Saturday, March 19, 2016

Palm Sunday: What Did You Go to Church to See?

On Palm Sunday, we enter upon the most solemn and holy week of the year. Holding our palms and singing the hymn of the children, I suggest we ponder the question John’s disciples had once asked Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Lk. 7:19). Then I would offer a word of caution. Just because we have doubts, does not mean we do not believe. Because of our frail human condition, faith is often mixed with doubt. We have only to recall the heartfelt plea of the father of the possessed boy: “I do believe! Strengthen my weak faith” (Mk. 9:24). Holding the palms, we need grace to continue our walk with the Lord through all life’s disappointments. As we gaze upon the Face of God’s steadfast love, are we willing to admit our duplicity of heart? Remember, as we look at Him with doubt, guilt and shame, He looks at us with love (CF. Mk. 10:21). 

Palm Sunday

Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God is full of compassion and love. He can and does deal with our uncertainty and ambivalence. As He did with John’s disciples, He does with us. He looks at us and asks: “What did you come to the church to see?” (CF. Lk. 7:24) Perhaps, you came hoping to recapture lost memories and feelings from your youth. I can remember braiding and weaving palm fronds into elaborate designs and then decorating the crucifix that hung in our kitchen. What happened in the church had an impact on what we did at home. Faith and life were integrated. With aging, however, life became bifurcated and compartmentalized. 

So, “what did you come to the church to see?” (CF. Lk. 7:24) Perhaps you came to participate in a pilgrimage of faith. Sometimes pageantry can bolster our faith. God has never ceased to call to Himself a people so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a sacrifice of praise can be offered to the glory of His name. Like those pilgrims on that first Palm Sunday, we are surprised to discover the Holy One of Israel in our midst. In commemorating the Lord’s solemn entry into Jerusalem, we become partakers of the cross and glorious resurrection.  May we who today follow Christ into Jerusalem by means of sacramental signs follow Him into the eternal Jerusalem. 

Knowing that the palms we hold can serve as reminders and as challenges, I will ask the question a third time: What did you come to the church to see? Perhaps you came to peer into the eyes of mercy. There is something shocking and disconcerting about the quick shift from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him!” How quickly warm devotion can turn to total rejection. The pageantry of today brings us face-to-face with our own duplicity and God’s steadfast love. Even when we are unfaithful, God remains faithful. The passion story is not a tragedy. It is the story of redemptive love. Jesus accepted His Father’s will for the salvation of the world. He humbled himself, obediently accepting His life and death for love of us. How blessed are we that Jesus prays for us, as He did for Peter, that no matter how fickle and cowardly we might be when faced by trials, our faith will sustain us. 

It is important to maintain a healthy balance between pondering what we have done to Christ and remembering what He has done for us. The Beloved Son of God was humble and obedient. He fulfilled the Father’s will for the salvation of the world by becoming human and freely embracing His passion. Because He remained faithful, the cross of Christ has become the path by which we can flee from sin and receive a steadfast spirit. It was because of our sins that Jesus was crucified, and “through His wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5). At the heart of the Palm Sunday liturgy are words taken from the Letter to the Philippians, “He humbled himself” (Phil. 2:8). These words demonstrate God’s way of dealing with sinful humanity. God humbles Himself to walk with us. Jesus humbles Himself to take to himself our infidelity. The Beloved Son stripped Himself of the grandeur that was His as God's Beloved Son and clothed Himself in the flesh of sinful humanity so that sinful humanity might be clothed in His divinity. 

The Scriptures tell us how, throughout history, God has desired to be with His beloved people. Today He enters the city where His name is enshrined and glorified. Through the mystery of the Incarnation, He united human nature to Himself in an unbreakable bond of love. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities so that by His wounds we might be healed and made whole. For our sake Jesus willingly endured His passion and death. He remained obedient to the Father even to the point of death. In His meekness, Jesus reveals the pride and iniquity of the human heart. In the face of rejection, Jesus reveals the mercy of the heart of God. In love’s embrace, His heart speaks to ours. In that moment of communion, each of us can be brought to newness of life in Christ, Who makes the love of God tangible. God’s ways are merciful, loving, and welcoming. God’s words propose, they do not impose. Unlike us, when He talks to us, He also listens for a response.  

Recall these words taken from the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer, “That we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe.” Let us walk humbly with our God and when He returns in glory may we follow Him into everlasting life.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Doors of Mercy Are Open--Hypocrites Welcome!

“The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent.”

Life is a constant challenge. Often we will suffer defeat in the face of temptation and persecution. The trick is not to flee to our own tents. We stand in need of the support of the community and the mercy of God. It is important to keep in mind that God loves us, even in our failings. God loves us, not because we are good, but because we are created by Him and therefore are lovable.

Because love is of God, all we do must be in conformity with His will. Mother Theresa used to say: “God does not require us to be successful, He only requires us to be faithful.” The challenge set before us is to trust God, knowing that He trusts us. Even though that does not sound quite right, trust it and act on it.

We are called to love in relationship with the God who made us. The rock of our strength is the Living God, not some creedal formula.

God is a person who seeks to establish a personal relationship with each and every one of us. Sometimes we place our trust in rituals and not in the Living God. During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is reminding us of the need to place our trust in God and is inviting us to return our Father’s House. The urgency of this invitation was brought home to me the other day. An individual came to see me because her life was in turmoil. I asked her if she had taken her cares to prayer. Tears filled my eyes when she said that she hadn’t because she was such a hypocrite. The door of mercy is open-- hypocrites are welcome to come in!

It is reasonable to say that modern-day hypocrites are the equivalents of the leper-- people who feel unclean and marginalized. Like the leper, each of us who is a hypocrite needs to come to the Lord, asking Him to make us clean again. Like the leper, we need Jesus' healing touch. We need Jesus to touch that deepest part of our souls where we feel the most hypocritical.

The issue is not whether we deserve some gesture of mercy from the Lord. The truth of the matter is that we need Christ’s mercy. Our neediness speaks to the heart of Christ who is rich in mercy. Pope Francis keeps reminding us that Jesus desires nothing more than to forgive sinners and to remove the effects of sins from our lives. Jesus wants to touch our hearts and to heal them, even if we make Him wait. Let us be open to Christ’s healing embrace.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

The Dignity of Human Beings

God’s love is everlasting. We should never doubt that we are the objects of Our Father’s love. When Jesus ascended into heaven with His nail scarred body He took His place at the right hand of the Majesty to plead for those He had left behind. We have the certainty that He will wait for us to join Him. When God became man, He joined our human nature to His divinity for all eternity, giving our human nature a higher dignity than we had the day we were created. It is important to keep this in mind as we turn our attention to the people gathering in Washington. The event reminds us that many people have lost touch with God.

Having lost the anchor of the soul, people tend to forget that they were created by God and for God. Having been created in the image and likeness of God, we are made according to His good pleasure and for His praise and glory. The liturgies and rallies in Washington DC, for the annual March for Life on January 22, are intended to be beacons of hope for all, who like Juliet cry out: "O, shut the door! And when you have done so, come weep with me, past hope, past cure, past help." This year’s March for Life, says to all people with Pope Francis, “The door is open! We shall weep with you, but tears of joy because there is hope, there is a cure for your soul and there is help for the future.”

To people trapped in a culture of death, Jesus says: “I have conquered death and have broken its bonds. Take my hand and walk in the newness of life.” In the face of sin and death, it pleased God to reconcile sinners to himself. He stretched out His arms on the cross and died so that we might have life and have it abundantly. The door is open and the light of life is offered to each and every one of us. We can choose to die to sin and live, not to ourselves but to Him. We have only to recall Moses’ exhortation to the people: “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Choose life” (Deut. 30:19).

Suspended between heaven and earth, the Lord of Life opened the gates to paradise to all who would call upon His name. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In the face of total failure, Jesus claims victory over sins and death. In emptiness and darkness, Jesus because the cause of our hope, the source of our healing and companion on the journey. Nailed to the Tree of Life, he became the fountain of mercy for all who are willing to admit their thirst and drink of the living and life-giving waters. Upon the cross, Jesus is seated upon the Throne of Mercy. Though He was consumed by desolation and vanquished by death, He spoke words of hope, healing and forgiveness to a penitent criminal. By Himself entering into the valley of death Jesus calls each of us into everlasting life.

