Living Life on the Mountaintop

Bri CampbellLast Updated: August 6th, 2020Pilgrims' Stories, Saints, Spiritual Reflections

After five too many months of being stuck in my Indianapolis home for a series of quarantines, curfews, and stay-at-home orders, I most excitedly hopped a plane and made my way to the great state of Colorado.

This summer has been a rough one. I found myself surprised when I learned of kids starting school this week, thinking “Summer’s only just begun!” But instead, it’s flown by, with very few activities and gatherings and summer pastimes to mark the passage of time. When I wasn’t cancelling international travel plans, cleaning closets for the third time, or taking a walk around the neighborhood (where I can breathe freely without the confines of a mask), I was wishing that I could be free of all the chaos and madness that seemed to have descended upon our city in early spring, and then made its home there until further notice. I was tired of all the bad news, biased media, and angry people. I wanted to get away.

Which is what brought me to Colorado. I was there on a very small leadership retreat for some young adults in my parish, where we looked to the example of the saints in times of tribulation. From their examples, we discussed ways in which we could bring our parish together in a world where many are living locked up.

It was wonderful. Each day was filled with hiking and the Mass, where the greatest beauty of the natural and supernatural came together. Every peak we summited, every lake we overlooked, every minute spent outdoors with members of my community were life-giving, joy-filled, and extremely peaceful. Poor cell reception and dodgy Wi-Fi left me pleasantly cut off from the rest of the world and conversation filled long car rides instead of radio commentary. For a few days, it felt as if all was normal again – a good, better normal.

As I read today’s Gospel on the Feast of the Transfiguration, I was stuck by the scene that unfolded:

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John,and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

Matthew 17: 1-8
It brought to mind one of the hikes I had done – summiting Twin Sisters Peak – a hike that leads you nearly 11,500 feet up to a beautiful rocky point. It took a few hours to climb the mostly deserted trails, and upon arriving at the very top, instead of seeing a sweeping view in all directions, we found ourselves standing in the middle of a cloud. We could only see about 10 feet out in any direction before fogginess and cloud coverage blurred everything else that lay around us. It was pretty surreal, as one doesn’t usually find themselves sitting in a cloud in urban Indiana. About ten minutes passed before the cloud made its way passed us. What it left in its trail were sweeping views and incredible formations on all sides. Looking at it all, it was easy to believe in the existence of God. It was even easier to see how much He loves us.
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Sitting in a cloud at 11,427 feet high

During the Transfiguration, Jesus showed his closest companions, Peter, James, and John, the fullness of His divinity on a lone mountaintop. If seeing Jesus in a radiating form wasn’t enough to convince them, a booming voice from God Himself coming from a great cloud above sealed the deal. This brief encounter with the true Presence of eternity would be enough to sustain the three disciples through a life spreading the Gospel message and facing persecution. Most importantly, they were assured that they needn’t be afraid, that the Lord’s mission for each of them shouldn’t instill them with fear or doubt, but that it would lead back to Him in all His glory.

I think it’s important for all of us to have a Transfiguration moment – a time or place where we can be removed completely from the world, where we can hear the Lord most easily, and feel His peace, presence, and direction for our lives. It’s imperative now that we listen to Him above all else, that we see the beauty of His love and workings from day to day. He wants to show us, He wants us to see all that is waiting for us. The question is, are we looking? And when we look, are we seeing Jesus alone?