At the end of June, five young men from our parish had the chance to go to a high school discernment retreat called Quo Vadis. At least one of the guys had never been on a retreat before, and I’m sure NONE of them really had any idea what they were getting themselves into…
But off they went to Richmond, and for 48 hours, these five teenagers found themselves surrounded by priests, seminarians, and other young men from around our diocese.
And let me tell you — something astonishing happened to these kids on that retreat.
The Holy Spirit ZAPPED them. A light switch was flipped…
They came back absolutely ON FIRE.
They came back TRANSFIGURED even!!!
This was more than just the usual retreat-high that we can easily get caught up in when we have an awesome experience at a Catholic camp or a big conference. You know what I mean — Maybe we’ve all felt that sizzle of excitement that burns bright and fast… that “mountaintop” experience of emotion and enthusiasm that soon falls away.
No… what’s happening in these young men is something else.
I mean, these guys came back different.
They had VERY OBVIOUSLY encountered the Lord in a profound way. In the liturgy. In personal prayer. And in the new friendships they had forged.
They came back telling stories about how they stayed up all night in Eucharistic Adoration. How they went on a midnight rosary hike together. How they led praise and worship music. How they had the chance to do some street evangelization — inviting random strangers if they could pray with them and for them.
Bottom line: They didn’t want this experience to end. They wanted to linger, and soak in this amazing gift they had been given.
Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord — and in a way, the experience those teenagers had on their Quo Vadis retreat is very similar to what the three disciples Peter, James and John experienced up there on Mount Tabor.
The disciples found themselves never wanting it to end.
They wanted to linger!
We hear that Jesus “led them up a high mountain by themselves.” He drew them apart… brought them to a different sort of place. A place where a unique and beautiful encounter with God could happen.
And then… “he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.”
I wonder how long Peter, James and John were up on that mountain — just gazing at Jesus radiating and pulsating like the sun? We are not told how long this powerful, overwhelming vision lasted. Later on in his life, Peter would reflect on his experience in a letter he wrote, which we heard in our second reading: “We had been eyewitnesses of his majesty,” he says. We don’t know how long the three apostles beheld that majesty — was it minutes or hours??? — We don’t know. But evidently, it was at least long enough for Peter to suggest building some tents!
But the point is this: They were in NO RUSH to leave. They were content to stay! To linger! They were transfixed in ecstasy. They were captivated by… and fascinated with Jesus.
They were overwhelmed by the Presence of the Son of God. By the bright cloud. By the Voice of the Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.” They fell down prostrate. They were slain in the Spirit! THEY GOT ZAPPED — So much love and goodness and peace…They wanted it to last forever!!!
“Lord! It is good that we are here,” Peter finally says, with joyful wonder bubbling and boiling inside his heart.
St. Anastasius of Sinai responds saying:
“It is indeed good to be here, as you have said, Peter. It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here forever. What greater happiness or higher honor could we have than to be with God, to be made like Him, and to live in His light?”
How good it is to waste time with God!
To linger in His Presence! To not be in a RUSH…
To want to remain with Him… forever!
Nowadays you’ll hear a lot of talk in secular circles about “meditation” and about “centering yourself.” Let me be absolutely clear: Catholics should never get involved in any New Age practices, Eastern religions, or anything with ties to the Occult… If you’ve done any of that, you ought to renounce that stuff in the name of Jesus!!!
But even so, that sincere desire for “meditation,” to be “mindful of the present moment” — tells me that people in our culture today are still very aware of the deep longing in their hearts — the longing to finally come and rest in the Presence of God! To really truly be in the Present Moment with the Lord, and linger there with Him!
We as Catholic Christians need to do a better job of inviting them in:
Come, and linger with Jesus. Come find what you’re really looking for! Come and sit in front of the Tabernacle in silence.
Come to Eucharistic Adoration and just… be loved.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Moses and Elijah appeared on either side of Jesus at the Transfiguration.
Moses and Elijah were experts at lingering with the Lord.
