Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The Transfiguration

Father John J. Lombardi

Or, "Extreme Makeover" - as in Christic-Transformation.

"Go up the mountain, right after 7am Mass, and take only a bottle of water, a loaf of bread, and spend the day up there in prayer. Come down for evening prayer in the chapel by five o'clock." That was the sage advice given by Fr Minochio (rhymes with Pinocchio), past spiritual director of Mt St Mary's Seminary, to a seminarian a decade ago.

So, the seminarian dutifully---joyfully--went up Mary's Mountain to pray. That seminarian--now a priest--told me how it was one of the best prayer times of his life: the cool fresh air embracing him, the singing and praising he did, the hiking, and time spent in silence away from a harried world, with the Lord God up on the Mountain. He went thru a kind of transfiguration-leaving things behind; encountering the Lord in a new way, being commissioned for further discipleship, eventually becoming a faith-filled priest.

In this Sundays' Gospel (Lk. 9:28-36), the Lord Jesus takes the Apostles Peter, James and John up the Mountain and they experience His Transfiguration. They themselves will later experience a kinda' transfiguration--at the Last Supper and in the Passion and Resurrection. And that's part of the theological point of the Transfiguration Story: to prepare the Apostles for the upcoming onslaught of darkness, and torture and death, and, also, the Resurrection. The Lord was metaphysically etching into the Apostles' souls His Bright Divinity, which would counter the deep dark of Calvary (when the earth was covered with darkness for hours). The Beauty of the Transfiguration counters the torture of the passion and scourging and falling with the Cross and the ugliness of sin. The Divine-Experience-Theophany of the disciples-St. Peter says: "It is good to be here"-which counters the exile here-on-Earth feeling we all have, and also counters the Apostle's abandonment of the Lord at His worst time. The prophets-Moses and Elijah --show that Jesus is the Messiah, the hope of all the Jews. The Divine Glory which eschews from His Body shows that Christ is truly God and foreshadows His Resurrection. So: think of iridescence, Divine Irradiation, Glory and Light and Beauty as solvent-healing words in meditation upon this Divine Mystery: Divine Light, above, beyond and within: Embrace Him.

Now, Jesus Christ is not transfigured into God-He is, was, always God. But rather, the Transfiguration shows an explicit manifestation of His Divinity. These are some of the main lessons of the Transfiguration. Now let us discover some more Transfigurations in our lives…

I heard a former drug addict deliver a fascinating, transfiguring story of his life. He was gripped by drugs at the age of ten, and then tried other drugs; meantime, his sister died of AIDS. He then "experimented" with heroin and became addicted to it, from his "curiosity". He said he "needed more and more to get a thrill" in his life and "come out of himself"-he was seeking elusive euphoria. He wandered the streets of New York City and eventually became homeless. The drugs gripped him gigantically and satanically, and he tried get free of it all. He couldn't. Then, after decades of this, he found himself one time in the middle of cold winter, sleeping on a bench. His face, eyes and skin turned yellow. He was all by himself. All alone. He then tried again to get free. He took a bus to upstate New York to a treatment center, with only a little bag for his clothes-that's all he owned. He found himself all alone again: no friend or relative to talk to. He turned to God as best he could. He got a Rosary and began praying it-learning how to pray it, for he was never taught. He said, at this point in his talk: You know, God is always there, you may not feel him, but He is there holding your hand: He loves you. You should know His love and mercy. If only you could know it…He eventually got stronger, more free of the drugs and eventually became healed. He showed a picture of himself before his recovery: at six-foot-one he weighed only ninety pounds and looked brazen and busied: track marks all over his body from needles of drugs. He said: You know, there's a gigantic ache in your body and soul within you that cries out. You think it's for drugs, or something else, but, you know, it's really a cry for God. Only He can answer it." He eventually overcame more fully his addiction and thru prayer and other helps; he goes to Mass daily and prays the Rosary. "When you go to Mary she brings you to Jesus. As a matter of fact, she brings you quicker to Jesus than going to Him first, because the Lord never denies His Mother." …This guy was a junkie and is now transfigured, resurrected, saved and telling his story of transfiguration to others-for healing, for freedom, for holiness. This Lent: what do you need healed in your life, and how can you help others heal?

