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Several years ago on a private pilgrimage in France, I visited the city of Lyon where the Brothers of Sacred Heart (who ran the boys school in Donaldsonville) originated. I arrived at the city in the evening time and noticed off in the distance a magnificent church on top of a mount - the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourviere. It took me a good hour to walk to the base of the mount, and then rode a funicular to the top to reach the church. Unfortunately, the church was locked. I noted the time of the early morning mass, and decided to wake up early the next day so as to concelebrate the mass. My walk the next morning started at 5am. However, when I reached the funicular station, I was deeply disappointed that the station was closed. Not deterred, up the mount I went huffing, puffing, and sweating to reach the church. It took a good 35-40 minutes. The moment I set my foot inside the church, though, I was awestruck and mesmerized by the art and architecture. I had never seen such a beautiful church. I was so filled with joy that I forgot how tough the climb was to the top of the mount.
If you look back on your life, do you remember such a spiritual mountaintop experience? Do you still cherish it? Whenever I preach about the climb that Peter, James, and John took to the top of the Mount of Transfiguration, I'm reminded of my climb up to Notre Dame de Fourviere. There is a purpose for why we are led on a difficult climb up a high mountain. It may not be a physical mountain that we are led to climb--it could be a challenging obstacle or setback such as loss of a loved one, separation, or serious illness that tests our emotional or spiritual patience and endurance. For Peter, James, and John, the purpose of the climb up the Mount of Transfiguration was to prepare them for a much more difficult climb later on to Mount Calvary.
On three occasions, Jesus told his disciples that he would undergo suffering and death on a cross to fulfill the mission the Father gave him. As the time draws near for Jesus' ultimate sacrifice on the cross, he takes three of his beloved disciples--Peter, James, and John--to the top of a high mountain. Just as Moses and Elijah were led to the mountain of God to discern their ultimate call and mission, so Jesus now appears with Moses and Elijah on the highest mountain overlooking the summit of the promised land. There Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. Peter and his companions got a glimpse of the future glory of Jesus’ Resurrection, and Peter told Jesus that he did not want this glorious vision to end. Yet, that was not the purpose of this glorious vision. Jesus went to the mountain knowing full well what awaited him in Jerusalem - betrayal, rejection, and crucifixion. Jesus very likely discussed this momentous decision to go to the cross with Moses and Elijah. God the Father also spoke with Jesus and gave his approval: This is my beloved Son; listen to him. The Father glorified his son because he was faithful and willing to obey him in everything.
The Lord Jesus not only wants us to see his glory - he wants to share this glory with us. He shows us a glimpse of the Transfiguration experience at communion time when we partake of his most precious Body and Blood. As he sends us off at the end of the Mass, he desires us to bring his presence into the lives of others. Jesus shows us the way to the Father's glory - follow me - obey my words. Take the path I have chosen for you and you will receive the blessing of my Father's kingdom - your name, too, will be written in heaven. Jesus fulfilled his mission on Calvary where he died for our sins so that Paradise and everlasting life would be restored to us. He embraced the cross to win a crown of glory - a crown that awaits each one of us, if we, too, will follow in his footsteps.
Our continuing journey through Lent asks us to reflect on our willingness to embrace Father’s plan for us. Are we willing to part with anything that might stand in the way of doing the will of God? Our faithfulness to daily prayer, fasting, and almsgiving will help transform our minds and hearts to be more detached from the world and embrace Father’s will for us. If we are faithful to daily spiritual responsibilities, our hearts will change to be more humble, selfless, forgiving, and compassionate.