I was blessed to attend the monastery of Holy Transfiguration this past week in Elwood City, PA with Lucy, where hundreds of pilgrims had gathered along side two Bishops, numerous priests, and most importantly, the nuns. These women live at the monastery and spend their entire day praying and reflecting the Divine Light of Christ to the rest of the world.
We give thanks to God for all of our beloved monasteries and to all those men and women who have forsaken the world in order to lift up the world in ways that we cannot begin to calculate. Their daily sacrifices and their daily efforts to reflect the “Light of Mt. Tabor” into the dark recesses of life, act as the ultimate example of what we are called to do each and every day.
When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after receiving the Ten Commandments, we read in Exodus how his face was so bright from being in the presence of God, they had to cover it with a veil in order to talk to him. When the Martyr St. Stephen went before the council of elders to answer accusations, they said that it looked like the face of an angel—something that was literally “other worldly.” Throughout human history, and yes, even in some of the monasteries today, we have numerous examples of men and women who have lived their lives in such a way that they were able to partake and reflect the very energies of God out into the world.
This is what the feast of the Transfiguration reminds us all of. This week, the Lord opens up the curtain for us to see what Divine Life is meant to look like. It acts as our incentive, our encouragement, and our motivation to be like Christ; not only in the way we live, but in the fabric of our very being.
Today’s Gospel lesson offers us some insight into how that can be done. We hear from the words of St. Matthew about how our Lord was followed by 5,000 men and their families into a deserted place. These men and women wanted nothing more than to just hear His words and to be present with the living God. They waited for hours in the hot sun, never tiring of being with our Lord.
As the sun was beginning to set, the disciples became concerned about the hungry crowd. This is where the disciples witnessed the incredible miracle where Jesus took 5 loaves and two fish, and multiplied them before their very eyes to feed the masses that were gathered.
Throughout the history of existence, we see how God always does incredible things with seemingly very little. When an atheist reads about a miracle like this in the Gospel, they roll their eyes. For them, it is a story—a legend in a book that is meant for children. But for those who spend their day in prayer, asking God to open their eyes and hearts to the realities of the world, miracles like the multiplication of food are seen all of the time! How many of us have ever planted a few seeds in the garden, only to have an entire garden full of vegetables, even in places where we didn’t plant the seeds? How incredible are the works of God, if we cultivate inside of ourselves the eyes to see all of the daily miracles that happen around us!
So how does this reflect back to our own lives? Back to our own personal “Transfiguration?” Of course we realize that contrary to popular secular belief, we are not God. We do not have the power to go into the soil of our gardens and cause seeds to germinate. But being made in God’s image, we are each given the unique ability to be able to cultivate, encourage, and to grow the various seeds that we have been given in this life.
There is a beautiful parable about our Lord encountering an old tree on the side of the road that I think illustrates this quite beautifully. The Lord said to the tree, “Tree…I have given you soil, water, and sunlight for these many years. I have kept you safe from the storms. I have blessed your growth. Now I am tired and hungry…have you anything for me to eat?”
The tree answered back, “I have nothing for you Lord.” And from that day forward, the Lord withheld His blessings from the tree, and it eventually withered up and perished.
Many years later, the Lord was once again walking on the same road, and encountered a man and said:
“Christian, I am your creator. I have given you life. I have watched over you and given you food. I have blessed your days. I have enlarged your family and prospered your household. I have shown you mercy and grace. I have loved you and kept you in my love. Look around you. My world is hungry and broken. People in it are weary and in need. Have you anything for them?”
How do we answer this question, brothers and sisters in Christ? We have been given so much! We have had blessings upon blessings that have been multiplied throughout our entire existence, and yet have done very little with this inheritance. This parable, coupled with the destiny of mankind that was revealed at the Transfiguration, are lessons that each one of us should examine deeply in ourselves. We all have the Grace within us to live like gods; to reflect that same light of Tabor into the world, just like Moses, St. Stephen, and so many others. We do not have the power to create mountains, but our Lord tells us that we do have the power to move mountains, if we would only learn to cultivate the seeds of Grace which our Lord has given us.
So as we continue the celebrations of the feast, let us remember these lofty goals that humanity is destined for, and perhaps make a small start towards them today. We are each given 24 hours in the day. Tithe a portion of those God given hours to prayer and in service to someone else. We are each given some measure of income, and whether it be a good salary or just a few widows mites, tithe a portion of it back to God and to the poor. We have been given an abundance of food in this country. Tithe a portion of your groceries to someone who is on the street and hungry. Let us spend this day and every day, not only giving thanks for all that we have been given, but rather to constantly be thinking about ways that we can use those gifts to spread light to those in darkness—fulfilling our calling as human beings who were created to reflect the Glory of God to the entire world.