The Sunday next before Lent

“Three important scenes of Our Lord’s life took place on mountains. On one, He preached the Beatitudes, the practice of which would bring a Cross from the world; on the second, He showed the glory that lay beyond the Cross; and on the third, He offered Himself in death as a prelude to His glory and that of all who would believe in His name”

Fulton Sheen The Life of Christ 1970: 158

Over the last few weeks we have been reading through what we generally know as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus goes up to a high place to teach the assembled crowds how to live in a way that is pleasing to God and will bring about human flourishing. This morning we see Christ up a mountain doing something quite different. The world around us has a good idea of what it thinks glory is: most of the time it looks like human success and triumph, just think of people winning a gold medal at the Olympics, people waving flags, noise, pomp, pageantry, all fine and good in its place, but essentially something fleeting and transitory, it goes, it doesn’t last. As Claudio Ranieri the erstwhile manager of Leicester City knows all too well.

Rather than concentrate on human ideas of glory, this morning’s readings give us a glimpse of God’s glory. In the Book of Exodus we see Moses going up Mount Sinai to receive the Law, the Ten Commandments to show Israel both what to believe and how to live. Moses spends time in the closer presence of God, so that when he comes back down the mountain he is shining, he is transformed and transfigured by the experience. It’s an experience which takes time, God tells Moses to come up and  wait there, he waits six days before being invited to come up further. He spends forty days on the mountain, which prefigures Our Lord’s forty days in the wilderness before the start of his public ministry and our own forty days of Lent.

Jesus takes his closest disciples with him to show them something of the glory of God. He appears with Moses and Elijah to show them and us that He is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Jesus is the Messiah, and the Son of God. Christ is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets because they all look to him, they find their truest meaning in Him, they are fulfilled by Him. That is why the Church has always read the Hebrew Scriptures in a Christological Way: they point to Christ, who is the Word made flesh. The Church has never abandoned them, for in them we see a richness of material, a depth of proclamation throughout the history of Israel and its relationship with God which points to Christ, which can only be explained by Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, he is what the prophets look towards, and their hope, and their salvation.

When God speaks he tells us three things about Jesus: he is the Son of God, he is loved, and we should listen to him –  He is God, the Second Person of the Eternal and Divine Trinity, who created all that is and who will redeem it. We should worship Him, and obey Him. He is loved by God, love is what God is, the relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is one of love, and our human love is but a pale reflection of God’s love for us, shown by his Son Jesus Christ on the Cross, where he dies for our sins. We should listen to him , what he says and does should affect us and our lives. – We have to be open to the possibility of being changed by God, ‘to live is to change, and to live well is to change often’ as John Henry Newman once said, love changes us, it is dynamic not static, it forms who and what we are.

Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone about this until after he has risen from the dead. The detail is important: Jesus will suffer and die upon the cross, taking our sins upon Himself, restoring our relationship with God and each other – this is real glory – not worldly glory but the glory of God’s saving love poured out on the world to heal it and restore it.

As this is the Sunday before Lent, Quinquagesima, fifty days before Easter we have a chance to spend time time with God, we have the prospect of a penitential season, a chance to focus on what really matters, away from the noise and bustle of normal life, a chance through prayer, reading the Bible and Sacramental encounter to spend time with God, to be close to him, and to let his love and grace transform us more and more into his glorious likeness.

That is why we are here this morning – to see that self same sacrifice here with our own eyes, to touch and to taste what God’s love is really like – to go up the mountain and experience the glory of God, what God is really like, so that God’s love may transform us, given a foretaste of heaven, and prepared to be transformed by God. This is true glory – the glory of the Cross, the glory of suffering love lavished upon the world. The Transfiguration looks to the Cross to help us prepare for Lent, to begin a period of fasting and prayer, of spiritual spring cleaning, of getting back on track with God and each other, so that we may be prepared to celebrate Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, to behold true majesty, true love and true glory – the kind that can change the world and last forever, for eternity, not the fading glory of the world, here today and gone tomorrow, but something everlasting, wonderful.

So let us behold God’s glory, here, this morning, and let us prepare to be transformed by his love, so that the world may believe and trust in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.

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Homily for Quinquagesima


“Three important scenes of Our Lord’s life took place on mountains.  On one, He preached the Beatitudes, the practice of which would bring a Cross from the world; on the second, He showed the glory that lay beyond the Cross; and on the third, He offered Himself in death as a prelude to His glory and that of all who would believe in His name”
Fulton Sheen The Life of Christ 1970: 158
The world around us has a good idea of what it thinks glory is: most of the time it looks like success and triumph, just think of people winning a gold medal at the Olympics, people waving flags – a bit like St Davids on St David’s Day but a lot more noisy.
Rather than concentrate on human ideas of glory, this morning’s readings give us a glimpse of God’s glory. In the Book of Exodus we see Moses going up Mount Sinai to receive the Law, the Ten Commandments – to show Israel what to believe and how to live. Moses spends time in the closer presence of God, so that when he comes back down the mountain he is shining.
Jesus takes his closest disciples with him to show them something of the glory of God, he appears with Moses and Elijah to show them and us that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets; he is the Messiah, and the Son of God. Peter responds in a moment with a very human response, he knows that it is good to be here and it helps to change his life. When God speaks he tells us three things about Jesus: he is the Son of God, he is loved and we should listen to him – what he says and does should affect us and our lives – we have to be open to the possibility of being changed by God. Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone about this until after he has risen from the dead. The detail is important: Jesus will suffer and die upon the cross, taking our sins upon Himself, restoring our relationship with God and each other – this is real glory – not worldly glory but the glory of God’s saving love poured out on the world to heal it and restore it.
That is why we are here this morning – to see the self same sacrifice here with our own eyes, to touch and to taste what God’s love is really like – to go up the mountain and experience the glory of God, what God is really like, so that God’s love may transform us, given a foretaste of heaven, and prepared to be transformed by God. This is true glory – the glory of the Cross, the glory of suffering love lavished upon the world. The Transfiguration looks to the Cross to help us prepare for Lent, to begin a period of fasting and prayer, of spiritual spring cleaning, of getting back on track with God and each other, so that we may be prepared to celebrate Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, to behold true majesty, true love and true glory – the kind that can change the world and last forever, for eternity, not the fading glory of the world, here today and gone tomorrow, but something everlasting, wonderful.
So let us behold God’s glory, here, this morning, let is touch and taste God’s glory, let us prepare to be transformed by his love, through the power of His Holy Spirit, built up as living stones, a temple to God’s glory, healed, and restored, reconciled, and given a foretaste of eternal life with him, so that God may take our lives and transform us, so that everything that we say, or think, or do, may proclaim him, let us tell the world about him, so that it too may believe and trust and have new life in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.

Trinity XI Evensong


To be worthy of the name Christian, then, means that we, too, must thirst for the spread of the Divine Love; and if we do not thirst, then we shall never be invited to sit down at the banquet of Life.


Fulton Sheen The Rainbow of Sorrow, 1938: 70

Living a Christian life can never be said to be easy, or without its surprises. To put it simply it makes demands of us: that we live out our faith in our lives, that we put what we believe into practice so that it affects the world around us. It is not easy, as Mother Mary Clare slg puts it:


You are dedicated to love and reconciliation. Your life is directed to that end, and you must learn to stand at the Cross. It is a long learning, a long road, but a sure road if it is up the hill to Calvary. It is a road on which you by being stripped of all self, may mediate to the world the dawning knowledge of the glory that descends.
The essence of the good news of the Gospel is that we are new creatures. In the Transfiguration we see the meaning of the new creation in the light of the Holy Spirit, the perfection of man which cannot be held by death but goes through death to the victory of union with God. God draws us not merely into the dark cloud, but into the tremendous stillness of the height of Calvary and through Calvary to the dawn of the new day.



Thus we can see how divine glory is deeper and more profound than human glory, it aims not at glorifying itself but rather in sharing that glory with others, as a sign of the generous self-giving love which speaks of God’s nature. It is this love which comforts us in our affliction and strengthens us to endure patiently all that this world may throw at us.
Thus we can say with confidence the words of the prophet Isaiah from this evening’s first lesson: ‘“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ (Isa 12:2–3). Just like the vision of messianic peace with which Chapter 11 starts, where the wolf lies down with the lamb, here the prophet looks forward to the peaceful reign of the Kingdom of God. That hope is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, and we, his body, the Church are called to live this out in the world, for great in our midst is the Holy One of Israel. In the feast of the Transfiguration which the Church celebrated on Tuesday we see a glimpse of God’s glory and greatness, the hope to which we are called. It is a glory which is shown to the world most fully in His death on the Cross, which stands as a signal for the peoples, a contradiction which is the antithesis of human glory, which rises from the tomb at Easter – ‘on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again’ (2Cor 1:10) ‘for all the promises of God find their Yes in Him’ (2Cor 1:20).

This is the source of our confidence as Christians – the victory of Christ over death, sin, and the world. We cannot be shaken in this, it is complete and total. It is why we share the good news with others, why we live out our faith in our lives, as a sign of this victory and of the love of God which has been poured into our hearts. What the world sees as terrible cruelty, the slaughter of an innocent man as Christians we can see as the greatest and most pure expression of God’s love, the love which saves and redeems us and all humanity. It is recognising the fact that God loves us, and that his love can transform us, through His Grace, and give us the promise of heaven and sharing His Divine Life – that our human nature may be perfected through His Love. This is what Christ comes to bring, the reason why we celebrate the Incarnation where God takes our flesh to redeem it, the God who gives us His flesh so that we may have life in Him. This simple truth has shattered the world for nearly two thousand years, it has overpowered human empires, totalitarian regimes cannot expunge it, the modern world may turn its back on it, but it is the only lasting cure for spiritual hunger, this supernatural food, this pledge of immortality. This free gift which demands that we share it, and give our lives in His service; this is the greatest consolation for which we could ever ask or receive. So, fed by it, may its divine love transform our human nature, and may we share the gift with others that they may believe and transform the world that it may sing praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.