As is often pointed out, Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the Prophets. Together, they stand for the fullness of the Old Testament Scriptures. And so, in the Transfiguration event, we see Jesus — the New Testament in the Flesh — having a conversation with the Old Testament. It’s like we get an icon of the entire Bible! That’s amazing!
But they also both understood full well what it meant to spend time with God, listening attentively to Him and receiving His Word.
Moses, as we may recall, spent 40 long days and 40 long nights up on Mount Sinai in the Presence of the Living God — and he did this TWICE — in order to bring down the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel.
Elijah, we remember, once withdrew deep into the desert, and spent 40 days and 40 nights… traveling to that cave on Mount Carmel, where he encountered the Presence of God… not in the wind, not in the fire, but in that still, small voice.
And now, at the Transfiguration, they find themselves on another mountain — this time, Mount Tabor. And what are they doing?
Lingering with God again.
Speaking with Jesus — the Son of God in the flesh.
Spending time with Him.
What about us?
How is our prayer life going?
Do we truly enjoy lingering with the Lord?
Do we find ourselves never wanting prayer to end? How much actual time DO we set aside and carve out to be with the Lord?
As Fr. Jacques Philippe once said: “Five minutes are not enough for God. Five minutes are what we give someone when we want to get rid of ‘em.”
He then goes on to suggest this: “A quarter of an hour is the absolute minimum, and anyone who is able should not hesitate to spend an hour on prayer, or even more, every day.”
This might sound really hard to some of you — especially for moms and dads who are currently wrangling kids at mass today. I feel you. I know it’s a challenge!
But then again — how many hours do we quite easily spend on stuff that has nothing to do with growing in our relationship with God?
I challenge you to take a look at your iPhone settings sometime today, and check your “Screen Time” stats. It breaks down how long you’ve used each individual app every day.
The results may shock you!
How easily we fritter and waste prolonged periods of time on frivolous things like online shopping, surfing YouTube, or streaming 2 hour long episodes of our favorite shows on Netflix!!!! — but when it comes to prayer, Mass, Rosary, meditating on Scripture… our eyes and our hearts are locked anxiously on the clock! “When will this be over so I can get back to what I really want to be doing?!?!?”
Now, none of this is meant to shame any one here.
We all struggle with this stuff. I STRUGGLE WITH THIS… It’s hard for me to linger with the Lord. I’m always thinking about the next thing I gotta do, the next task, the next responsibility — and I’m always finding reasons why I can’t possibly waste time with Jesus.
And yet, I somehow have plenty of time to scroll Facebook.
And gee!… I HAVE managed to watch a lot of Dr. Who lately…
So really… we all just need to be brutally honest with ourselves! We each need to take a look at our own heart and ask:
‘Where am I lingering? Where am I pitching my tent? Where do I pass my time most easily? Do I want to stay with the Lord, crying out with Peter: ‘Lord, it is good that we are here!’ …Or am I saying instead: ‘Lord, I kinda wish I was somewhere else?’
I’m going to go ahead and throw this out there, too, even though it might be tough for some to hear. ……….One area where I think we can grow as a parish is lingering at the conclusion of Mass.
Hear me out!
Rather than hitting the road at the first note of the closing hymn — why not stay? Why not linger a bit? You’ve just received Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
You are a living, breathing tabernacle. He’s really truly Present — Transfigured within you! The Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven which we heard about in that first reading from the prophet Daniel has taken up his throne — and it’s INSIDE YOU.
If that’s true — then brunch can probably wait a few minutes, right? The parking lot might even clear out a bit, and it will be much less stressful.
What if we chose to linger? What if we knelt down and prayed for a while, just to soak in what we just did:
We ate God.
That can and should change us, right? That can heal us. Inspire us. Strengthen us! — Transfigure us!!!!!
Just as he once did on Mount Tabor for the disciples, Jesus reaches down at this Liturgy, and He touches us saying: “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
So look up! And see Jesus there alone…gazing deep into your eyes. Stay there. Linger there and say to Him:
“O Lord, it is good that we are here.”