Down the Mountain

Have you ever experienced a moment in time when you knew you were in the presence of God?  At such a moment, life completely stops, all your cares and worries vanish, and the world suddenly somehow makes sense.  Most of all, you are overwhelmed by a certainty and trust that everything is “okay.”  This must have been what the disciples felt when they witnessed the transfiguration of the Lord.  They were among the divine, which was so incredible for mere mortal fishermen, that it was simply too much for their minds to comprehend.

“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.” (Luke 9:28–36)

Peter, along with James and John, was given a special glimpse of a meeting much bigger than himself, so he attempts to deal with it in a concrete way, honoring these glorified beings with the only skill he can contribute.  It is essential in a life of faith to acknowledge these moments and give thanks for them, holding them close in our hearts to remember for the future.  While these times are life-changing, they cannot last forever, and we all must return to reality.  On one of my pilgrimages, as we were preparing to resume our daily lives, our priest reflected on the transfiguration, asking us to imagine what it must have been like walking down the mountain, how disorienting for the disciples.  No matter how miraculous the experience, the reentry into reality will always be difficult.  We will once again be confronted by doubt and fear, especially the doubt as to whether or not what we just experienced was actually real.

Although the walk down the mountain will always be a trial, I take heart that the harder the walk is, the more I can have faith that what I just went through really did happen.  The account of the transfiguration gives us hope as believers and followers of Jesus Christ.  After the transfiguration, only He remained with His disciples.  This holds true for us as disciples today.  Jesus Christ remains with us, ready to give us courage and to support us as we walk down the mountain and continue our everyday journeys in our daily lives.

To Be Close

The first reading is one of my favorites from the Old Testament, the story of Jacob, who wrestled with the Lord until the Lord blessed him.  The significance this story holds for us today is the physical proof of just how close the Lord can come to us. People commonly believe that since God is all knowing, we, as sinful human beings, have no possibility of changing or altering the will of God, but in this Old Testament story, Jacob actually does, and is blessed for it:  he becomes the father of the Israelites.
“You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel,
because you have contended with divine and human beings
and have prevailed.”  Genesis 32:28
God wants nothing more than to maintain a close and intimate relationship with each and every one of us.  Thanks to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who lived among us, we have the gift of entering and exploring a close relationship with our Creator every day. All we need to do is pray. Prayer allows us to transcend this world and enter the realm of the divine. When we pray, anything is possible as we talk with our Creator and Father, bringing our brokenness to Him, asking for mercy. The Gospel reading continues to reveal the compassion of the Lord and His willingness to be close to us.
“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.” Mt 9:36
As believers, we are also given a mission; we know how to find closeness with the Lord, but so many of the Lord’s people have not experienced His love.
“The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”  Mt 9:38
Jesus Christ calls us to show others the depth of the Father’s love. We have the chance to spread the word of God to as many of our fellow human beings as we can, and this way the power of the Lord’s love can grow. Imagine what the world would be like if the Lord’s love was known to all! Although this may sound over-ambitious, it is precisely what we are called to do. If we actively seek an intimate relationship with God ourselves, we will receive the power from Him to accomplish this mission.

Holy Spirit Inspired

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church. Because the feast of Pentecost was celebrated last Sunday, the liturgical readings for this memorial particularly resonated with me. The Gospel quotes Jesus as He gives His disciples their ultimate mission:  “the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” Luke 2:4
It is easy to read this passage as history instead of a direct call to action. As a child, I remember reading these passages and being interested in the disciples’ stories, but never making the connection to my own life.  We are the disciples of today, and the harvest is just as abundant as it was back in the earliest days when Jesus’ first disciples embarked on their mission. This past Pentecost weekend I was blessed to attend a rally where one of the speakers pointed out that the Lord constantly makes everything new.  This speaker believed the Lord is doing something new right now, preparing the Church as He did the disciples, but in a way that addresses the new and different times in which we live. The Church is like a volcano ready to erupt and when it does, it will change the landscape of the entire world.
As the disciples of this current age, we have work to do. With the strength of the Holy Spirit, we will succeed. “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, the LORD has anointed me; He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1

Do Not Be Afraid!

