By Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
The week before last, I participated in World Youth Day (July 26-31) in Kraków, Poland. I also was asked to contribute to a series of reflection pieces on World Youth Day called “World Youth Day Wednesdays.” Below is my contribution, entitled “Coming Down from the Mountain,” which reflects on the Transfiguration (celebrated on Saturday, August 6) and how that relates to the experience of the World Youth Day pilgrims as they return from Poland and settle into daily life back home.
“Let us make three tents.” I can almost hear St. Peter’s words to Jesus after the uplifting experience on Mount Tabor – that day in which Jesus was transfigured before his eyes, and Moses and Elijah appeared – representing prophecy and the law.
We use the expression “walking on clouds” to signify being swept up in untold joy. St. Peter was clearly “walking on clouds!” We are told that the mystery of the transfiguration in which Jesus glowed as He would after the resurrection – giving a glimpse of what was to come – was so spectacular that St. Peter wanted that experience to go on and on and on. How could he not?
We have been together in Kraków with youth and young adults from all over the world gathered in faith and joy – with Pope Francis to lead us. How fitting it is that this week our Church calendar celebrates – you guessed it – the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Unlike the “let down” when we are driving home from a great vacation, this coming down the mountain is about an encounter – an experience of Jesus, of Church, and maybe a bit of a taste of what heaven will be like.
Unlike a vacation where we hope for a soft landing upon our return, here we are hoping that the encounter will make us different … having brought out the best of us. We hope that our best selves will continue to live and witness to the love and mercy of Jesus. We have met new friends, we have been catechized, and we have encountered the Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
Some advice is in order.
- Take some time for solitary reflection and put those ideas on paper so you will not lose them and so you can return in prayer to them. This reflection, prayer, and journaling will rekindle the flame of faith.
- Write down the names of new friends and in fact, if you got their addresses, write a note to them in the first five days after you return. Keep the friendships alive.
- Celebrate with your fellow pilgrims. If you are invited to a gathering that will allow you to pray, reflect on your experience, and celebrate with others, go! Better yet, don’t wait to be invited. Call others together.
- Tell your family about your experiences. Don’t be afraid to sit down and share what you have experienced. It is a way to witness to Christ.
- Renew your service to others. Joy results when we generously serve in Christ’s name. Don’t chase after joy. Seek new ways to serve. The joy will accompany you.
- Carry Jesus with you. Be not afraid. Jesus’ final words in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (28:20) remind us, “I am with you always until the end of the ages.” Let your confidence be in Him. Like St. Peter, leave behind the tents on the mountain. Take the journey back home and celebrate what you experienced: World Youth Day Kraków 2016.