The following is Bishop Caggiano’s homily for the Second Sunday of Lent, given at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.
My dear friends,
It’s amazing the difference one week can make. For if you recall, when we gathered last Sunday, we heard the great story of the Lord’s temptations in the desert, and He was about to begin His ministry. Now, a week later, in the 9th chapter of St. Mark, Jesus is almost halfway done with his ministry and had already made the decision to turn His attention to go to Jerusalem, where He knew – had foreseen – what awaited Him. That He would freely give His life up so that you and I, His apostles, and all who believe in Him, might have eternal life.
And so He pauses and chooses three of His apostles to come up the mountain so that they might see a glimpse of His glory, the glory He had before He entered the world, the glory that would be His again after His death and resurrection, when He ascended to the right hand of His Father, a glory that was meant to encourage them so that they could endure His passion and death. But there was something else going on, my friends, for the apostles began to notice at this point in His ministry that even the crowd was beginning to turn, turn away from the Lord, begin to question and doubt Him. That would lead to the mobs that said crucify Him. And they also began to realize that what happened to Jesus could happen to them, that there was a cost to follow Jesus. And so the Lord wants to encourage them not only to witness what would happen to Him, but so that they could bear whatever sufferings would come to be faithful to Him, a lesson most of the apostles found very hard to learn.
That encouragement is also for us in our life of faith, as you and I struggle to be faithful in a world that is making it ever more difficult to follow the Lord Jesus. But I do have a question to ask you. There were twelve apostles. All twelve walked with Jesus. Why did the Lord only choose three to go up the mountain and not twelve?
For all twelve would suffer. All twelve would have to sacrifice. But He chose only three, Peter, James and John.
And I think if we reflect on a possible reason for that choice, then it gives us a spiritual challenge for you and I in the modern world. For let us consider what those three were asked to do. Peter was the first bishop of Antioch and the first bishop of Rome who would lead the christian community in a time of great persecution. James was the leader of the church of Jerusalem, a place where the apostles and the disciples of Jesus would be persecuted. And he himself was the first apostle to die.
John was the one who did not betray Jesus or abandon Him. And to him was given the singular duty to take care of the Mother of God. After Jesus rose from the dead and he brought her to Antioch, where he lived and cared for her until she was assumed into heaven, which the tradition holds. Mary was 72 years old.
All three were asked to assist others in faith. All three were asked to accompany and encourage and strengthen those around them. In other words, my friends, they were chosen to be encouraged, not only for their own sake, but that they may encourage others. That what they received, they would share. That they would be the ones when the Lord had risen and ascended, to be the ones who would lead, help encourage, support, walk with their fellow christians when they were questioning, doubtful, confused, when they were suffering.
You see, my friends, every single one of us has a cross to carry. My mother used to say, God makes it in such a way that it’s just heavy enough for you to carry. So my cross is not yours and yours is not mine. However, as we carry our cross in life, whatever it may be, what the Lord is teaching us today is that no one is to carry it alone, but we are to walk with each other and encourage each other and support each other in our life of faith. So let me ask you a question.
If you look around this church like I do, how many of the people here sitting next to you, behind you, in front of you, how many of them do you and I know what cross they bear? How many do we know here by name? And yet the Lord asks us to walk with each other?
You see, my friends, can we dare to build a church? Can we dare to hope in the power of the Holy Spirit that the day would come when everyone knows everyone else’s name? When everyone who comes here to celebrate the sacrifice of the mass would know each other’s crosses? And could we dare to believe that the day would come when there is no single person in our church, no matter how great the cross may be, will carry it alone? But there would be others to walk with them.
You see, my friends, that is the challenge of the transfiguration.
Consider in a few moments, I will come to the altar and join with you in this great sacrifice. The Lord will come, and He will be veiled under the form of bread and wine. But it is truly, really, completely the body, blood, soul and divinity of the risen, crucified and risen. Lord, He comes with all his glory, no different than the glory on the mount of transfiguration. He comes here and He is veiled.
But He comes here to dwell in you and me so that we might lift the veil out there and show the world and people that He is alive in us and to lift it here so that everyone who believes and walks in faith may strengthen each other until we walk together to heaven.
And so, as I often ask you, allow me to ask you this question. Is there someone in your life that you know that you know is carrying a cross and perhaps carrying it alone? Is there someone in your life or mine that we have been meaning to reach out to because chances are no one else would? Is there someone in this church right now that you’ve often asked yourself? You know what? I always see that person, but I don’t know their name. I would like to get to know them. Because by doing that, my friends, you will get to know not only a person’s name, but a person’s life and perhaps a person’s cross. Don’t you think it is time for you and me to walk up the mountain of the transfiguration with Christ alive in your heart and mind and lift the veil of glory and help someone else to see it so that they might have courage and faith in Him?
Who here is ready? Go up the mountain with Jesus.