Welcome to Saint Mary’s Church, Harborne, Birmingham, UK.

Order of St. Augustine.

Archdiocese of Birmingham

“Before all else, live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.”  St. Augustine.

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                                       Fr. Bernard O’Connor’s Homily

                                               for Sunday 17th March

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Luke 9: 28-36

Jesus was transfigured in the presence of the three apostles.  We are told ‘the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning.’

At one time I used to find this description of Jesus transfigured disappointing, because Jesus the man, who seemed so accessible, now seemed to be beyond us on a different level.

However, gradually began to realise that by his transfiguration, Jesus was giving us a glimpse of what each of us cold become.

There is a Christmas prayer, which the priest says quietly at Mass as he mixes water with the wine, praying as God took on our human nature, so we may be enabled to share in his divine nature.

It is hard for us to grasp the full meaning of that scene.  We can best understand it from Peter’s reaction.  He was completely overcome by the experience. He experienced something like ecstasy.

Such was his inner joy that he wanted to hold that moment forever, wanting to build three tents to keep Jesus and Moses and Elijah.  

The moment passed.  When Peter looked up after the voice from heaven, everything was back to normal – no Moses, no Elijah, Jesus looking just as he always did.

When they came down the hill, they found the usual crowd waiting for Jesus, asking his help and his healing.  Nothing had changed.

Yet this experience must have remained with Peter and the other two for the rest of their lives. What they had experienced was a glimpse of the real nature of Jesus, his divinity, his holiness.

Holiness is something that we attribute to God.  At the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer in the Mass, we cry out with the Angels in heaven ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts.’

We pray that ‘you are holy indeed, the fount of all holiness’, and then pray that this holiness may come upon the humble gifts of bread and wine that we offer to God, that they may be transformed into the very presence of Jesus, Son of God, for us

And so, heaven and earth come together on our altar.

God and holiness may seem to be away out there, beyond our reach, beyond our imagination.

St Thomas Aquinas gives us an image of God which I, for one ,have always found helpful.

God is the one in whom is the perfection of all goodness.  Every good, kindly, generous act that we experience from people, the humans around us and sometimes from the most unexpected, that is a reflection of the image of God in that person.

So God is always near us.

God has given us a model of holiness in his Son, Jesus, who took on our human nature.

When he began his public ministry, began to preach most noble words with inner authority, and also performed wonderful  things, healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, then people began to recognise something extraordinary about him.

But until then, those in the village who had known him all their lives, could see nothing different about him or his family, Mary and Joseph, what we know to be the Holy Family.

Mary and Joseph never did anything extraordinary beyond living their family life, yet there is no question about their holiness.

It is saying to us that holiness is possible in living an ordinary life.   In the teachings of Jesus,. there is nothing intimidating, nothing that is beyond the reach of us human beings.  One does not have to be a scholar to understand his teaching.

The example of his life is a model for us, his simple goodness, his desire to bring healing where there is pain and suffering, his respect for everybody he meets, regardless of their public reputation.

There was once a belief, and maybe for many still is, that holiness is just for monks and nuns, and is beyond the reach of lay people.  The Vatican Council in its teaching on the nature of the Church of Jesus Christ, emphasised that all members of the Church, all the followers of Jesus, are called to holiness, in family, in work, in school and in all our casual contacts with others.

Yes, you, each one of you is called to holiness.

You may have had the experience of occasionally encountering a person

who seems to radiate goodness, in a simple, unassuming way, and yet is capable of fun and enjoyment.

There was nothing miserable about Jesus or his companions.  In fact some respectable people were shocked that they seemed to enjoy company and sharing meals, rather than praying and fasting all the time.

St Peter, wrote to the newly-converted Christians, ‘as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct’, and her reminds them of their dignity, ‘you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people’

Those words are equally addressed to all of you, here present..

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