Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Do you remember that scene near the end of the Wizard of Oz
where Dorothy and the Scare Crow and the Tin Man and the Lion
finally encounter the Wizard, whose booming voice they hear
in flames and thunder and clouds of smoke?

And then, Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulls back a green curtain
exposing the man and the machinery behind the Wizard’s voice.
And now, revealed for who he is, the Wizard shouts,
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus is something like that 
– except it’s the exact opposite!

What I love about this gospel story is the place to which it brings us:
and I don’t mean the top of the mountain
Peter, John, James and Jesus climbed to gether

The story of the Transfiguration brings us not so much
up, and away and apart from
but rather brings us near, within and up close
to a reality we often ignore,
to a light we sometimes turn away from,
to a voice whose word we often miss
in the noise of our daily lives.

This reality I can so easily ignore isn’t resting on a mountain top:
it lives and breathes in my soul, in my mind and my heart.
It's the reality of God’s presence in my life
and though I might like to think that I can hide from God,
though I might pretend that God lives in heaven
while I go about my own business down here below,
though I sometimes might prefer the shadows to the light,
the presence of God is within me and around me, close to me,
every moment of my life.

When Jesus is transfigured before Peter, John and James,
the curtain of his humanity is pulled aside.
But unlike the unveiling of the Wizard of Oz,
what’s revealed here is the truth, not the sham.
When the curtain of Christ’s humanity is pulled back
his divinity is revealed.

The Wizard told Dorothy and her friends:
“pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”
but Jesus invites us to do exactly just the opposite.
The curtain is pulled back precisely so that Jesus’ friends
so that we might see him
for who he is, and pay attention to the man he is,
to the Lord he is over our lives, and in our lives.

Dorothy and her friends followed the yellow brick road to Oz.
Peter, James and John went up to the top of the mountain.
Where do you and I go to look for the Lord?

Certainly we come here, to this community of faith,
to this Word, to this Table -- to find the Lord.
And it’s very good that we do just that because the Lord is here
in his people, in the scriptures and in the Eucharist.

I suppose, in a way, when we come to Mass every week,
we climb to this mountain top place,
where the Lord pulls back the curtain
and in word and in sacrament shows himself to us.

But take note: in the gospel story, 
Jesus walked up the mountain and back down the mountain
-- in the company of his friends.
He climbed the mountain with them and he came home with them.
And so he does with us.

He was with us all this past week since last we gathered here.
Not even for a moment did he ever leave my side or yours.
He was with me in my joys and my sorrows, in my aches and pains,
in my successes and failures, in my hopes and my disappointments,
in my weak and strong moments, 
he was with me when I laughed and when I cried,
he was with me when I loved and he was with me when I sinned.

In every moment he was with me, near me, inside me,
right up close to me, living in my soul, in my mind and in my heart.

I may have ignored or dismissed his presence.
I may have turned away 
from the brightness of  his light shining upon me.
I may have tuned out his voice and its word, 
speaking its truth to me.
But he did not ignore me.
He didn’t take his eyes off me for a moment.
He never ceased speaking his love to me
whether I stopped in prayer to listen to him - or not.

Lent is a time for looking for the ways
the Lord pulls aside the curtain between him and us:
to let us see more clearly who he is and where he is,
in every moment of every day of my life.

In prayer, the curtain is pulled aside
so the Lord and I can sit down and talk together,
so I can hear the word of his love and the truth of his counsel.

In fasting, I learn let go, to sacrifice, to do without, 
to empty myself so that I might find how much I need the Lord
to fill my mind and heart.

And when I reach out to the poor, I meet and serve the Lord
who made himself poor for my sake and yours: Jesus, who was unveiled on the Cross
so that I might be saved from my sins, and you from yours.

In the Eucharist, the curtain is pulled aside
and in the gifts of bread and wine
there is revealed the divinity of Christ,
who showed himself on the mountain to be our Redeemer
and who shows himself at this altar this morning 
to be the same Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Pray with me that in this holy season of Lent
we pay very close attention to the Lord
who has shown himself, indeed, to be the Son of God.


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