…A guy who is a convert from New Age was into the light a lot. He still is after he got invited to Christ and the Catholic Church, and lots of other Light and Beauty and spiritual stuff --another example of a New Age person converted to Christ and Catholicism: we have so much to offer if we know how to-with love and wisdom. But: this guy became overly dependent on physical light-clear days, and such. When we saw him once, after a series of downcast days, he was dissed-distressed. Then someone said to him: the Sun/Son is always shining. Sometimes clouds come along (inner and outer ones) and block the Son/Sun. We can get a kinda 24/7 "Son exposure" in a "mini-transfiguration" thru thinking, spiritual communion, active-inner-visualization of Christ and the Apostles-going up the inward and outward Mountain it will always be like-pardon my pedestrianess here--the orange juice-"Sonny Delight". Think about it-the Divine Iridescent Light-- actually visualize within, like St Ignatius of Loyola-it's not just for new agers anymore-and experience an ongoing transfiguration. So, this Lent: are your praying more?...

I just returned from a Confirmation at a military base: talk about Transfiguration! At the rehearsal the day before, the confirmandi-youth were dressed casually, in jeans and jumpers, kinda' ho-hum looking, neither spectacular nor horrific. Next day--transfiguration: guys looked handsome in ties and ladies pretty in long flowing dresses-their hair made up in mousse and flair--girls and guys both these days! If we can do that with the external designs of our bodies and present ourselves to the Lord and each other with dignity and even nobility, just think of how we can transfigure our souls, within-especially during Lent-thru virtuous prayer, fasting and penance-to the Lord God…

The life of Fr John Dubois, the founder of the Grotto and Mt. St Mary's College/Univ, was transfigured when (as a college professor recently excitingly, transfiguringly told me!) two hundred years ago he fled France and the persecution of his country, Church and religious order to come to America. He eventually moved to Emmitsburg and the Grotto. Thru his survival of religious persecution he allowed the Lord to transfigure his whole life and we, here today, benefit from him in our pilgrimages to the Grotto, and students do thru their education at our fine Mt St Mary's Univ-200 yrs after Fr DuBois' death. Today there is religious persecution-in Darfur-Sudan, in China, in Saudi Arabia and also in our United States-Catholics are reviled and the Lord is mocked. However, be vigilant and persevering like Fr DuBois-stand up for your faith, allow persecutions to transfigure you and may marvelous fruits come forth from you, like Fr DuBois…

The Transfiguration is about Light-Brilliant Uncreated Light, Beauty-and receiving it, experiencing it within-like the Apostles: "It is good to be here". That "here" is everywhere when we open to the Light of Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives. In order to experience the Transfiguration, we have to leave things behind ("The Three P's"): the baggage of possessions, some people, preoccupations. This Lent consider-fearlessly-what these might be, which are preventing you from serving God or others? The Mountain the Lord wants to bring us up can be anywhere-amidst our workplaces, at Church or home. When you cannot make a retreat physically up a mountain, or go to Church for Mass, don't forget to make a "spiritual Communion" thru Communion within the soul.

Now, what are "The ABC's of the Transfiguration": Allow the Lord's Light into the aperture of your life and soul; Become one with the Son: let the Light interpenetrate your body, mind and soul; Communicate that Light and Beauty to others. Lent is a time to Encounter The Transfiguring Light of Jesus Christ. We are made for Communion-with God first, and then with one another. We must remove the obstacles/sins to embrace the Lord. St Paul counsels: "And we all, with faces unveiled, are gazing upon the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image, from glory to glory" (II Cor. 3:18). Remember, this Lent-and all life: we are called to "participate in the Divine Nature" (II Pt. 1:4). This is the deepest reality and healing we are looking for in life.

We are part of the Mystical body and participate in the treasures of the Lord and His Church, and so our body, mind, soul components must align with the Lord to become instruments, channels, vessels of His Grace, Divinity and healing power. We must learn to give, thought by thought, breath by breath, our entire being, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, to Him: "My soul magnifies the Lord" (Lk. 1:46). Isn't there a TV show called "Extreme Makeover?" Isn't this the description of Christians-to make us sinners into saints?

The Virgin is a kinda "Extreme Makeover" isn't she? The teen lady becomes the Queen-Mother. But: all of us are called to this similar bliss. So, allow Him to transfigure any of the Seven Deadly Sins you may have: Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Avariciousness, Lust, Envy, Sloth

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi