: 10:30am

Location: St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church, 8750 Pohick Rd. Springfield, VA 22153

(All are invited to attend, please plan on carpooling)


Date: Friday, March 23rd

Location: Fairfax Memorial Park 

Time: Immediately Following the Funeral Mass 

Reception to Follow in the Parish Hall after the Burial


TEXT: 5th Sunday of Lent, March 18, 2018

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 18, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


Today’s Gospel is taken from St. John’s account of the last week of Jesus’ life.

And it’s clear that Jesus knows that this is going to be no ordinary week,

that He’s going to suffer and die this week, as He says,

“I am troubled now.”

But it’s equally clear that He must and will endure it:

“Yet what should I say?… it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”


He had waited for this hour all His life.

But in reality, the whole of creation had waited for this hour

from the beginning of the world.

Because only He—at this hour—

could restore to creation what it had lost in its beginnings:

only He could restore creation’s obedience to its creator.



The book of Genesis tells us that in the beginning

everything God created lived in perfect harmony and peace,

there was no discord.

In short, there was nothing bad, there was no evil

–everything, as Genesis tells us, “was very good.”


Genesis also tells us that God had entered into a covenant with Adam and Eve,

giving them His love and everything He created in the world,

except for 1 thing:

the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And all He asked for in return was their love,

and in the context of that love, obedience.

Unfortunately, Adam and Eve failed to love Him: they broke the covenant.

And so placing their will above God’s will,

they disobeyed Him and ate from the forbidden tree.

And they discovered what they had never known before:

the difference between good and evil.

And from that moment on, everything God had given them

would never again be exactly as it was supposed to be:

Disharmony and confusion, pain and sorrow, sin and evil,

would reign in the world.


But God did not create man for sin, but for His love,

so right from the beginning God promised he would send someone

to restore order to creation: a Savior.

Eventually, in order to prepare the way for the Savior,

He again made a Covenant with a group of human beings—the Israelites:

as we read in today’s 1st reading, He promised:

“I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

He would protect them, give them a home,

and give them a law that would teach them

how to live in harmony with each other, and with Him—how to love.

And in return they promised to love and obey Him, without reserve.


Yet time and again His people broke the covenant.

Until finally things got so bad that He told his prophet Jeremiah:

“The days are coming,

when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel…”

But this covenant would not be like the old one:

it would not be something to read on blocks of stone,

but it would be written in the very hearts of His people:

it would actually change them and make it possible for them

to overcome the confusion of sin.


And He kept His promise.

Last week we read:

“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.”

And the Son came into the world to undo what Adam and Eve had done.

He came not to be disobedient, but to obey His Father.

He did not reach up to the tree to pick a forbidden fruit,

instead He came down from heaven, like a fruit falling to ground to die.

He did not try to lift Himself up like Adam and Eve, to be glorified like God,

but rather allowed Himself to be lifted up from the earth on a Cross,

in humiliation and suffering.


But as Jesus says in today’s Gospel:

when I am lifted up from the earth,

I will draw everyone to myself.”

By obediently suffering and dying out of love

He gives Himself to the Father, and to us.

He undoes the disobedience of Adam

and undoes the disharmony between the Father and mankind.

He comes to us from the Father, so we can come to the Father through Him .

We need never again be separated from Him, never live in the disharmony of sin.



But Christ did this 2000 years ago.

How do we now, today, share in His great act of obedience?

How are we given the grace of his love for the Father?

Today’s Gospel tells us:

unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,

it remains just a grain of wheat;

but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

Jesus doesn’t compare His death on the Cross

to the death of “a grain of wheat” by accident.

To the Jews wheat meant only one thing:

the most basic and staple food of their existence: bread!

For over 12 hundred years God’s prophets had promised the chosen people

that the Savior would bring with Him bread from heaven

—food that would be so wonderful and powerful that they would, in effect,

never again hunger for Adam’s tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And just month’s before Jesus was lifted up on the Cross,

He promised that He would somehow give them Himself

as this bread to eat.


And so on the night before He was lifted up on the Cross,

He took bread made of wheat and said to His 12 apostles:

“This is my body which is given for you.”

And then He took a cup of wine, fruit of the vine, and said:

“This is the chalice of My blood, the blood of the new Covenant.”


The promise of the Savior made to Adam is fulfilled in Christ.

And the promise of the new covenant made to Jeremiah is fulfilled on the Cross:

Jesus gives Himself to the Father by giving His body and blood

—His whole life—on the Cross.

And He gives Himself to us

—to each of us and all of us, whether living in the year 33 AD,

or the year 2018 AD

He gives Himself to us by giving His body and blood in the Eucharist.

And by receiving this Eucharist,

eating the wheat which has fallen to the ground to die,

we are lifted up into this perfect life:

He does not remain outside of us

like a stone with the law carved on it,

but rather enters into us, really and truly,

to give us new hearts of love.

And uniting Himself to us in this Holy Communion,

making us one with Him in His perfect obedience and love for the Father,

He restores the perfect harmony between God and man, even 2000 later.



But there is a catch:

just as Adam and Eve freely chose to act in disobedience to God’s will,

we must also freely choose to act in obedience to God’s will.

Neither the Cross or the Eucharist is magic—they are part of the Covenant.

To participate in this Covenant we must not only

accept the free gift of Himself that Christ offers to us,

we must also give Him ourselves in return.


So as Christ gives Himself to the Father by obediently accepting His will,

we must also give ourselves to Christ

by obediently accepting His will for us,

even if it means changing our hearts to love Him,

even if it means giving up our old lives dominated

by the world of confusion and evil.

And so Jesus tells us that:

“Whoever …hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.

Whoever serves me must follow me, …

The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

And St. Paul tells us that in his obedience to the Father, Jesus:

“became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”



All  Lent we practice obedience through the various sacrifices we make.

Yet as we struggle even with these small things,

we realize we really have very little strength to be obedient to ourselves,

much less to God.

But just as all of Lent points to the Cross of Christ, it also points to Eucharist.

Without the Eucharist Christ cannot come to us, He can not unite Himself to us.

But with the Eucharist He can transform our feeble efforts

and unite them to His own:

–uniting our sacrifices to His, our obedience to His, our love to His,

our whole life to His.

And in the Cross’s mystery of OBEDIENCE,

we find not demeaning humiliation,

but the glory that Adam and Eve sought and lost

through disobedience.

Jesus asks:

“Father, glorify your name.”

–and Father responds: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”

So in the Eucharist, Jesus offers to unite us not only to his obedience,

but also to his glory.



As we continue the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,

in a few moments I’ll ask you to “lift up your hearts to the Lord.”

When I say that, you’re supposed to do that!

So when I say that, lift your hearts and your whole self,

up to Christ in obedient sacrifice,

just as Christ Himself was lifted up in obedient sacrifice on the Cross.

And later, when I lift up the body and blood of Christ for you to see and adore,

open your hearts to receive Him, to become one with Him.

And remember the promise He made of the New Covenant:

“when I am lifted up from the earth,

I will draw all men to myself.”

TEXT: 4th Sunday of Lent, March 11, 2018

Fourth Sunday of Lent

March 11, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


Today is Laetare, or “rejoice”, Sunday,

which comes from the opening antiphon at the beginning of Mass

“Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.

Be joyful, all who were in mourning….”

But these joyful words stand in stark contrast

to the sad words of today’s responsorial psalm:

“By the streams of Babylon

we sat and wept

when we remembered Zion.”
These words from today’s psalm, these words of mourning and lamentation,

are almost 2600 years old.

But in a sense, they are timeless: they belong to every age,

from the time of Adam and Eve, even till today.


This psalm was probably written during the Babylonian Captivity of Israel,

sometime between the year 586 and 538 B.C.

We read about this in the first reading:

“Those who escaped the sword were carried captive to Babylon,

where they became servants of the king of the Chaldeans

and his sons.”

In 586, Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, attacked and conquered Judea

and in the process destroyed Jerusalem—which is also called Zion

—and in particular, he leveled the Temple located in Zion.

And when he left Jerusalem he took almost all

of the educated and noble Jews, including the priests and scribes,

back with him to Babylon,

leaving only the poor and uneducated Jews behind.

In effect the Jewish nation was destroyed.


And so you can see how the exiles would mourn

and long for a return to their home.

But it wasn’t only their home they missed:

they missed the Temple of Jerusalem, which was God’s home.

As the 1st reading today reminds us:

“the LORD’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem …

[was] His dwelling place.”


The thing is, they knew that their exile was a punishment for their sins.

But now, how could they be reconciled to God,

since they couldn’t go into his Temple,

and worship the way He demanded?

And so, they sing not only of weeping as they remember their home,

but they mourn specifically because, as the psalm says:

“How could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land?”

How can they worship God where He does not live?

And all of this, because they sinned.



But as I said, this psalm really belongs to every age,

because it is a psalm lamenting sin and the consequences of sin:

lamenting the loss of our home with God because of sin.

So it belongs to all men, back to the age of Adam and Eve,

because by their sin they lost their home in God’s paradise,

and since then all of us, their sons and daughters,

have longed to return to that home.


But as we read in today’s 2nd reading: “God…is rich in mercy.”

And He would not abandon man to his sins,

and so He has, from the beginning had a plan to bring man home to him.

Of course, this plan began with the establishment of a special people,

His very own “chosen people,”

from whom would come forth the savior of the whole human race.

And so this song of lamentation for the home lost by sin

belongs particularly to Abraham and his ancient descendents

—the Israelites, the Jewish people of ancient times.


But even though they were the people whom God had chosen

to bring about the reconciliation of all men to himself,

the Israelites themselves repeatedly broke their own covenant with God,

and suffered for their sins—even to the point of loosing their home.


We see this, perhaps most dramatically in the Babylonian exile

that we read about today.

For almost 700 years they had lived under the law of Moses:

the explicit instructions given by God to Moses,

by which He taught them like a caring and patient father

exactly how to live with and love each other,

and how to love and worship Him.

But time and time again they broke His commandments and laws,

and they worshipped him with false acts of piety.

As today’s 1st Reading tells us:

“In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people

added infidelity to infidelity,

practicing all the abominations of the nations

and polluting the LORD’s temple

which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.”

Time and time again He punished them for their sins

–sometimes by great defeats in battle,

sometimes by having to flee from their enemies.

And finally, about 600 years after Moses died, He allowed the Babylonians

to conquer them and take them from their home in Zion.



But while their captivity in Babylon lasted only about 50 years,

the Hebrews would never really fully regain their home.

Because after the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon

and sent the Jews back to Zion,

they still remained subjects of the Persian King.

And when the Persians were defeated by the Greeks,

the Jews became subjects of the Greeks,

And when the Greeks were defeated by the Romans,

they became subjects of the Romans.


So we come to the time in the history of the world, about 540 years later,

a time which the Gospels refer to as “the fullness of time”:

the days when Caesar Augustus ruled

almost all of Western Europe, northern African and the middle East,

and his friend Herod the Great was his vassal king in Judea,

headquartered in Jerusalem.

The dwelling place on earth of the Most High

was held captive by pagans from Rome,

so that Christians of the 1st century would call Rome the new “Babylon.”

And so the people of that age also cried out in song:

“By the streams of Babylon

we sat and wept

when we remembered Zion.”


But God would still not abandon man to his sin.

As He had promised Adam, and Abraham and Moses, and all the prophets,

He would redeem his people

—He would bring them home to live with Him,

not merely in the earthly Zion

that can be corrupted by sin or destroyed by enemies,

but with Him in the eternal life of the heavenly Jerusalem

—God’s true home.


And so, we read in today’s Gospel:

“God so loved the world that He gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish

but might have eternal life.”

God the Son entered the world, being born in the midst of the chosen people.

Once again God revealed himself to His people:

but this time not through mere laws or the words of prophets.

This time God Himself, the Son, physically comes to His people.

And so we read today:

“God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world,

but that the world might be saved through him.”

Jesus came not to prolong mankind’s exile, but to bring man home to God.



But again, many chose not to serve God, but to sin.

And so Jesus tells us:

“the light came into the world,

but people preferred darkness to light,

because their works were evil.

And so, as we read in today’s Gospel, “the Son of Man [is] lifted up.”

–“lifted up”, up on a Cross,

a cross just outside of the city of Jerusalem,

a cross overlooking Zion.

And the song of lamentation belongs to those who killed him,

–the Romans and the Sanhedrin–

to those who watched Him die,

–the Blessed Mother, John, Magdalene and the Holy women–

and to those for whom He died

–you and I, and all sinful mankind:

“By the streams of Babylon

we sat and wept

when we remembered Zion.”

Throughout the long history of Israel, and even all the way back to Adam,

men and women have mourned their sins

and lamented losing their home with God.

This is the terrible fact of the history of mankind.


But the glorious fact of that history

is that for every time man has sinned and lost his home,

God has come back and offered them reason for hope.

So that in every age as he hangs his head in sorrow for his sins,

man also lifts his head to see God’s forgiveness.

So just as the Babylonians exiled God’s people

only to have the Persians send them home to Jerusalem,

in the same way,

just as Jesus is lifted up on the Cross to die for our sins,

he is also lifted up in the Resurrection to live eternally,

and to bring us all home to the heavenly Jerusalem.


Today, on this Laetare Sunday, Holy Mother Church reminds us that

even as we meditate on the darkness of our sins,

we remember that the light shines in the darkness,

and hope shines through our mourning.

Even as we fix our eyes during these 40 days of Lent on Jesus Crucified,

we also look through the Cross to see Him Resurrected.

And even as we lament our sins,

and mourn the loss of our heavenly home praying:

“we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”
we also remember:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him might

…have eternal life.”

And so now, as we enter into the mystery of the Holy Eucharist,

the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection,

the mystery of the eternal sacrifice of the heavenly Temple,

the mystery of God giving us His only Son to and for the world,

the mystery of the eternal Jerusalem descending now to us on earth,

and lifting our hearts into heaven,

we sing:

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.

Be joyful, all who were in mourning….”

TEXT: 3rd Sunday of Lent, March 4, 2018

Third Sunday of Lent

March 4, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus:

“made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area.”

For many people today, this can be a very troubling text.

In fact, if this weren’t Jesus,

at a minimum, most Americans today would be confused by such behavior

and many would be outraged, finding it really “hateful.”


And as I thought about that this week,

I remembered that many of Jesus words and actions

would be considered hateful by a lot of folks today.

For example, He regularly insulted the Pharisees,

he treated men differently than he treated women,

and He taught that to go to heaven you have to keep the 10 Commandments,

that marriage is between one man and one woman,

and that sex outside of marriage leads to the fires of hell.

And in fact, many people today do reject Jesus, and even call Him “hateful,”

specifically, because He does these things.


But of course, it can’t be “hateful”: this is Jesus, God the Son—and God is love.

There must be love here.


This led me to think a little more deeply about why people would react this way,

and it became clear to me that this kind of symptoms of a larger,

societal problem.

That is, too many Americans have adopted

a corrupted understanding of the idea and meaning of “love.”


Put simply, over the last few decades we’ve more and more come to believe

that love is first and foremost all about feelings.

So that if you have strong feelings of attraction toward someone,

that must mean you love them.

Or if someone makes you feel good that must mean they love you.

And on the other hand, if someone makes you feel bad,

or uncomfortable or afraid or hurt or diminished in any way,

for whatever reason

that someone not only doesn’t love you—they must “hate” you.


Of course, this way of understanding love has always been with us,

but it’s also always been considered as childish

and detrimental to the true good of the person and society.

Instead, we had a more a more mature and truly human understanding of love.

