Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent – March 4, 2012 by Monsignor Perez
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Today we have this wonderful scene in the gospel, and there is so much going on here that this one gospel would make food for meditation for quite a long time. Look what happens. Our Lord chooses three of His apostles. Seeing Tabor makes it a little bit more real. Where they went up for the Transfiguration of Our Lord reminded me of those pictures you see in Rio of this mountain they call Sugar Loaf where the statue of Jesus is. It’s in full desert and all of a sudden there’s this huge mountain. But it’s not a pointy mountain like the Rockies or the Sierras. It’s a rounded mountain but it takes work to get up this thing. And, so, they walk to the top and, of course, they’re all alone because not too many people see the reason to walk up to the top of this mountain, especially not in those days. Now we have a reason to go up there. And they get there and Our Lord is transfigured before them, His garments shine, He attains this transparency with this brilliant light coming out of His body. On top of that, Moses and Elias appear, and besides that at the end of all this, God the Father says out of heaven, “This is My Son in Whom I am well pleased. Hear ye Him”. There’s an awful lot of things to talk about there.
What I wanted to say a few words about today is just one aspect. You know, there are different things that happened in that Transfiguration. And each one had a particular reason that God had for having it happen. One of them was part of the beginning of the revelation of the Holy Trinity, with God the Father saying, “This is My Son”. You know, it wasn’t explicit in the Old Testament, though there are references, little things you can look at that refer to the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament. But now it is becoming explicit, God appearing and saying, “This is My Son in Whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him”. And then Elijah or Elias as they say in Latin and Moses appear. Now what was the reason for that? Remember that they appeared at the command of Jesus. They weren’t just in the neighborhood and decided to stop in and have a nice little chat with the Messiah that they had waited so long for. They were commanded to appear from where they were in limbo, waiting for the gates of heaven to be opened. So, he summoned them from limbo.
Now, part of the meditation is, How did the apostles know they were Elias and Moses. Either they had name tags or Our Lord introduced them, I guess. By the way, apostles, I’d like you to meet, you know, The Moses and The Elias that I’ve called here. But somehow they knew it was them. And why did He command them to appear? Well, for true Jews, for a true pious Jew, their presence there at Our Lord’s command was the Good Housekeeping Seal on Our Lord as Savior. They represent all of Judaism summed up in those two people. Moses, the giver of the Law, he represents the whole of the law, and Elias, the greatest of the prophets, so we have all of the law and the prophets, which was the sum total of the religious life of the authentic Jew. And here, the law and the prophets are there at Our Savior’s command and they see this.
Then, of course, there is the part about the Transfiguration itself — it wasn’t that He showed them His divinity. He showed a hint of His divinity. No man can see God while in this wayfaring state and live. If you were to see God face to face you would die instantly while you are on earth. When we go to heaven we can see Him face to face. But he revealed a hint of His divinity which was more than enough to accomplish His goals.
Now, besides confirming in His apostles’ minds that He was the Savior and the Son of God, there was a purpose for doing that which was later on down the road. Consider why did He pick these three apostles and what were they called to do later on? Well, he chose these three apostles for, of course, very good reasons. First, there was Peter whom Our Lord would name Pope later on, and who would have to lead the fledgling Church and govern as Pope until he suffered martyrdom, and he would have to then suffer this awful martyrdom of being crucified upside down for Our Lord. We all know the story.
There was Sts. James and John, they were brothers, “the sons of thunder,” they were called in the Bible. It is speculated that they were just very boisterous and energetic about everything, so they got that nickname. So, there was St. James. Now this St. James is the one we call St. James the Greater. There was a St. James the Greater and St. James the Lesser. We don’t really know the exact reason, but they speculate that one was actually taller than the other, and that’s the reason why they called one the greater. So, when they said James, both of them wouldn’t come running all the time. So they would say greater or lesser, like taller or shorter. And this was James the Greater, brother of St. John. And what happened to him? Well he was sent by St. Peter to evangelize Spain. The story there is he had virtually no success and he was very disappointed, frustrated, despondent and whatnot, and he knelt down in a place to pray. He prayed to Our Lady. Now Our Lady was still on earth at this time but she bilocated to him and said, “It will be all right, You will get from now on many converts“. And he did after that, converting, in fact, the whole Iberian Peninsula, just like St. Patrick would later convert Ireland. He went back eventually to Jerusalem and there it is believed was the first apostle to suffer martyrdom for the Church. And that was in the year 44 A.D. So he would be called then, not to be the first martyr. Obviously, St. Stephen was that. But to be the first of the twelve to be martyred.
And finally there was St. John who would have loved to have been martyred, and he was boiled in oil, but Our Lord would not permit him to die the death of red martyrdom, shedding his blood. And he lived to a very ripe old age, he wrote his gospel and other things, and he had to see it through to the end.
So one of the purposes, then, of choosing these people was to give them this extra strength, something they could hold on to, that they would remember forever, and that would see them through their great trials that would happen in the end.
It is God’s Providence, but He knew that these three, because of the extraordinary lives they were to have and the extraordinary deaths they were to have, needed that something that they saw in the Transfiguration, and, in fact, all these things, so that later on that would be a constant reference for them. It had to have been always before their eyes. Once you’ve experienced the things that had happened here, it’s always in front of you. Our Lord shining like light and Elias and Moses and God speaking from heaven. And it did, in fact, see them through to the end.
Now, one of my thoughts was, you know we really need something to see us through to the end, too. And thanks to that Transfiguration and what it wrought in those apostles and what all the apostles, in fact, left us and Our Lord left us in His Church, we have that something to grab on to. And I think we need it more now than we’ve ever needed it in the past. We are in a very difficult situation in the Church. And I don’t need to explain that to anyone. It’s as if the Church in the last 50 years has completely gone nuts. And none of us can see a rhyme or reason to it. And worse yet, none of us can see an end to it. All we can do right now is hang on and suffer through it, which is what we are doing. But every so often we have to remind ourselves of certain things. Why are we here? Well, heavens knows we have enough opposition. I don’t need to tell you, we all have relatives that think we’re nuts. Well, not too many of my relatives think we’re nuts. Some of them might not understand. (Msgr. laughing) But, you know, we were always suffering some sort of slight from the outside world or some sort of attack.
I was in Sam’s Club about a week and a half ago and somebody came up to me, a woman, and said, “Oh, what Church are you from, Father?” And I said, “Oh, I’m from Our Lady Help of Christians in Garden Grove.” And there was somebody else with her. She said, “I don’t know that one.” And the other one said, “Oh, yeah, they’re the schismatics.” And here I am. (Msgr. laughing) You know, they’re the schismatics. And I go, “Oh, yeah, that’s us.” You have to realize I didn’t have a whole lot of time. I was agonizing over which laundry detergent to get, and I couldn’t get into a big conversation, but this is kind of the thinking. How many times have we heard, Well, you’re not with the bishop, you’re not under the bishop, you’re a schismatic, you guys this, you guys that, you don’t believe in the Pope. Well, of course we believe in the Pope. How stupid is that. But we’re accused of a lot of things. And this starts to get under your skin after a while, so that we have to remember why we are here. We need that firmly in our minds, as firmly as the Transfiguration was imprinted in the minds of those apostles. We need it to see us through in the same way.
There are a couple of basic things we have to recall. One of which is when somebody calls us schismatic, it’s kind of interesting, isn’t it? Because, what we are doing here and why we are here is we are being faithful to the Church that Christ died to found. We are being faithful. And I know — you know, when you first become Traditional, maybe you didn’t all have this problem. I went through this 20 something years ago, probably when I first turned Traditional. And you get these temptations, these thoughts in your mind. And it’s natural. If you have any kind of humility whatsoever, you are going to get these thoughts in your mind, where you look around, and you go, It looks like the whole Church, including the Pope, have gone nuts and are believing something that is different from what we believe. And here we are this little group, and we’re saying, Yes, we have the true faith. And you have to go, Something must be wrong with me. I must be missing something here. How could all these people and priests and bishops be wrong and we’re right. And then you get over it.
The way I got over it was realizing long ago, first of all, what was the crisis after Vatican II that we’re still undergoing? The whole faith, apparently the teaching that was being done by the Magisterium, by the Pope and the bishops, these documents and things, was all contrary to what we believed. There were people who just went along with it. There were people who just got into the guitars and all that kind of stuff in their liturgies, the new liturgy and whatnot. But there were another group of people that was looking for the truth. And they were looking for some place to hang their hat. They were like a man without a country. And they go, How do we get through this crisis. What do we do? We’ve got to have some stability. And, so, one group, and I would call them like the Novus Ordo conservatives, they go, Well, you know, we will put our anchor on the person of the Pope, the currently reigning Pope. He would never lead us astray, so whatever he says, we will suck that up like little guppies. Whatever he does, we will do. Whatever he doesn’t do, we won’t do, because the papacy is where it’s at.
Well, unfortunately what they did is hook their anchor on a moving target. As we know, the Pope and the bishops are doing things that are contrary to the faith, and they are trying to teach things that are contrary to the faith. They put their anchor on the wrong thing, because, in a word, the Pope and bishops are more often wrong these days than they are right when it comes to the faith.
The other group, largely simplifying it, were the Traditionalists. They figured rightly, and that’s where we are. What is it that we will be able to hang on to with both arms and both legs, and that will be our anchor, our salvation. What they reasoned correctly are a couple of things. What has the Church always done, what has the Church always taught, and what have the people always believed. These three things. And they rightly reasoned that if you hung on to these three things, then you would be safe and see your way through this storm to the end and die a faithful Catholic. Thankfully, all of these things that we believe in which the Church has always done in the way of liturgy, what the Church has always taught in the way of doctrine, and what the faithful have always believed both in piety and other things, these are easily findable. These aren’t hidden things. These aren’t in some secret archives under the Sphinx or something like that, that you have to have a special pass from somebody to go see.