Do not be troubled or afraid, Jesus proclaims! “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27)
This passage may be one of the most powerful in the scriptures because it would have been one of the last times Jesus addressed all of His disciples before His ascension into heaven. He wanted to make sure they knew exactly what was going to happen after He left them. Jesus was completely honest, explaining that they would encounter evil and would need to confront it, but He also gave great promise of His peace and the guarantee this peace would always be with them. There would be hardship, pain and suffering, but through all of these, Jesus Christ would remain with them so they had nothing to fear. “The ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me.” (John 14:30) for Jesus had defeated him already on the cross at Calvary.
What a wonderful blessing this promise is, not only for the disciples, but for all of us. Anyone who truly loves the Lord has nothing to fear. In the first reading, the scripture provides a perfect example of the power of God’s promise and His will for His chosen people. St. Paul was stoned to the point of death but survived. Even after he was nearly killed, he never weakened in his conviction that he needed to continue the Lord’s mission–if anything, the stoning only gave Paul more strength.
The peace of God undoubtedly abides in us and we rely on it in times of great trial. This world can be extremely hard–what a gift that we can combat its hardships with the power of Jesus Christ surrounding us

To Be A Servant

Jesus issued the call to discipleship as servants to others, not only to His personal followers but to those of us who would follow in His footsteps in the future.  This message is preached to us as Christians so often, the meaning of it can lose its significance.  In fact, Jesus lost disciples who were seeking to follow a king, not a servant. Jesus offers true disciples a more personal opportunity for service than simply being part of a military or political entourage.  Would any ruler in this world wash anyone else’s feet himself?! Washing the feet of all His disciples the night before He died was symbolic for Jesus in embracing His role as the Messiah. Now we are called to take up the servant role as we follow the path set by our Master. By accepting this role, we express our humility.

Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
—John 13:16–18

All our gifts, talents and abilities were bestowed on us by God. There is nothing we can do except through the power of Jesus Christ. As we move forward on our life’s journey, we should consider our place in the world differently, even in the slightest circumstances. We should be kind to our brothers and sisters every chance we have. Let someone merge in front of us in traffic; let a coworker have the last donut in the break room; put your loose change in the tip jar at your favorite coffee shop. These small acts of kindness not only bring us closer to our fellow humans but also to the One who commissioned us to be kind in imitation of His unfailing kindness. Since Jesus no longer walks among us in the flesh, God’s hands must truly be our own.

The Last Supper

On Holy Thursday, the gospel for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper held in the evening provides the account of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.  Many people naturally reflect on the feelings Jesus might have experienced at this time.  The Gospel directly relates the thoughts of Jesus:  “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and loved them to the end.” (John 13:1).  What would it be like to know your fate in advance, not just for yourself, but for all of humanity–the people who were, the people who are, and the people (like us) who are yet to come?  The beautiful, simple song by Jacques Berthier, “Jesus, Remember Me,” has one line of lyrics:  “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”  How heavy and deep the night/morning between Holy Thursday and Good Friday must have been.  We were all part of the Lord’s Passion.  Yes, we take part in it each year through the grace of Mass, but Jesus also held each one of us in His heart as He endured His passion, remembering us as He came into His kingdom.
And what were the thoughts of Peter entering this pivotal point in time?  He could not have been completely aware of what was happening.  According to the Gospel, his attention was focused on the reason for Jesus washing his feet.
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him. “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” (John 13: 6-7).
What was it like to be Peter or any one of the disciples?  They understood who Jesus was but the gravity of the circumstances was still so incomprehensible at that “last supper,” it must have been difficult to grasp.  They locked themselves in a room after Jesus was crucified because they were afraid, but they almost all became martyrs for their faith later on.  Surely, Jesus knew what He was telling Peter when He said Peter might not understand what He was doing now, but he would in the future.  The account of the Lord’s Supper is a beautiful example of how much Jesus loved and loves us right from the beginning of His passion.  He has always been with us and will never leave us throughout our journey and He will have patience when we “know not what [we] do” because He knows we will learn from every step we take and grow ever closer to Him, just as His disciples did.

Hope and Trust

Have you ever noticed that the themes of Hope and Trust normally are paired together? These two themes also tend to point us to the Lord and the promise of happiness. If we place our trust in the Lord we will be blessed. The readings today focus on trust and hope, pointing out the difference between one who places his or her trust in earthly possessions and one who places his or her trust in Lord.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.” –Jeremiah 17:7
 
The Gospel makes a comparison between a rich man and a poor man, Lazarus. The rich man was rewarded during his time on earth, as opposed to Lazarus who received his reward in heaven. I must admit when I was younger I would read this passage and focus more on the rich man. I focused more on the fear that I might end up suffering the same fate as the rich man instead of focusing on the inspiring story of Lazarus. As humans, I think it is easy for us to fall prey to fear, and by doing so we lose sight of the hope that the Lord is really trying to show us. For the first time, I was able to read this passage without fearing I would endure the fate of the rich man. The truth is that our Lord is calling us to grow and draw closer to Him by asking us to place all our trust in Him. By doing so we will never have to worry about successfully enduring the hardships of this earthly life or even ending up like the rich man in the afterlife. We can be like the tree in the first reading from Jeremiah: “In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.” The reason why the themes of trust and hope are always paired together is because by placing our trust in the Lord we are promised the gift of hope, the hope of eternal life with Him and in Him.