Lectionary Readings: Gen 12:1-4A / Ps 33 / 2Tim 1:8b-10 / Mt 17:1-9
A year ago, after seeking a “traveller’s blessing” from our pastor prior to Ash Wednesday Mass, in less than 24-hours, I was on a flight to Europe where I and several others spent 12-days touring Spain, France and Italy. There were many things from that pilgrimage that I could remember, some of those things I wrote at length in my four-part blog post, The Catholic Pilgrim in Europe. However, listening to the Gospel today, I am reminded of my hour in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
It was a short one-hour visit of the Basilica, but those who have been inside or at least looked at high quality pictures of its interior would know that it is simply breathtaking – breathtaking not only in its beautiful architecture, but breathtaking because the Basilica is at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. This Gospel reminded me not only of the mosaic at the altar of the Transfiguration, modelled after Raphael’s famous rendering of the event, but because I remember I had the same thoughts as Peter in today’s Gospel, “Lord, it is good for us to be here,” (Mt 17:4) when I sat quietly and unplugged of all technology in the gorgeous Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Basilica.
I am certain that there is some moment in your life that you want to last and for Catholics, it could be a spiritually changing moment. While we want for that moment to be prolonged, it is not simply possible. Anything great on earth only lasts for a moment, for a duration, and then it will go away. Yet, what do we do when we encounter something great? Do we keep it to ourselves? Or do we share it with others?
For me, I like to share about my experiences in Europe not because I want people to know that I go travelling, but rather, it is to convey my own spiritual experiences. As Catholics, I think we sometimes fail to share about our spiritual lives and sometimes, we keep experiences all to ourselves. However, it is important that we share our spiritual experiences, both positive and negative, because we are all on the same “boat”. We experience great things, and not so great things in life… but that is all part of our journey to the “Heavenly Jerusalem”.
As Catholics, we need to journey together, journey universally as that is in the essence of the term Catholic – universal. This theme of a universal journey not only comes up in today’s Gospel, but we are given that theme in a rather darker image in Paul’s second letter to Timothy as he says, “Join with me in suffering for the Gospel…” (2Tim 1:8b). That is what our Catholic lives are made up of – not only the beautiful “transfigurations”, but also of the dark and painful persecutions that comes with the reality of being a follower of Jesus Christ. Yet, in all of that, St. Paul reminds us that we must rely “on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.” (2Tim 1:8-9)
We simply cannot be what some call, “Cafeteria Catholics”, those who pick and choose what is easy, and leave what is hard when living the faith. That is not faithfully living our vocation. Our ultimate vocation is that of holiness. The “transfiguration” moments, or the bitter moments of our Christian lives are moments, are in one way or another, vehicles that help lead us to live in a spirit of holiness. It is just like any sport team: you need the victories and you also need the losses to strengthen the skill set and fraternity within the team.
As a we move into this second week of Lent, let us realize that we are not alone in this journey, in this earthly pilgrimage. Let us be willing to share our spiritual experiences, our “transfigurations” that we witness, or the darker moments that we experience. Through the that, we will be able to help ourselves become holier, and therefore, striving to live out the vocation that every one of us have been called on the day of our Baptism.