At Mass today the Gospel recounted one of my favorite stories from the life of Jesus: the Transfiguration. This passage is special to me for a multitude of reasons, the foremost of which is that it was this image of the Transfiguration that we employed on so many youth retreats that I was a part of at my home parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
The story of the Transfiguration lends itself wonderfully to this because the experience that many have while on retreat is similar to that of Peter (and presumably James and John as well). We are told that Peter said to Jesus,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He had been led by God (in the person of Jesus) to a place of intense communion with Him, where He saw Christ more fully than ever before--indeed, in all His glory. It was on that mountain that Peter came to a deeper understanding of who God is, because God had chosen that place and time to reveal something intimate about Himself to these disciples. But then almost as quickly as the experience had begun, it was over, and Jesus charged the three to go and tell no one.
Likewise, it's easy for us to say, "It is good that we are here, so let's stay a while!" And indeed, it is good to be in that place--that moment--with God, for He called us there in the first place! But He also calls us to return to the world. Christ does invite us to remain with and in Him, but we must realize that we have a mission in this world and that Christ is calling us to share His love and life with all the world.
So despite our deepest yearning to build an encampment on the mountain of God, we are sent. Indeed, the very meaning of the word "Mass," where we are called to an intimate communion with God, tells us that we are "sent." Unlike Peter, James, and John, (who were told to go and tell no one about the vision until the time of the Resurrection) we get to leave and immediately start telling everyone of the wondrous vision that God has revealed to us. As we leave this place of revelation, we are being sent to carry the message we have received to the world and to truly let it transfigure not only our own hearts and lives, but the hearts and lives of those we meet. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations."
Let us pray this Lent that the Lord would reveal Himself to us in new ways that will bring us to greater discipleship and propel us with force into the world He created, to transfigure the world anew.
These are the reflection songs we used on those beautiful youth retreats: