The Second Sunday in Lent – The Homily
Vermillion is a brilliant red or scarlet pigment originally made from the powdered mineral cinnabar, and is also the name of the resulting color.
It was widely used in the art and decoration of Ancient Rome, in the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, in the paintings of the Renaissance. A great example of this can be seen in University City at the Church of St. Agatha – St. James on 38th and Walnut Street. The church architecture is neo-gothic and was renovated about 15-20 years ago. They used bright red vermillion as a background color throughout the church on those areas where they were going to use gold leaf. The striking red in the background really makes the gold leaf stand out and “pop.”
So what does vermillion have to do with today’s Scripture reading? Pope Francis writes the following on the Transfiguration:
We need to go to a place of retreat, to climb the mountain and go to a place of silence, [Why?] to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord.
We cannot stay there, however. The encounter with God in prayer again pushes us to come down from the mountain and back down into the plain, where we meet many brothers and sisters weighed down by fatigue, injustice, and both material and spiritual poverty ( Angelus talk on the 2nd Sunday of Lent, March 16, 2014)
- We need to find a place, a physical spot – a “sanctuary.”
- AND we need to find a time – during the day – when we are drawn to pull away for a brief season.
Why does the Holy Father says this important?
Because our true Identity comes to us in a place like this, on our own Mount of Transfiguration.
- During this special time, when we’re in our own personal sanctuary, God reveals who we truly are, through thoughts heard against the background voice of the Holy Spirit – like vermillion behind gold leaf.
- This is where the brightness of our true self is reflected in all its beauty…
- …away from the filters of the world and the false impressions that we so often receive about ourselves that would detract from the beauty of one who was “fearfully and wonderfully made” – “knitted in our mothers womb.” (Psalm 139:13-14)
This is all about answering the question – Who am I? That question doesn’t get answered in the blue light screen of an iPad or Windows laptop. There are tools that can help, because grace builds on nature because God uses the things of this world to instruct us about Him and about ourselves. It might be Gallop Poll’s “StrengthFinders” or Catherine of Siena’s Called and Gifted “Spiritual Inventory” or “Myers-Briggs“ or some other tool. But they are like a white blaze on a tree – or stone cairns on the Appalachian Trail. They are not the destination but they point the way to the summit, to your own “Mount of Transfiguration.”
Bishop TD Jakes talks about being “an original.” He tells the story that 20 years ago Time Magazine wrote an article about him asking if he was “The Next Billy Graham.?” Answer: NO. There was only one Billy Graham, there will never be another. The Bishop said, “God doesn’t do encores. God does not work for Xerox – God is not in the business of making copies. God ONLY does originals. I am unique. I am an original. There will never be another Bishop TD Jakes (and let the church say ‘Halleluiah!’).”
Why is my identity important?
- Because from IDENTITY – comes DESTINY. You are not an accident. You do not = matter + time + chance. You were created for a reason. You have a mission. You have a PURPOSE.
- But the purpose will only be fulfilled if you go through a PROCESS to find out who you are and why you are.
- And that process will only be anointed if you and the process stay within the PRESENCE of Christ, especially in the Eucharist.
- But the presence can be chased away. The voices of the world can crowd out the voice of the Holy Spirit. You have to return to a PLACE OF PEACE, away from the noise and the neon lights and the activity and agendas.
Two questions in closing:
- Where is your Mountain of Transfiguration?
- How is the Lord using Lent to purify your process. As the Lord purifies your process, you will determine:
- Who is The Lord? And from that …
- Who you are
- Why you are
Audio version of the homily is here: