Called to witness something glorious

World Youth Day is that moment of ‘transfiguration’ offered to those who have been ‘taken’ and who struggled up the high mountain (the Catholic Church, the Eucharist) together with the Pope, in order to witness to Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit again.

Aug 04, 2023

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Alexuchelvam Mariasoosai

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)
Readings: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
2 Peter 1:16-19;
Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

World Youth Day. Lisbon. Pope Francis. Catholic Church. What has these to do with the Transfiguration of the Lord that we are celebrating today? What a wonderful spectacle it has been over these past few decades since St John Paul II began this celebration in Rome by welcoming youth from all over the world to come and meet him, to be with him and listen to him and celebrate the mysteries of our faith together with joy.

Perhaps, over the years, some may have mistaken it to be somewhat of a large concert or a loud and noisy party or a social meeting that brought all the youth together for an emotional high. Maybe, from a human and sociological aspect, there’s some truth to that since not every young person could come for World Youth Day that is ce-lebrated in different parts of the world every two to three years. It can be expensive, distant from home and almost seemingly exclusive and just for a select few.

Contrast this with the Transfiguration; among the disciples and the 12 Apostles, Jesus took only three of the Apostles to follow Him up a high mountain and to be alone with Him. It seems that even Jesus had favourites within His own exclusive group who were much closer to Him than the other nine Apostles. But is that the full truth?

We may never truly know and are only speculating but what is more important to consider than the aspect of favouritism, exclusiveness or selectiveness, is the truth that Jesus had a greater purpose in doing that than making them ‘feel’ special. They were ‘taken’ by Jesus and called to climb a higher mountain in order to witness to something more glorious than what the world had to offer, to something beyond the imagination of mere man, a mind boggling, powerfully experiential and core-shaking truth about Jesus.

Peter, James and John saw Jesus in His divine splendour, and heard the assuring voice of the Father and felt the magnificent presence of the Holy Spirit revealed in a special, spectacular moment. In following Jesus, without knowing why or where Jesus was taking them, their faith in Him brought them into a more intimate relationship with Jesus, and not just with Jesus, but introduced to them the divine persons of the Father and the Holy Spirit. How marvellous, and also terrifying it must have been at the same time for them. Their eyes and ears were opened.

Being in the presence of Moses and Elijah — the two figures of the Old Testament that had climbed the mountain and experienced God themselves in their own life stories — they were assured in a split moment that they were in good company and that they were truly in the presence of God. Divinity had descended upon man, upon them and pointed them to Jesus alone, the ‘God-Man’. But not just that, they were commanded to ‘Listen’ to Jesus, the Beloved Son.

What a fantastic mid-point journey in the exciting adventures of the three Apostles, especially Peter whom, earlier, Jesus had called the Rock on whom He would build His Church.

And in the second reading today, we hear Peter recalling, repeating and confirming what he, James and John had witnessed at the mount of Transfiguration and what they had been commanded to do by listening to Jesus ‘alone’.

Now, can you imagine how similar this is when Jesus ‘takes’ the Pope (Peter) and the young people from all over the world (James and John) and brings them up a high mountain (the Catholic Church, the Eucharist) to be alone with Him, away from the world, away from the rest of the crowd and to witness to His glory and splendour and invite them to a more intimate relationship - friendship with God.

World Youth Day is that moment of ‘transfiguration’ offered to those who have been ‘taken’ and who struggled up the high mountain (the Catholic Church, the Eucharist) together with the Pope, in order to witness to Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit again.

What would it do to them? God knows and we must trust the Lord that He is bringing new disciples to new adventures with Him. How wonderful are the feet of those who bring Good News just like Peter, James and John.

By the time this is read, World Youth Day will be ending in Lisbon. But the Lord has been with the young and the young people have experienced the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in all its beautiful diversity, mirroring the face of Jesus.

Let us keep every young person that we know in our prayers, that they too may be ‘taken’ by Jesus and have that Transfiguration moment so as to listen more closely to Jesus and spread the Good News like the Apostles did.

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