The idea of love, sometimes defined as,

willing and striving for the good of the other”

–if you love someone, you want what is truly good for them,

and you do what you can to bring that good to them.

Notice, it has nothing to do with feeling good:

it’s about being good and doing good.

Good feelings are not necessarily reflective of true and objective good:

shooting heroin in your arm every night

might make you feel good for a while,

but there in no way is it truly, objectively good for you.


And yet that kind of feeling good

is what the popular culture promotes as “love.”

And so the culture finds it almost impossible to find love

in saying “no” to something that makes you feel good.

And so, for example, Jesus and His Church

are unloving when we say you can’t do whatever makes you feel good

with anyone that makes you feel good.

Or that we’re hateful when we say that if you don’t repent mortal sin

you will go to hell, even if that sin makes you feel really good…


But all the while the Church is only saying,

we truly love you, and we want only what’s good for you

and we’ll do only what we understand to be truly good for you,

which has very little to do with whether or not

it makes you feel good right now.


This dichotomy of these 2 meanings of love is seen nowhere more clearly

than in that which is the object of our particular reflection throughout Lent:

the suffering and crucifixion of Christ—or simply, “The Cross.”

The Cross has never made anyone feel good:

not the Blessed Mother, or St. John or St. Mary Magdalene

standing at the foot of the cross;

not Pontius Pilate or the Roman soldiers,

and not even Caiaphas and the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin.

It certainly doesn’t make you or me feel good.

And above all, it definitely did not make Jesus feel good.

And yet, it was the most truly profound expression of the Lord’s

willing our greatest good—our salvation,

and the greatest thing he could do to bring about our greatest good,

to win our salvation.

In short, the Cross didn’t feel good, but it was the greatest act of love ever.


2000 years ago St. Paul wrote, as we read in today’s 2nd reading:

“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,

but we proclaim Christ crucified,

a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

Today he might say:

Americans demand good feelings,

but Christians proclaim Christ crucified,

a stumbling block and foolishness to Americans.”



Now, saying all this I might appear to be talking about

some nebulous culture “out there,”

or perhaps about people who embrace that culture—but still “out there.”

And I am to some extent.

But what worries me most is how that culture “out there”

has influenced us “in here.”

Because we don’t just stay “in here” in this church–we live out there,

where we are constantly surrounded by the culture and its values

—especially it’s strange notion of love.

It’s in the books we read, the movies and shows we see,

the news we watch, the lessons we learn in school,

and in the conversations we have with friends and family,

especially in social media.

It’s almost in the air we breathe.

You may think you avoid it,

but it’s almost impossible for it not to affect each of us in some way.



Again, think about how many Catholics today would be a little embarrassed

by our Lord’s actions in today’s Gospel when He whipped

and drove the moneychangers from the Temple.

And how many Catholics would be hard-pressed to explain

why He wasn’t being hateful.


And yet, Jesus didn’t hate the moneychangers,

anymore than He hated the scribes and Pharisees when He told them:

“…You serpents, you brood of vipers,

how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”


He didn’t hate them, He loved them.

But some people are more thick-headed than others

—some can be corrected by a gentle word,

and some by an intellectual argument,

But some can only be corrected by plain, harsh criticism,

and some, apparently, only by a whip.


As St. Paul tells us, in his letter to the Hebrews:

“‘the Lord disciplines him whom he loves,

and chastises every son

he disciplines us for our good

For the moment all discipline seems painful;

later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness…”


“For our good.”

Not our good feelings.


I remember once when I was a just a little boy,

I ran into to the street and almost got hit by a car.

My mama, the sweetest, kindest, gentlest woman you ever met,

grabbed my arm, spun me around and slapped me right on the bottom.

It hardly hurt at all, but she definitely got my attention.

I had no doubt she loved me,

but I also had not doubt that I would never run into the street again.



In Lent, we remember all of this,

and, in effect, we invite the Lord to be brutally honest with us

—to show us, in whatever way is necessary, what is truly good for us.

In effect, we ask him to call out to us like he did to Pharisees

to break through our stubbornness.

