By Father Alonzo Q. Cox
AS IS THE case for most Catholic churches in our country and even throughout the world, there is a large increase in attendance at Mass for major Christian holidays, most especially Christmas and Easter. Over the almost eight years of my priesthood, I have looked forward to welcoming back home our brothers and sisters. I thoroughly enjoy welcoming back those who have been away from the church for a while, due to whatever circumstances may have kept them away.
This past Christmas, I had the great joy of welcoming home almost 500 extra people at our parish’s Christmas Masses! Although I did not see them the week after Christmas, and probably will not see them again until Easter Sunday, I was filled with joy to see them in church. My joy comes from witnessing their encounter with the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. I was able to see firsthand their love for Christ and His Church.
All About the Encounter
These brothers and sisters of ours were able to encounter the living Lord through the beautiful liturgies, the festive decorations of our churches and the dynamic preaching from our parish clergy.
As one person said to me at midnight Mass this past year, “It is good that I am here Father.” It’s all about that encounter with Christ.
We hear in today’s Gospel of a dynamic and even dramatic encounter with Christ as He is transfigured before Peter, James and John. As Jesus takes them up Mount Tabor and is transfigured before their very eyes, Peter, James and John are filled with emotion. They are amazed at what is happening before them; they are filled with fear, and ultimately joy. In the midst of this joyful encounter with Christ, Peter says, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.”
As witnesses of the Lord, each of us are called to have an encounter with Him. Just as Peter, James and John had that dynamic encounter with Jesus on Mount Tabor, each of us encounters Christ throughout our life’s journey. During those encounters, we may go through the same emotions as His own disciples did – amazement, fear, worry, doubt and even anger. Our Lord wants to embrace us in the midst of all of those emotions, leading us to the joys of the Kingdom of Heaven.
We are reminded in today’s second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans that Christ was handed over for us, so that He would intercede for us. St. Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him” (Romans 8:31-32).
During this Lenten season, we meditate on the great love that God has for us, as He sent His only begotten Son to shed His blood on the cross for our salvation.
Our encounter with Christ is meant to be life changing. As we approach the table of the Lord each and every single Sunday – or even for our brothers and sisters who come to our churches a few times a year – it is always with great joy and deep love that we acclaim, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”
Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18
Psalm 116: 10, 15, 16-17, 18-19
Romans 8: 31b-34
Mark 9: 2-10
Father Cox is the pastor of St. Martin de Porres parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and diocesan coordinator of ministry to African-American Catholics.