The following article is condensed from Thomas Cardinal Collins’ homily at the 2023 Lift Jesus Higher Rally in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You can listen to it here. The article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ July 2023 newsletter.
Jesus’ Transfiguration reveals the two realms in which we are called to live. The top of the mountain is immersed in glory and light, and we adore the Lord in majesty. At the bottom, people suffer and struggle in the world of darkness, and we are called, day by day in unspectacular ways, to manifest the Lord’s glory by lives of humble service. Those are not two different worlds; they are joined together. We serve with gladness at the bottom of the mountain because we have seen the Lord’s glory at the top.
We must not forget one or the other. Every day, we must come to the top of the Mount of Transfiguration. That’s why Bishop Sheen said to spend an hour every day in Adoration and that’s why Mother Teresa and her sisters did so. Then, we must go to the bottom of the mountain, to the rest of the world, onto the streets to serve the Lord and listen to his cry.
This back-and-forth is an essential dimension of our life in Christ. To be a Christian without a sense of the Lord’s glory becomes an unhealthy regimentation. And to have the glory without the service—telling someone, “I’m sorry you are suffering, but I have to keep my holy hour”—also is not healthy. A schedule for our prayer time is necessary, but we must let it slip and slide a little bit because of the needs of the people on the side of the road. That doesn’t mean we don’t pray; it means that there is some flexibility in the time. We must have them both.
The almighty God walked amongst us and said, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt 4:17). He called for a change of heart. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He brought compassion when others suggested throwing stones at her. But then he said something that sometimes causes a problem: “Do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). There’s a bite to the life-changing power of the Gospel. It’s not simply a validation of our likes; that false Jesus has no place in our lives.
We must avoid sin but also live virtuously by setting our hearts on top of the Mount of Transfiguration. Then, we must go into the valley every day, serving the suffering without validating the ways they turn aside. The spirit of the age is full of wind and does great damage, but there’s no life in it. It just goes around in circles. We’re not called to shape ourselves according to the world; we’re called to fertilize this world. To do that, we must be in touch with the Lord, our hearts filled with his glory. We must be consumed with the glory of the Lord, and ardent but gentle in our faith.
Before going into the struggle, we must be close to the fire that doesn’t destroy but purifies our hearts, which are repentant regarding our own sin. We must be close to the fire of the burning bush in which Moses received his message, close to the fire of the sanctuary lamp. We must spend time in adoration before our Lord—the top of the Mount of Transfiguration in every church. Jesus’ words, the words of the Gospel, are fire and might. Allow those words to permeate us and light our path amid the fog.
We must try to do what He asks and then surrender our lives into his hands with the faith of Abraham. The Gospel speaks of stumbling apostles who never got it right. This is so consoling. The Lord most fully entrusted the mission to the ones who stumbled and had reasons to repent. Let us pray that, through lives of prayer and reading Scriptures, we may be intimately united to Him, and that his fire will burn away our sinfulness. And then, may we go to the bottom of the mountain, where we are most of the time, and let that light shine in this world so very much in need.