And yes, we even ask him to take a figurative whip to us, if necessary,

but to drive out the sins and vices in our souls,

sins we act out with our bodies,

which are supposed to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

And we even join him in this chastisement,

by figuratively taking a whip to ourselves, by our acts of penance.


Now, please, don’t write the bishop saying I told you to whip yourselves,

or that I’m advocating lawless violence—far from it.

But by simple things like giving up chocolate or meat or coffee—whatever—

and by adding prayers and acts of charity to your daily life,

you remind yourself that love is not about feeling good,

but about being and doing good.

And in fact, we remember that in the end,

sin hurts us more than any whip or penance could.

because sin keeps us from being good—being the best we can be.

And in the end, venial sins lead us to mortal sins, and mortal sins lead us to hell.


So, just as in love the Lord takes a whip to the moneychangers,

we ask him to take a whip to us, and we take a whip to ourselves.

But notice,

Scripture tells us “He made a whip out of cords.”

Doesn’t sound like a very formidable or whip

—it  doesn’t sound like it would hurt very much.

Kind of like the verbal whip he took to the scribes and Pharisees

—words of truth, that stung, but did no real damage or injury.

And the whip he takes to us is the mildest of discipline:

his yoke is easy, his burden light.

And the whips we take to ourselves, our penances,

honestly, they’re almost nothing.


But then we remember another whip

—a whip Jesus took to Himself,

or rather allowed others to take to Him,

as part of the penance He did for us on the way to the Cross:

what we call “the scourging at the pillar.”

History tells us that the whip wielded by his Roman guards

was not a harmless whip of cords,

but a vicious, even deadly, instrument of torture.

The “flagellum” consisted of several thongs of leather,

with lead balls or pieces of bone at the end.

It was not designed to get merely your attention,

but to violently rip open the skin, down to the muscle and bone.


Our Lord would never take such a whip to us.

But out of love He gladly endured such a whip for us.

Again, not for a good feeling, but for our true good—our salvation.



During Lent we turn our eyes and minds and hearts to meditate

on the suffering and death of Jesus.

Not because it feels good to watch Him suffer,

but because in His suffering we discover

the amazing depths of His love for us.

And in His love we discover the true meaning of love,

—that seeks not temporary good feelings,

but seeks and strives for the true good of the beloved,

no matter how painful it is to us, or to them.


As we move forward in Lent, by the grace of Christ scourged and crucified,

may our penances remind us of this love,

drive out all trace of sin from our lives,

and fix in their place a true abiding love for God and neighbor.

TEXT: 2nd Sunday of Lent, February 25, 2018

Second Sunday of Lent

February 25, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


It’s a familiar story in the Gospels:

–Jesus takes his three closest friends and apostles,

Peter, James and John,

out to a Mountain, a secluded place to pray.

–and while Jesus prays, and the 3 apostles fall asleep,

suddenly he radically changes in appearance,

and a heavenly person joins him.


What’s wrong with this picture?

Some of you might have noticed that I said

Christ was joined by a heavenly person, not persons.

Because I wasn’t speaking about the event recorded in today’s Gospel,

but about another event, a few weeks later in the life of Christ

–not the Transfiguration but the agony in the garden,

on the night He was betrayed,

when not Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, but a comforting angel.


These two events in the life of Christ really happened,

but as the gospels present them

they seem almost mirror images of each other

and show how the two very different events

are essentially connected to each other.

But at the same time that the similarities show their connection,

the differences show us the deeper meaning behind these events.


In the agony in the Garden,

Jesus’ face doesn’t turn a dazzling white,

but instead St. Luke tells us that it became soaked with sweat

so that sweat fell from it like “drops of blood.”

And instead of a manifestation of his glory,

the garden was a manifestation of His “agony”.

And on Mt. Tabor Peter, overwhelmed by joy, doesn’t want to leave,

as he asks Jesus if he can set up three booths for them

so that they can stay there here, saying,

“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!”

–but in the agony, as the guards arrest Jesus,

they don’t want to stay, but to run away!