Because we have received mercy, we are called to reach out to those who find themselves in the existential peripheries of society. Because we have been grafted to Christ, we are to live in solidarity with the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the poor, the disabled, the unborn and the sick, migrants and refugees, the elderly and the young who lack employment. All of us must care for life, cherish life, and treat every man, woman and child with dignity and respect.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

The Degradation of the Human Person

Everyone knows the story of David and Bathsheba. In a society that is inundated with sex, we tend to overlook the horror of this epic story. When David was consumed with lust, Bathsheba ceased to be a woman, the handiwork of God and became an object to be possessed and used.

Unlike David, we do not have to climb to the roof of our palaces, we only have to turn on our computers. Lust, fed by pornography, hardens the heart and entices us to live out our fantasies, wherein people become things to be used, abused and disposed of. Society’s focus on pleasure and instant gratification has done horrible things to women.

The Holy Spirit moved the pen of the Sacred Author to record this event in David’s life. We must trust in the Spirit to speak to our hearts and enable us to value the beauty of the human person. By God’s merciful grace, we will receive the helps we need to overcome self-indulgence and pour ourselves out in service to others. By the guidance of the Spirit, we will learn to treat other with dignity and respect. By the outpouring of grace, we will rediscover what it means to say that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Once again, we will come to know the bliss that comes from walking with God in the Garden of His delight.

Lust not only caused David to treat Bathsheba as an object, but it also caused him to think that Uriah was expendable – disposable. Once we desecrate the temple of our body, nothing is sacred, nothing has value. When David fell prey to his lust, he did not see the image and likeness of God in either Bathsheba or Uriah. Sin hardened his heart and caused him to degrade the woman and to destroy her husband. His stone cold heart had to be made flesh again.

God so loved the world that He set in motion a process whereby the children of Adam and Eve might become human again. God became flesh so that sinful human beings might once again be made in the image and likeness of God. The Beloved Son, Who reflects the glory of the Godhead, was degraded and ridiculed so as to restore dignity to a fallen race. The immortal God died on the cross to bring mortal men to the fullness of life. I pray that each of us would experience God’s mercy and forgiveness so that we would stop hurting ourselves and others.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Take Courage and Be the Person God Created You to Be

David’s great legacy to his son Solomon is this: “Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees.”

To be a man means remembering that you were created in the image and likeness of God. As the creator of the universe, God is the source of all that is and the giver of life. One can only live by receiving the gift of life from the hand of the creator.

Abundant life comes from participation in God, and we participate in God when we see Him with the eyes of faith and abide in His mercy.

“Take courage and be the person God meant you to be.” These words are extremely important for people living in a society that demands conformity to social mores. The Word in Whom and by Whom the world was created became flesh so that human beings may come to experience an abundant life.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection put David’s words to his son into a fuller context. Jesus said, “I came down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me” (Jn. 6: 38). Put plainly, Jesus can only be the person He is meant to be by doing the will of His Father.

“Take courage and, in the face of all adversity, be single hearted and live in the fear of the Lord.” Only if we live in the fear of the Lord will our hearts come to know the fullness of love that will allow us to run the way of God’s commandments. As we acknowledge ourselves to be beloved children of God, we will find ourselves conformed to the Beloved Son and doing the will of Him Who loves us. If we trust in God’s faithfulness, love and loving-kindness and hold firm to His promises we shall come to know the fullness of life.

“Take courage and repent of your infidelities because the Kingdom of God is close at hand.” The coming of the Kingdom needs to be announced clearly and fearlessly because in Christ we see ourselves for who we really are. Whenever we admit that we are accountable for our sins, we give glory to God who is rich in mercy. When we confess that we have fallen short, we can begin to be the people God created us to be. We cannot attain to our full dignity without first prostrating ourselves before the merciful judgment of God.

“Take courage and invite others to live as children of the Kingdom by crossing the threshold of Mercy.” Having known the mercy God has extended to us, we are commissioned to invite others to open their hearts to God’s healing mercy for them.

There is a balm in Gilead To make the wounded whole; There is a balm in Gilead To heal the sin-sick soul.
Sometimes I feel discouraged, And think my work’s in vain, But then the Holy Spirit Revives my soul again. (Balm In Gilead, Paul Robeson)

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Forty Days in the Desert

A friend of mine sent me two pictures of Jesus – both of questionable theology and more than a little irreverent! But being loosely wrapped as I am, I thought I’d mention them, just the same. The one picture was of Jesus and the devil sitting at a picnic table, arm wrestling – best of three. Keep this image in mind as we ponder Jesus' temptation in the desert.

There is practically no hiding place or shelter in the desert and the difficulties of the desert make the individual see himself for what he is. Lent is an invitation to us to take the courageous step of going into the desert. Thee we encounter our sin and darkness in the company of Jesus.   

We have much to learn about self-sacrificing love from Christ’s wrestling with temptation. Jesus spent forty days in the desert overcoming the devil, and Lent is a time for us to get rid of whatever bit of the devil remains in us by overcoming sin in our lives. Luke’s narration of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert begins by reminding us that it was the Spirit that led Jesus into the desert. That Spirit never left him during his temptations, through his entire ministry, death on the cross and resurrection. 

(Round one) When the devil said: “Turn these stones into loaves of bread.” Jesus replied: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This temptation was to distrust the Father's provident care for him. It is one of the wiles of Satan to take advantage of our outward condition; and those who are brought into straits have need to double their guard. Christ answered the temptation by appealing to the Scriptures. Our Lord expressed his strong faith in the God who led Israel out of the desert. He likewise declared His confidence that God was able to support him, and would do it, though in a wilderness, and destitute of supply. This was how Jesus overcame this temptation of Satan.  

This is the method we must use, whenever we are tempted to sin. Let us learn not to take any wrong courses for our supply, when our wants are ever so pressing: in some way or other the Lord will provide. When we live on the bread of the world by not putting God first we can never hope to be happy because sin always leaves us guilty. All of us are called to with the Son in building up the Kingdom of the Father, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents. “Jesus offers Himself as God’s doorway into the life that is truly life.  Confidence in Him leads us today, as in other times, to become apprentices to eternal living” (The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard). 

(Round two) When Satan said: "Fall down and worship me.” Jesus replied: “You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.” This temptation was to worship Satan in exchange for worldly power and influence. The glory of the world is a most charming temptation to the unthinking and unwary. Christ rejected every opportunity of sinful gain or advancement. He was quick and firm in resisting this temptation. If we resist the devil he will flee from us. But the individual who takes time to consider his options is surely overcome. I have a number of alcoholic friends and I can tell when they are in trouble. They use three words: I’ve Been Thinking! We find but few who can reject the tokens Satan offers; yet what is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? The philosopher Dallas Willard wrote: “Our soul is like a stream of water, which gives strength, direction and harmony to every other area of life.” The season of lent reminds us that we did not create the stream. Let us spend the days of lent building up the King of God and not our own. 

(Round three) When Satan said: Throw yourself down from the peak of the temple and be rescued by angels.” Christ replied: “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” This temptation was to presume upon the Father's power and protection, in a point of safety. There are no extremes more dangerous than despair and presumption, especially in the affairs of our souls. Satan has no objection to holy places as the scene of his assaults. Let us never drop our guard. As the Apostle Peter reminds us: “Be alert and vigilant. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour: (1 Pet. 5:8). 

Sacred spaces are the places, where Satan often tempts men to pride and presumption. All high places are slippery places; advancements in the world makes a man a mark for Satan to shoot his fiery darts at. Don’t forget: Satan is well versed in Scripture. It is possible for a man to have his head full of Scripture notions, and his mouth full of Scripture expressions, while his heart is full of bitter enmity to God and to all goodness. Satan misquoted the words. If we go out of our way, out of the way of our duty, we forfeit the promise, and put ourselves out of God's protection. Throughout these days of penance and purification, we are encouraged to come into the presence of the Lord Whose Word is our food for the journey, Whose will is our guide for life and Whose Kingdom is our true homeland. Those who place their faith in God will find themselves wrapped in God’s loving embrace. As we fast, pray and give alms, let us remember that the Living Word is very close to us, in our mouth and in our heart. This Word is not just a sound. This Word is a Life lived in Love. 

