Homilies for March 2023

For March 5, March 12, March 19, March 20 (Solemnity of St. Joseph), March 25 (Annunciation), and March 26

Second Sunday of Lent – March 5, 2023

Readings: Gn 12:1–4aPs 33:4–5, 18–19, 20, 222 Tm 1:8b–10Mt 17:1–9    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/030523.cfm

The Renaissance artist Raphael painted the Transfiguration scene that we hear in the Gospel today. If you have been to the Vatican Museum in Rome, you have seen this painting. If you have been Saint Peter’s Basilica, you have seen a mosaic copy of this painting to the left of the baldachin. If you haven’t been to Rome, google “transfiguration” and you will see it immediately. Many call this the greatest work of art ever painted!

Raphael’s painting is tall. It is twelve and a half feet in height. Since the canvas is so tall, Raphael was able to paint two distinct scenes. On the upper part of the canvas, he shows what happened on the top of the mountain. Jesus is transfigured. His face is bright. He is floating in the air. Everything is light and airy. Moses and Elijah are conversing with him, while Peter, James, and John hide their faces in fear.

On the lower part of the canvas, Raphael shows what was happening at the bottom of the mountain where the other disciples waited. While the scene on top of the mountain is bright, the scene of the bottom of the mountain is dark. While the scene on the top of the mountain is tranquil, the scene of the bottom of the mountain is chaotic. A father has brought his son, who is possessed by a demon to the apostles at the bottom of the mountain. But the disciples are unable to heal the boy. He throws his arms in the air while his father looks on with a mixture of fear and disappointment while persevering in hope. Meanwhile, many of the disciples fling their arms in frenzied confusion. One feverishly scans a book, looking for an answer, while another urgently points to Christ on the mountain. Indeed, we cannot understand what happened on top of the mountain without remembering what was happening at the bottom of the mountain.

Christ has come to save us from the confusion of life. Christ has come to save us from the hardships of life. Christ has called us to a holy life so that we might be forever saved, even from the torments of this life.

Of course, suffering remains in our world. There is no need to look too hard for it. Even this reading from Saint Matthew’s Gospel understands this, since it tells of how the disciples could not heal the boy themselves. Even while Christ was being transfigured, suffering remained in the world. But we can say that Jesus was transfigured to offer us hope. Jesus was transfigured to give us a glimpse of the glory that is to come. Christ was transfigured to give his disciples a glimpse of his future resurrection. Christ was transfigured to give his followers a glimpse into how faith in him will transform the world.

I once knew a woman named Mary in a parish where I served. Mary was a very poor woman. She was poor in nearly every respect. She was materially poor. She was poor emotionally since she was abused as a child. She had no family. She had been married for a short time, but he abused her and left her. Yes, Mary was poor in many ways. But Mary’s faith erased all of that and made her feel like the richest woman in the world. She was always the first one in church and the last one to leave. She was always the first to volunteer to serve the poor, to visit the sick, to comfort the grieving. Mary’s faith gave her a glimpse of the glory that was to come for her! You can say that Mary was transformed in the midst of those who worshiped with her Sunday after Sunday. Seeing Mary transformed in the midst of our brutal and hard world gave each and all hope for our own transfigurations.

During this season of Lent, we undergo penitential practices. We don’t undergo these practices simply to suffer. We don’t undergo these practices to lose weight or to get healthy. We undergo these practices to make room for the Lord who transforms our lives with his presence. So, on a Friday during Lent when you have just finished a delicious hamburger because you forgot that it was Friday, don’t get upset with yourself. Think of it as a tap on your shoulder from Jesus. Think of it as Jesus asking you, “Do you remember me? Will you make time for me?” Because when we make time for Jesus, he transforms our lives!

The Good News is that Christ came to transform us! The Good News of this Gospel is that Christ has called us to a holy life so that we might be forever saved, even from the torments of this life.

Third Sunday of Lent – March 12, 2023

Readings: Ex 17:3–7Ps 95:1–2, 6–7, 8–9Rom 5:1–2, 5–8Jn 4:5–42    bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/031223.cfm

Every Christmas morning, in a parish where I was pastor for many years, we had a reception for homeless people. The parish served a great Christmas lunch to about 150 homeless men, women and children. One Christmas it was especially cold and wet. A long line of homeless people formed outside our hall. I strolled up and down the queue trying to keep up the spirits of those waiting to get in. One man showed me his shoes. They were old and the sole was coming apart from the rest of the shoe. He asked me if I had another pair of shoes for him. I told him I didn’t have another pair of shoes, but he should keep on asking because I was certain that someone who was helping with the lunch would definitely have a pair of shoes for him. “You have an angel here,” I told him. “You have to find the angel who has your shoes.”

As soon as I said this, his frustration began to show. Certainly, you can imagine his frustration: He was living on the streets; it was cold and wet and his shoes were shot. He looked at me and said, “You are just like all the rest; you don’t want to do anything for me; you want to pawn me off on someone else.” “No,” I insisted. “Your angel is here and your angel has your shoes. But I am not your angel.” He turned his back on me and mumbled under his breath. A little later I saw a religious sister who worked with me in the parish. Now, you should know that this nun was a small woman. But I thought, what the heck and I asked, “Sr. Barbara, do you happen to have a pair of men’s shoes that are about size 11?”

“Well, yes I do,” she said to my great surprise. “My nephew just sent me a box of his old shoes.”

“Come with me,” I said. We went up to the man who needed new shoes and I said, “I’ve done your work for you! I found your angel!” He began to cry instantly, and he began to apologize for not having more faith on Christmas morning. “Don’t cry,” I told him. “Be grateful and rejoice because the Lord, himself, is looking out for you!”

Today in the Gospel, we hear that the Lord, himself, went searching for the woman at the well. The woman came to the well weighed down, frustrated and sad, only to discover that the Lord himself was waiting at the well, searching to forgive and save her. How do we experience the Lord searching for us?

In order to experience the Lord searching for us, we must allow ourselves to be pursued. The Samaritan woman from the town of Sychar did not arrive at the well ready to be pursued by the Lord! In fact, she put all sorts of obstacles in the way of Jesus to make it difficult for him to each out to hear with love and forgiveness. When Jesus asked her for water to drink, she replied “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” When Jesus said that he could give her living water, she irritably responded, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?” When Jesus then said, “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst,” the woman poked fun at him. “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

The woman did not arrive at the well ready to be pursued. In fact, she arrived with a temperament that made it difficult for the Lord to break through to her. But the Lord would touch her heart by allowing her to speak about what most burdened her. When the Lord told her to go and get her husband, she responded that she had no husband. To which Jesus replied, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.”

It seems that this woman was searching for love in all the wrong places! Perhaps she was so poor that her only option was to live with a man who would provide for her. Perhaps the price she paid for this was abuse. Perhaps she was a prostitute. We don’t know for sure, but certainly, this Samaritan woman was burdened by the life she lived. The Lord pursued her and unburdened her. The Lord pursued her for a purpose! The Father seeks people who worships him in Sprit and Truth to worship him, he told her. The Lord seeks people such as you, he told her! How wonderful this must have sounded to this woman! Others might disrespect her, but the Lord pursued her!

When the Lord breaks through our hardness of heart, we know he is pursuing us! When we acknowledge what burdens us before the Lord, we experience him pursuing us!

Fourth Sunday of Lent – March 19, 2023

Readings: 1 Sm 16:1b, 6–7, 10–13aPs 23: 1–3a, 3b–4, 5, 6Eph 5:8–14Jn 9:1–41  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/031923.cfm

In the first reading from the book of Samuel, we hear that Samuel was instructed by the Lord to go to the house of Jesse. There, the Lord would choose one of Jesse’s sons to replace Saul as the anointed king of Israel. One by one Jesse’s sons were brought in to stand in front of the prophet. Each son seemed to have all the physical traits that one would expect for a king. And looking at each, Samuel thought, “Surely this one is the one.” However, after each of the seven sons came before Samuel, the Lord said, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the LORD looks into the heart.”

Finally, Samuel asked Jesse, “Do you have any other sons?” To which Jesse replied, “Yes, there is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” So the youngest son, David, was brought in before Samuel. Having just made the point that God doesn’t see as humans see, it is interesting that Scripture reports that “David was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and made a splendid appearance.” It seems, after making such as strong point that humans don’t see as God sees, that the writer of the Scripture would have said something like, “He was young and small and nothing much to look at, but the Lord saw something special in him!” But the Scripture doesn’t say that. It says that David made a splendid appearance. It seems that while it is true that humans don’t see as God sees, it may also be true that God sees as humans see. Or, put another way, it is possible for us to see as God sees.

How do we see as God sees? How is it possible to see as God sees? What kind of work do we need to do to see as God sees?

Many of us are familiar with Michelangelo’s statue of David which stands boldly in Florence. Michelangelo’s statue stands tall. David is portrayed having a body that is strong and muscular. He is self-possessed and sure of himself. Certainly, Michelangelo’s was not the first statue of David that had appeared in Renaissance Florence. Statues of David that were produced before Michelangelo’s portrayed him as having a slender, un-muscular body. One statue portrays David picking up the sword of Goliath and you are left asking yourself, “How did that kid pick up that sword?” The sword is as tall as he is! These earlier statues portrayed David as other people saw him. But Michelangelo portrayed David as God saw him: full of faith, full of possibility, full of potential to do God’s will. This is the way of seeing to which God calls each of us. When we look at one another, we are not to look at the other’s sin, but their possibility to do good.

To see as God sees requires that we radically believe that God’s goodness is in every person. To see as God sees requires that we abandon anything in us that might get in the way of encouraging another’s goodness, whether that is jealousy, anger, or fear.

When I was a college student, I took a class in public speaking. The teacher was remarkable for always noticing the potential in us. Sometimes, when students would rise to give a speech or to read publicly, they would stutter or mispronounce words because they were so nervous. But no matter how horribly the student performed, this teacher would always find something positive on which to compliment the student. Then he would say, “And if you want to make that even better, then you might consider this or that.” He didn’t berate the student at all. He taught by building on the foundation of what was good. He understood that his role as a teacher was to help students recognize their talents and help the improve on them. It seems that this is a real Christian approach. We are not to berate people for their sinfulness, like the chief priests berated the blind man. We are to recognize the potential of every person to follow Christ. Just as Jesus gave sight to the blind man, so Jesus gives us sight. Jesus gives us sight to recognize the potential in others to follow Christ even more closely.

The Good News is that Christ shows us how to see as God sees!

Solemnity of St. Joseph – March 20, 2023

Readings: 2 Sm 7:4–5a, 12–14a, 16Ps 89:2–3, 4–5, 27 and 29Rom 4:13, 16–18, 22Mt 1:16, 18–21, 24a        bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032023.cfm

In a moment, I can become a hand or a fist. When I am a fist, I make demands. When I am a fist, I get my way. When I am fist, I protect myself. When I am a fist I do what is right because it is right . . . no questions. But when I am a hand, I don’t so much make demands as suggestions and look for compromise. When I am a hand, I am not so much interested in getting my own way as with understanding others and thinking of their needs, even before my own. I am not so much interested in protecting myself as welcoming others and showing hospitality. I am not so much interested in what is right but how I might help a person in need and even help them to salvation.

In a moment, we can go from being a hand to fist. Following Christ is about learning how to go from being a fist to being a hand, to being a hand more than being a fist. Do you think Saint Joseph was a hand or a fist?

Joseph must have felt betrayed and hurt. He must have been brokenhearted when he heard that Mary was with Child. The fist of the law and his culture gave him the right to divorce Mary. The scripture tells us that he intended to do this. But the scripture says that he intended to divorce her quietly so that Mary would not be exposed to shame. We already see something of Joseph’s character. He was no fist.

When the angel in the dream offered him a consoling hand and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home,” Joseph began to listen to his gentler nature. When the angel told him that “it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her,” Joseph didn’t listen to the fist that said, “that’s impossible!” He listened to the hand of the angel which said, “all things are possible with God!”

It must have seemed like a great risk for Joseph. But Joseph stopped listening to the fist that would have put an end to everything. Instead, he listened to the hand that would begin everything! He welcomed Mary into his home. Because Joseph welcomed Mary into his home, he gave the child Jesus a home. Jesus, of course, would “save his people from their sins.” He saves us from our sins! As a human — and after all, Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine — Jesus learned from Joseph that forgiveness is a hand and not a fist. Joseph played an important role in offering our Lord and Savior a gentle welcome into this world. “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” Joseph was no fist.

Solemnity of the Annunciation – March 25, 2023

Readings: Is 7:10–14; 8:10 Ps 40:7–8a, 8b–9, 10, 11Heb 10:4–10Lk 1:26–38      bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032523.cfm

We all know the experience of needing or wanting something and being told, “That is impossible.” When we are told that something is impossible, we have a choice. Sometimes we may decide to forget about it. But sometimes when we are told that something is impossible, we don’t give up. In fact, it is as if being told that it is impossible increases our desire to find a way to make it possible. Deep down, we don’t believe it is impossible. We know it is possible. So, we go about finding a way to make it possible and not believing that it is impossible. If we are standing in line at ticket counter and the clerk has told us that what we are asking for is impossible, we might get in a different line and ask a different clerk. If we are still told it is impossible, we go home and ask friends. Perhaps we go online or call the manager. We explore all the options we can think of to make the impossible possible.

In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, King Ahaz seems to be in an impossible situation. Two kings with large armies are on their way to put Jerusalem under siege. The scripture says that “the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (Isaiah 7:2). God wanted to comfort the king. God wanted the king and all Jerusalem to know that what seemed impossible was possible for God who loved them. He wanted the king to trust in the possibility that God would save his people. What does God want to make possible in your life? How does God want to transform an impossible situation in your life?

God changes what seems impossible to possible by inviting us to believe that he is with us. This doesn’t happen passively. It requires that we search for God’s presence in our lives. It requires that we actively search for his guidance, just as Mary did when the angel Gabriel visited her. When the angel greeted her, she wondered what it would mean. When the angel told her that she would bear a child, Mary asked how that would happen since she had not slept with a man. When Gabriel told her that she would conceive and bear a son from the Holy Spirit, he gave her a sign to help her believe. The sign was that Elizabeth, who was thought to be barren, was in her sixth month of pregnancy. Right away, Mary made haste to visit Elizabeth so that she might witness this sign.

Compare this behavior with that of King Ahaz. When God asked him to ask a question so that by the answer God could prove that He was with Ahaz, the king refused to ask. He refused the sign. Not so with Mary, she took everything the Lord offered as a way of increasing her faith that all things are possible for God. Mary actively sought to understand that all things are possible for God.

I remember a story a priest told me some time ago. He was called to the hospital late one night to anoint a young man who had been in a horrible car accident. The young man was only 16 years old. As the priest anointed the young man, he overheard the nurses talking. The nurses didn’t believe too much should be done to save the young man’s life. The nurses said that if the young man lived, he would surely be unable to walk and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Well, the young man did live. He was paralyzed. He was confined to a wheelchair. The priest saw the young man in church every Sunday. He graduated high school and was the valedictorian of his class. He went to college. He studied Art and became a special education teacher. He wanted to help others like himself who struggled in life. The priest told me, it shows that there is something a lot worse than living life in a wheelchair. That is, living life without the faith that all things are possible for God.

The Good News is that God changes what seems impossible to possible by inviting us to believe that he is with us. It doesn’t happen without our active participation. But the Good News is that when we actively search for God’s guidance, we discover that all things are possible for God.

Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 26, 2023

Readings: Ez 37:12–14Ps 130:1–2, 3–4, 5–6, 7–8 Rom 8:8–11Jn 11:1–4  bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032623.cfm

Somebody was telling me recently about looking for a parking place. He had been driving around for some time looking, looking, looking for a place to park when he saw a man loading the trunk of his car. My friend rolled down the window and asked, “Are you leaving?” The man looked up and said, “Yes.” Then he closed the trunk of his car and walked away. Literal thinking is not very helpful! In fact, being too literal can even destroy a relationship. I am thinking of the husband whose wife asked him on their anniversary, “Do you love me?” To which the husband responded, “You know that I love you. I told you last year!” How do we nurture a deep and personal relationship with Jesus?

Today’s Gospel tells us that to have a deep and personal relationship with Jesus requires us to trust him, even when it is difficult. Today, the Gospel warns us not to get so literal that we forget to believe in our deeply personal relationship with Jesus. Today, Jesus urges us to be mindful of our faith in Jesus and to avoid being so literal that we miss his presence.

There was a lot of literal thinking among the disciples. After Lazarus had died, speaking metaphorically, Jesus said to his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” To which the disciples responded, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” So, Jesus had to say plainly, “Lazarus has died!” Even though he didn’t entirely understand Jesus, it was Thomas who shows us what is necessary. Thomas realized that if Jesus went to Bethany, all of their lives would be in danger, since the authorities had only recently tried to kill him in that area. But once Jesus decides to go, it is Thomas who says, “Let us also go to die with him.” To nurture a deeply personal relationship with Jesus means that we are willing to even die for him. Most of the time, dying for Jesus will mean simply dying to our ego, letting go of our ideas and opinions in order to practice mercy and love.

Jesus urges us to be mindful of our faith. A lot of times it’s easy not to be mindful of our faith. It is easier for us to be mindful of our troubled hearts. It is easier for us to be mindful of our emotions and how we feel. It is our faith in Jesus that can carry us through such troubled times.

Today, Jesus tells us to be mindful, fully present, to him. Today, the gospel warns us not to get too literal and to believe in our personal relationship with Jesus. Today, Jesus urges us to be mindful of our faith in Jesus and to avoid being so literal that we miss his presence.

The good news is we don’t have to be literal and to get all the facts and figures correct. We simply need to be mindful of Jesus’ loving presence in our lives and of the power of this relationship.

Fr. Edward Linton About Fr. Edward Linton

Fr. Edward Linton, O.S.B., a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, was ordained in 1991. He currently serves as Director of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education (ICTE) at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Italy. Fr. Edward holds an M.Div. from Saint Meinrad School of Theology, an M.A. in English Literature from Middlebury College and a PhD in the Philosophy of Communication from Southern Illinois University. Previously, he has served as a College teacher, associate pastor, pastor, monastic guest master and Director of International Benedictine Formation at the Badia Primaziale di Sant ’Anselmo, Rome.


  1. Avatar moses jesudian says:

    Very thoughtful and meaningful reflection. It is really helpful to give homilies in the churches on every Sundays of lent. Thank you once again for sharing such a wonderful reflections for the season of lent.