Get a book that is 50 or 60 years old and go back from there, 560 years old, or 1,060 years old or 1560 years, it is constant. What is taught there is completely the same from year to year, what the faith is. No changes. Theologians write more about the same topics to try to illuminate us on the hidden areas of certain mysteries to clarify certain things to do with theology, but what the Church has always done in the way of liturgy — You know, I have Missals — that are 500 years old, letter for letter what this more modern printed one has, I have seen parts of Missals that were from the 6th Century. I have a reproduction of the Gelasian Sacramentary which contains the Canon of the Mass exactly as we have it now, and the rest of the Mass pretty much as we have it now. We are doing nothing different from what was done and we can show that. We are teaching, whether here or in our school. Everything you hear is what was has always been taught, whether you hear it from the pulpit or in a classroom. And what we believe as faithful we can show that Christian Catholics always believed. That is something we can hang on to, because it’s not just, Well, I’m right and you’re wrong. This helps you believe for yourself. When you have a crisis, and you go, How could we be right and this Pope or the bishop be wrong? Go look it up. What has the Church always taught infallibly? What have we always done? What have we always believed? And if we are wrong, the Church has always been wrong. Now, that isn’t a very logical position to take. So, consequently, it must be something else.
Now, turning the thing around, we’re the schismatic ones, according to these people, and disobedient. We are not under the bishop and this kind of thing. Okay, well, let me tell you, St. Athanasius, at one time, not only — well, he was kicked in and out of his diocese by the Arians and at one point the Pope had briefly become Arian but repented before he died. That was a heresy back then. St. Athanasius, the situation was so grave in certain dioceses because the bishops had become heretics that he consecrated bishops and sent them to those dioceses and said, Take care of those people because they are getting trash from their bishops, they are being led to hell. Same situation right now. It was virtuous to not listen to your bishop or be under your bishop at certain points in history. And it’s virtuous now when your bishop is wrong, when you can show to any thinking person what is being taught in every parish in this diocese is a contradiction of what was always taught and done by the Church. The liturgy that they are doing in every parish in this diocese was condemned by the Council of Trent as you can’t ever have this kind of liturgy. People will lose their faith, and it’s not Catholic. And, of course, Ottaviani and others in the 60s when they saw the Novus Ordo, the proof copy before it was sent out to everyone in the Church, they said, This isn’t Catholic. Millions of people are going to lose their faith and go to hell because of this new liturgy. But did Paul VI care? Apparently not, apparently not.
So, then, what we have is this new definition of schismatic. If you are not under a bishop who happens to not be terribly Catholic and you are hanging on to this old liturgy, and believing what the Church always believed in and teaching what the Church always taught, you are now a schismatic. Well, guess what. This is diabolical disorientation. Who is schismatic? The people that aren’t doing what the Church has always done, and aren’t teaching what the Church has always taught in its’ purity one hundred percent, and who are not believing what the faithful have always believed as Catholics. They are the schismatics.
So, when somebody says, Oh, you are not being obedient — well, obedience is not an absolute. The bishop of this diocese is the bishop, but if you obey him in everything, you’ll go to hell, so you have to make a decision. And the decision is what right-thinking Catholics have been doing since the founding of the Church and that is to hang on to that faith of the apostles, which they went out and most of them shed their blood for, and Our Lord shed His blood for. Father Schell used to say about the situation in the Church, he said, “Jesus will fix it. He died to found this Church. Eventually, he is going to fix it”.
So, my dear faithful, these are things just to clarify in our own minds why we are here. Why do we go out of our way, why do we go to this little place and take all this abuse from these people almost on a daily basis. And it’s because those of us who have been given some sort of grace — now, don’t ask me why, because every traditional Catholic I talk to says, I don’t know why I understand this and my sister or mother-in-law doesn’t, or my brother or my wife or my husband. But you have to have clear ideas. St. Francis de Sales says, “The most important thing is to have clear ideas, clear thoughts”, and we do.
I want to just leave you with a little paragraph here that’s in our bulletin every week. I ask that it be put in there every week. And it’s something I think they should make leaflet bombs out of. Now, leaflet bombs, if you recall in the old days, they would print up propaganda or something they wanted everybody to believe, usually in time of war, and they would go and fly over and drop it out of the B17 or the Sopwith Camel or whatever it happened to be at the time. And these would come down and it would be a note from the Kaiser to the American troops in English saying, You are losing the war, you will be slaughtered like dogs, give up now, surrender while you still can, hoping somebody would believe it. Well, this one I would love to make a leaflet bomb out of it and fly over with maybe a helicopter so I could get it right on their parking lot during Mass, and it’s this thing that if you gloss over it, take your bulletin, print it somewhere and use it when these people come to you. And it says
“To Modern Catholics: We are what you once were. We believe what you once believed. We worship as you once worshiped. If we are wrong now, you were wrong then. If you were right then, we are right now.”
And, as Our Lord says, He will give you the Holy Ghost so they will not be able to resist your words. There is no one who can reasonably resist these words, because you can prove every jot and tittle of that statement.
So, my dear faithful, on this day of the Transfiguration, let’s thank God that our faith is not based on air or Vatican II or something like that. We have, like those early apostles, we have something which is the faith and the Church to grab onto with both arms and both legs. And that will see us through to the end. You be faithful to the Church that Christ died to give us, and He will bless you with His body and blood and grace until our last breath.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.