The common everyday lesson of this story is that from the plain appointed path of duty laid before Christ, no power or temptation could turn him.  Every work of Mercy is a work of the hands and feet of Christ in service to the body of Christ. Our job isn’t to move mountains, it’s to offer the Lord our lives and then get out of the way. These are not ways of being messiah as his Father intends. According to the divine plan, the redeemer will redeem by sacrificing his life. And that is the sort of messiah Jesus chooses to be because it conforms to the will of the Father. Jesus submitted to his Father’s will. During Lent we die to ourselves like Jesus so that the Father’s plan can be accomplished in our lives. 

You might remember that I mentioned that my heretical friend sent two irreverent Jesus Pictures. Are you ready for this? The second picture shows Jesus rolling up His tee-shirt sleeve to unveil a tattoo. A big heart with FATHER bannered across it. May all we do this lent be stamped with the love of God. 

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

The Mercy of God Is Everlasting

The History of Salvation is quite awesome to read. Whenever God intends to deliver his people, he stirs up the hearts of the prophets to pray for them.

For example, the prophet Micah prays that God’s Anointed would take care of his people, as the great Shepherd of the sheep, and to go before them, while they are here in this world as in a wood, in this world but not of it. The prayer is answered in the person of the Good Shepherd who seeks out and finds the lost and prepares a banquet for the wayward who returns. The prophet’s prayer and God’s response was powerfully enacted when Pope Francis visited a prison in Mexico, at the end of his pilgrimage to that country.

Standing before men and women who had been incarcerated because of crimes they had committed, Pope Francis spoke of God’s pardoning mercy. “There is no place beyond the reach of His mercy, no space or person it cannot touch” (Pope Francis). Sin and wrong doing have brought us into spiritual bondage, but God’s mercy extends pardon and forgiveness to us. When the One Who did not know sin became sin, God broke the power of sin and made all of us who are willing to receive the gift of grace heirs of the Kingdom. When God nailed sin to the Cross, He made the sin-sick world as white as wool and the sin-darkened world as bright as the sun.

The Good Shepherd has sought out the lost and placed them on His shoulders, making their burden his own. In His own body, He took our punishment so that through His wounds we would be healed and made whole again. The Mercy of God is everlasting to all His people. He Who is Mercy has extended to each of us unlooked for grace and unimaginable pardon. By so doing, the Prince of Peace has broken the cycle of violence and sin. No matter how low our sin has brought us, the Father has never ceased calling us Son/Daughter. When God works on the heart of a sinner, He convinces the individual of His infinite love and calls him back to His loving embrace.

I will close with a few comments of Pope Francis concerning the commemorative gift he left at the prison. "You encounter much fragility. Therefore I would like to offer you this fragile image, Crystal is fragile, it breaks easily. Christ on the Cross represents the greatest fragility of humanity; however it is this fragility that saves us, that helps us, that enables us to keep going and opens the doors of hope. It is my wish that each one of you, with the blessing of the Virgin and contemplating the fragility of Christ Who died to save us, sowing seeds of hope and resurrection".

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Christianity Is Not a Spectator Sport

Do we sit by the side of the water of life, looking at our reflection or do we dive in and allow the water of life to soak into every pore?

Christianity is not a spectator sport.

The Church is not a museum of antiquities.

The waters of life flow through the City of God. The Lamb is the light of the City. Christ is the Temple, Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. From His pierced side flow streams of life-giving water. All who believe in Christ must bathe in the ever-flowing stream in order to have their sins washed away. This flowing spring will make fruitful every soul it touches, just like the rains make the fields fertile and fruitful.

God is the source of life-creating water and His mercy is without limit. However, for this ever-flowing stream to have any effect, we have to take the plunge. As He did to the cripple at the side of the pool, Jesus asks us, “Do you want to be well?” Then, interestingly, He waits for our reply.

