Second Sunday in Lent – Year A
Pastoral Visit to Saint Jung Ha Sang Parish
[Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 33; 2Timothy 1:8b-10; Matthew 17:1-9]
As we celebrate this liturgy, and particularly as I offer this homily, translation is necessary. There are some people here today who perhaps could use some assistance to understand English, and there is at least one person who needs every assistance to understand the Korean language. This is why we have, for example, the PowerPoint™ slides that offer a translation of words from one language to the other.
When we consider the Gospel text for this mass, we realize that another type of translation is needed by us all. I am speaking not of a translation from words to words, but from words to action. How do we take what we hear in the Word of God and translate it into the daily activities of our lives? To assist us in this act of “translation”, we do not need anything other than the biblical texts themselves. The readings given for this mass teach clearly how to translate the meaning of the Gospel into our day-to-day living.
Saint Matthew gives us the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of chosen disciples. On the mountain, his true identity as Son of God shines forth. His Sonship is confirmed by the voice of the Father, who from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” and then commands us: “listen to him.” How are we to translate this?
First, we translate this Word into action by welcoming it into our lives. From my personal experience, I know that the Korean people understand hospitality. The welcome I was given when I visited the Archdiocese of Gwangju in South Korea was extraordinary. You certainly know how to welcome your guests and treat them with honour and respect! Archbishop Kim even provided me with Father James Cho as my personal interpreter! Do we welcome the Word of God into our hearts and homes? Do we accord the divine teachings the honour and respect that are their due? In our Western culture, which is increasingly secularized, the temptations are great to give hospitality instead to many voices and influences, which seek to lead us away from fidelity to God. To translate into action the command of the Father to listen to the voice of His Son, we must be careful not to welcome any voices that contradict it.
Second, we translate the Word of God into action by obeying it with faith in God’s love. The great example of this obediential faith is Abraham. In the book of Genesis, at a time he was referred to as Abram, Abraham received the command from God to go forth from his land, and Abraham obeyed. The point to notice here is that God did not indicate where Abraham was to go, but only that he had to leave where he was. Without knowing the future, Abraham placed his trust in the promise of God, he had faith in the love of God, and not knowing where God was leading him, he set forth from his land, from all that was familiar to him (cf. Hebrews 11:8). In Lent, we hear the voice of God command us to leave behind the territory of sin and set out along the pathway of the Gospel. God does not always indicate exactly where fidelity to Jesus will take us at various stages of our lives; we cannot see the future. Yet, God, in Christ, has promised that the path He gives us in His Son will lead to eternal life with Him. To translate this command into action, we must, like Abraham, place our faith and trust in the promise of God and follow wherever He summons us.
The third act of translation indicated by the Scriptures today is perhaps the most difficult. In the second reading we hear Saint Paul say this to Timothy:
“Beloved, bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.”
Translation from English to Korean, or vice-versa, is very challenging. One must understand not only the vocabulary and grammar of each language but also the respective cultures in which they have arisen. This can cause substantial blockages to understanding that may, at times, tempt one to give up the task of translating from one to the other. Translation of the Gospel into faithful daily practice can encounter the same difficulty when it speaks of the hardship and suffering that come with following Jesus Christ. The Western culture that surrounds us exalts pleasure and avoids suffering. Its language centres upon the first person singular: “I”. If we have grown accustomed to speaking that language, and have absorbed the culture of self-pursuit, the translation of the Gospel into a life of self-denial and willing embrace of suffering for the sake of Christ will present many obstacles that tempt us to give up on faithful discipleship. Here we need to remember the admonition of Saint Paul as he tells Timothy to bear hardship not with his own strength, but with that provided by God. God will always provide us with the necessary gifts when we need them as we translate His Word into a life of fidelity to His Son, however challenging that act of translation may be.
I would find it very difficult indeed to translate Korean into English, because I know only one word: 감사합니다. As we engage in translating the Gospel into daily living, we soon realize that this is the one word that arises spontaneously from all our hearts and unites them: 감사합니다. The Gospel announces the salvation of the world by the Eternal Son of God made flesh. It provides us with knowledge of the right way to live, and promises the abiding presence of God and the working of His mercy to carry us through this life toward eternal life with Him in the next. As we listen to this Word, welcome it, and allow it to transform our hearts, there is really only one thing any one of us can say, regardless of differing mother tongues. That is 감사합니다, thank you.
Our great act of thanksgiving is the Eucharist. Here the Holy Spirit unites us with Christ in the offering of our lives to the Father in thanksgiving for the gift of salvation He offers the world in Christ. As we give thanks to Almighty God for His saving love, let us ask for the grace we need always to translate with accuracy His Word into a life of fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Saint Jung Ha Sang Parish
March 5th, 2023