On Ash Wednesday, we began Lent by hearing Jesus warn us against doing things for the wrong reasons. When you give alms, don't blow a trumpet. When you fast, don't look gloomy. When you pray, go to your room and close the door. Do things so that God sees them. Don't do them for the purpose of showing off to others. The Lord, however, doesn't say, "Don't do those things." He says, do them for the right reasons.
In a homily on that passage, St. Augustine says that just because wolves sometimes dress in the garb of a sheep, doesn't mean that the sheep should give up their sheep's pelt! That line has continuously come back to me during these first days of Lent. Mostly, it comes to mind because I've heard more than one person say that they are struggling to remain faithful to the Church these days. I get it. It's been a tough year. I won't even try to get into the long list of reasons because different people have different reasons. What is tearing at the heart of one person might not necessarily be what's angering another person. But, lots of people are angry, hurt, and discouraged. I get it.
Today in the Gospel, Jesus takes his companions--Peter, James, and John--up a high mountain. The journey takes effort and is demanding. The spiritual life is demanding. It requires effort, commitment, patience, and long-suffering. At the height of the mountain, Jesus is transfigured before His companions. He reveals to them His Glory. Their effort and commitment, their patience and their long-suffering is rewarded. Why does the Lord reveal His Glory to them? He wants to strengthen them so that in a short time, when they see this very same body brutalized, tortured, and ultimately killed upon the Cross, they will not be scandalized beyond repair. He wants the memory of what He revealed to them on the mountain to be preserved within them and to sustain them through the dark days of the Lord's Passion.
We are the Lord's sheep. We are His flock. Our pelt--our clothing--is our baptismal robe. As members of His flock, we are called to live a life of prayer. We are called to reject sin. We are called to worship God in His Church, to receive the Sacraments devoutly, to live a life of charity. Are there wolves who dress the same way? Are there wolves who do all of those things, disguising their sinister intent by appearing to be sheep? Yes, there are. So there has always been. And, even the sheep are often weighed down by sin and weakness.
In moments when we come face to face with the mystery of evil, we are faced with a decision. Are we going to be faithful to what Christ has revealed to us or are we going to allow evil to overwhelm us? Are we going to continue the hard work of climbing the mountain of prayer, allowing Christ to teach us, or are we going to abandon Him? Are we going to remain faithful to our baptismal promises or are we going to renege? Are we going to surrender our sheep's clothing because sometimes wolves dress like sheep, or are we going to remain in our sheep's clothing because Christ laid down His life for His sheep?
The Transfiguration is given to us so that in times of adversity, times of trial, and times of evil, when we feel incapable of taking another step along the road of discipleship, we might call to mind the Glory of Christ. His Glory is sometimes hidden from our eyes, but the Transfiguration reminds us that His Glory is indeed there. His Glory will prevail over sin and over death.
Don't give up the sheep's clothing! Now is the time for each of us to be even more serious about being Christ's sheep. Now is the time to become more faithfully His sheep. Now is the time to climb the mountain; to be more prayerful, not less. To be more committed, not less. To be more devout, not less. Now is not the time to cast off our sheep's clothing. Now is the time to cast off the power of darkness and every semblance of sin. Now is the time to repent, not to renege.
The wolf wins if he gets us to surrender our Catholic life. He wins when he cons us into abandoning the Catholic life. Now is the time to become more Catholic, not less. Now is the time for Christ's sheep to look upon the Good Shepherd--in all of His Glory--and to tell the wolf that he can take his lies and deceptions and go straight to Hell.