Jesus is the Father’s Face of Mercy. Gazing into our souls, He asks, “Do you want to be forgiven?” Then He waits for an answer.

Jesus is the Savior of the Human Race. He looks with compassion at troubled humanity and asks, “Do you want to be saved?” Then He waits for an answer.

God is in our hearts and His Word echoes within us. Will we answer?

Christ comes to assist us in our weakness. Are we ready to allow God to make us whole again?

He has plans for each of us: “Plans for good and not for harm, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). Seeing our crippled limbs, the Lord is moved by compassion and says: “Lift up your hands to the Holy Place” (Ps. 134:2). Through the Psalmist, Jesus is encouraging us to stretch out our hands to Him, “the radiance of God’s glory and the image of His being” (Heb. 1:3). Gazing into the eyes of Mercy, we can cry out: “Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner.” Grasping our trembling hands, Jesus says: “Courage! Don’t be afraid. Stand up and walk.” In the love of Christ we find an oasis of mercy.

Let us plumb the depths of our being and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our steps. With hearts expanded may we contemplate the face of mercy cling to Him with an unwavering trust.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Transfiguration of Jesus and Transfiguration of Us

28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen. (Luke 9: 28-36)

When I read this Gospel passage about the Transfiguration, I think that I should be in wonder and awe at the amazing event that happened. How awesome it must’ve been to be there with Peter, James, and John, seeing the Lord transfigured. However, whenever I read this passage, my heart immediately turns to envy. I mean, why can’t I experience that? It would be so much easier to live a life of faith if I could just see Jesus transfigured. I would be able to put everything behind me, stop my sinfulness. I would’ve seen Jesus and everything would be okay. I would be good from that point on.  
I mean, ultimately, if you had seen Jesus that way, would you go back to your sinfulness? No!. You wouldn’t. But the reality is, looking at Peter, James, and John, they did go back to their sinful selves. Even having seen Jesus transfigured they still turned back to their sinfulness. 

Transfiguration of Jesus

Nevertheless, we all long to see Jesus and in a way that changes our lives, to see Jesus as he is meant to be seen, not only as a man, but also man and God. To see him transfigured, his clothing white, his face shining in radiance like the sun. Do we not long for that time? 

The transfiguration only happens if we follow the path that the apostles did. We can experience the Lord in a similar way, but we have to put forth some effort. When we think about Peter James, and John, we have to remember that they didn’t just wake up one morning and go up on a mountaintop with Jesus. Jesus didn’t say, “Peter, wake up! I got something to show you.” And the mountaintop experience didn’t happen the day after Peter was called either. Jesus called, and he to answer. Peter, James, and John were all called. They all had to say “yes” to the Lord, and they had to leave their life behind. 

If we wish to see Jesus transfigured, we have to leave something behind us. We have to. In a sense, we have to change our lives. During Lent, everyone gives up something. For 40 days. What a blessing to give it up for 40 days! But if you want to see Jesus transfigured in your life, you can’t just give up something for 40 days. You have to take that thing that is a barrier to your experience of Jesus and leave it behind permanently. What is getting in the way of your experience of Christ? Is it vice? Your attachment to the world? Is it pride? Is it laziness? What is getting in your way of experiencing Christ and loving him more? Peter, James, and John had to leave that behind. 

What did Peter, James, and John do? They followed after Jesus, and it wasn’t like the next day after they left everything behind, that they went on top of the mountain and saw Jesus transfigured. No. They had several mountain experiences with Jesus where he was never transfigured. They went off to pray with the Lord often. They followed Jesus, doing the hard work Jesus asked, and Jesus was not transfigured before them yet. But they trusted, and they kept going. 

Similarly, all of us, after placing those things behind, need to go about our daily lives, trudging one foot after the other in the Christian life, hoping that the mountaintop experience will be there. It will be, but it will be revealed to us in God’s time, not in our time. Then once we experience that, we need to climb that mountain. Peter, James, and John went up the mountain with Jesus. The Lord said, “Come with me! Climb the mountain!”