And even just a few hours later when a woman points to Peter

and says, “this man was with Jesus”,

Peter–overwhelmed by fear– replied,

“I do not even know the man,”

and again, ran away.


At the transfiguration on Mount Tabor, a voice comes from heaven saying

“This is my beloved Son….Listen to Him.”

But a few hours after the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane,

Jesus tells the Sanhedrin at his trial:

“If I tell you, you will not believe.”

–they will not listen to him.



Most of us spend much of our times trying to be like God.

Sometimes that’s in a good way and sometimes that’s bad.

The good way is when we try to imitate Christ, when we try to be like Him

–to join Him in His relationship with his Father,

and follow His will for our lives.

But the bad way is when we try to put ourselves in the place of God

–when we strive for personal glory,

or when we try to make our will the center of the universe

–when we somehow in the recesses of our minds

see ourselves as sort of standing on that mountain

transfigured in glory, instead of Jesus.

But the thing is, light doesn’t stream from your face or mine.

And Moses and Aaron don’t come to talk to us about our mission

to save the world.

We are not God.


But the true wonder of the transfiguration and the agony

–in fact, the true wonder of the whole life of Christ,

is that even though light did stream from His face,

He hid that light, choosing to be like us,

even to the point of suffering for our sins,

enduring every kind of torture and humiliation and even death

because he loved us.

It was the same Christ

who spoke calmly to Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration,

as the Christ to whom the angel came to comfort in the Garden.

It was the same Christ who spoke to Moses and Elijah about his mission in Jerusalem,

as the Christ who prayed in the Garden that that cup pass from him,

but not his will, but His Father’s be done.

It was the same Christ whose face shown with heavenly glory,

as the Christ whose face also was drenched in sweat in the Garden.


To be like God, we must be like God’s Son who became man

–we must, out of love for him, not seek worldly glory,

but rather seek to find the true glory of Christ

by conforming to his will for us,

and enduring whatever suffering we endure,

with patience and love,

even when it means loving those who hate us.



Last Sunday we read at Mass about how Jesus

went out into the desert for 40 days

to prepare himself for his public ministry.

Just as we try to imitate him by joining him

in our own 40 days of preparation for his death and resurrection

we look to these 2 crucial events in Christ’s last weeks on earth

and he instructs a little further in understanding how to be like him.

He tells us to go with him to a special place to be with him

–a high place close to heaven, like Mt. Tabor or the Mount of Olives.

He tells us to talk and pray about his passage into Jerusalem

–to meditate on the cup he must drink from, on his agony and his glory

–his death and resurrection.

He tells us to place ourselves in the company of the Church

–with Moses and Elijah, and Peter, James and John, and the angels

–first of all, by listening to their prophetic words

in the reading of Sacred Scripture,

but also, by uniting ourselves in prayer with them.

And He tells us to place ourselves in the company of the Church on earth

–with the successors of Moses and the apostles

and our brothers and sisters in this building and throughout the world.

And in this place and with these people,

He calls us to pray, to Him and with Him and in Him to His heavenly father.


Today in this Mass, we celebrate these very mysteries,

and we carry out Jesus’ instruction in a most profound way.

We come away with Him to a heavenly place

–this sacred place consecrated to heaven.

We come together in communion with the angels and saints,

in communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ

in this building and throughout the world.

And as we offer the prayers and sacrifice of the Mass

to Our Father in heaven through Christ, and with Him and in Him,

we enter the mysterious real presence

of His agony, death and resurrection in glory.


And in the light of this Eucharist we see the world in a new light

–the very light of Christ’s face,

and we see that:

–in the agony of life, we can find the hidden glory

of Christ’s death and resurrection.

–when we fall asleep in our faith

He remains constant in prayer for us before His father.

–in our lack of faith–when we do not believe—

God still calls to us as he did 2000 years ago:

“This is my beloved Son…Listen to Him.”

–when we deny of Him–in the times we’ve walked away from Him

–we see that it is so much better to remain with Him

–that in fact ” it is good for us to be here”.