Sunday, March 1, 2015

There's hardly any point in having a blog

If you don't promote your work. I published this piece twice before, in slightly different incarnations: about a hundred years ago in the Catholic Family Ministries newsletter, and also in the Australian Catholic newspaper, The Record (back in April of 2012, when it was still a real pulp and print newspaper. It is entirely online now). 

Today's Gospel reading was about the Transfiguration, which reminded me of this column. If you choose to read it (thank you), I hope it blesses you in some way. 

Overcoming the Post-Transfiguration Blues

I remember attending weekend youth retreats and getting so ‘high on God’ that I positively crashed on Monday morning. In theory, I was meant to come back and share the Good News; in practice, I snapped at my parents, fought with my siblings, grumbled through my chores, and had no heart for algebra. Naturally, my parents and teachers were annoyed: they had expected the retreats to have a positive effect. I felt misunderstood; in fact, I didn’t understand myself. I’d tasted heaven, and didn’t want to return to earth and the bothersome tasks of daily life. I was afflicted with the Post-Transfiguration Blues.

When Peter, James and John witnessed the Transfiguration, they saw our Lord resplendent. Overwhelmed, Peter enthused, “Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here!” He wanted to set up three tents so Jesus, Moses and Elijah (and presumably the three apostles as well) could stay and enjoy each other’s company. Almost as if interrupting Peter’s train of thought, the voice of God boomed, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him” (Luke 9:35).  The apostles fell on their faces in fear. The Gospel of St. Matthew continues: “Jesus came toward them, and laying his hand on them, said, ‘Get up! Do not be afraid.’ When they looked up they did not see anyone but Jesus” (17:7-8).

I sometimes wonder how Peter, James and John felt after this event. Was there a letdown? Were they tempted to shirk the daily grind; did they long to go back up the mountain? Judging by Peter’s betrayal of Jesus, as well as the apostles’ (save John) fear and timidity both before and after the Crucifixion, we might conclude that they experienced some kind of post-Transfiguration setback.

If only naming the malady would eliminate it. The Post-Transfiguration Blues invade our household after every holiday, family reunion, Catholic conference or retreat. After the fun and fellowship has ended, real life sets in, with its dirty laundry, squabbling kids, bothersome co-workers and hectic schedules. It takes a true saint to bounce out of bed Monday morning, full of determination to tackle the day. I’d rather pull the covers over my head and wish myself back to Friday evening. Only God’s grace helps us to heed Jesus’ words:  “Get up! Do not be afraid.”

It is significant that all three Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration (Matthew, Mark and Luke) follow immediately after Jesus’ proclamation of the Doctrine of the Cross. You must suffer and persevere, he tells his apostles; but there is a reason and a reward. It is Heaven, and here is a taste of it.

Holidays and retreats can be a taste of Heaven. We escape our daily duty and experience any or all of the following: God’s love, spiritual revelation, the camaraderie of the Communion of Saints, authentic worship, joy, peace, laughter. But these experiences are not just an opportunity to bask in the glory of God; they are also meant to be a transfiguration. We don’t go on retreat merely to have a good time, but in order to be transformed. We ought to come back home a little closer to Jesus, and eager to share Him with others. If we tend not to, perhaps we need to respond more fully to the grace that God offered to us during our time away.

When the smoke cleared after Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Gospel tells us that the apostles looked up, and “they did not see anyone but Jesus.” This statement can be interpreted in more than one way. As a ‘misunderstood’ teenager, I saw my faith chiefly as a source of comfort or fun. Jesus was my buddy, and after the retreat, I just wanted to stay in my tent with him, wallowing in my Post-Transfiguration Blues.

Or we can allow God to transform us, so that loving and serving him is our reason for being. Not for the way it makes us feel, but for the sake of the love he poured out on Calvary, and continues to pour out in the Eucharist, and through every retreat, reunion, or other ‘mountain-top moment’ in our lives. Then, when we look at the people we are meant to serve, we will see only Jesus –not a moody spouse, a sullen teenager, a demanding boss, a whining toddler, an obnoxious neighbor. Only Jesus.

Get up. Do not be afraid. Lord, how good it is for us to be here.

Copyright 2012 Mariette Ulrich and The Record, Archdiocese of Perth, W. Australia

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