I don’t know about you, but whenever someone asks me to climb a mountain, I’m not overjoyed. They say, “Come with me! Sweat! Climb the mountain! Be uncomfortable!” If they were like me, Peter, James, and John would probably say something like, “Oh Jesus, you’re coming back down, aren’t you? All right. I’ll see you in 10. I’ll just wait down here.” Climbing mountains is not my game.

And remember, this is not the perfect mountain. There’s no Visitors Welcome Center at the top of this mountain. No nice bathroom. No drinking fountain. It’s just mountain. Nothing to plug in your iPhone. So what are these mountain top experiences for? Ultimately these mountaintop experiences were for prayer. These are necessary for you to experience Jesus in this new way. You have to detach from the things of this world, detach from the comforts of this world, and seek out those mountaintop experiences. 

I was recently at a Rekindle the Fire men’s conference with 1300 other men. It was a mountain experience where you separate yourself from the things of the world. It was a beautiful, gorgeous day. A beautiful day! And what did these men choose to do? Stay indoors and listen to people yap at them! Why did they do that? That’s a sacrifice! They did it so they could draw closer to Christ in prayer. This was a mountaintop experience. We need to seek these experiences out. 

But the temptation of these mountaintop experiences is stay there on the mountain. Isn’t this just what Peter did? Peter said, “Let’s make three tents. Let’s stay here.” It’s always a temptation when we get close to Christ, when we experience him in a new way, we want to stay here, we want to stay on this emotional high. We want to stay where we are experiencing the Lord and his love. But the reality is that we are not meant to stay in that emotional high. I’ve seen this in a lot of other denominations. They bring out the rock band and the big screen with the music and a light show, and all that’s nice and good, but it’s done to keep people on this emotional high of “Yes! I love Jesus! Awesome!” 

But that emotional high is just not sustainable, is it? We have to go back down the mountain. That transfiguration is ultimately what we will experience every day in heaven. It is not what we will experience every day in this world. Jesus says, “Peter, you don’t know what you are asking. I’m not looking for you to remain on this mountain permanently. I want you to take this experience and go back into the world, go back into your life, and keep me before your eyes. The last step in this process is to go back down the mountain.”

Brothers and sisters, we come to the mountain every Sunday. The altar is a mountain of sorts. The priest processes in and goes up the steps because the altar is always raised on high. Upon this mountain, before your eyes, the Lord becomes be present. The challenge is the very same challenge that was made to Peter, James, and John. Will you take what you experience here and will you allow it to affect your life when you leave this mountain? Will you be able to keep the Lord transfigured before your eyes? 

You have a couple of choices just like the apostles did. These apostles did not always succeed in keeping the transfigured Christ before their eyes. After all James and John said, “Let me sit at your right hand and your left, Jesus. Let me, in my pride, be counted among the great leaders of the apostles.” Did they keep the transfigured Christ before their eyes? No. They let their pride take over. 

Peter, the very one who said, “Jesus, I will die for you,” said, after Jesus’s arrest, “Jesus? No, I don’t know him. No. No, I don’t know him. Who is that guy? I’m not a Galilean. What you talking about?” 

Only the beloved disciple kept Jesus before his eyes and stayed there at the foot of the cross. 

All of you, at one point in your life or another, have, I hope, felt the closeness of Christ. It is not a closeness that you are going to feel every day. However, the challenge is, can you keep that experience before your eyes every day so that when the Lord wants you back off the mountain, you’re able to walk your path with faith. 

Who are you going to be? When you go to Mass, you are about to see Jesus transfigured before you. Will you be Peter and deny him Would you say, “I don’t know the man? I only know the man on the mountain. Or I only know the man when I have that emotional high. Or I only like Jesus when he gives me something that I like.” Or will you be like James and say, ”I am prideful because of this experience. I’m better than everyone else in the world. And I will show you this by my insight.” Or will you be like the beloved disciple and allow the experience of this altar to change you in such a way that, when you leave here, you keep this image before you and you act differently because of it. You didn’t run away from the cross, but, rather, you live with that at any moment and trust no matter what you are feeling at that moment. You will know that you have experienced Christ, and nothing in your life, whether good or bad, can change that. 

Let us experience Christ and be changed because of it.

--Father Jacob Meyer