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For Your Weekend: Rocky Mountain Jesus High

Kristy Malik

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 17:19

A few years ago, my family and I spent a month volunteering at a youth camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Week after week, groups of teens would come from all over the West Coast for activities, talks, music, and fellowship. The weather was absolutely perfect, the people were amazing, and my faith grew exponentially. (Oh, and I never had to cook a single meal!) It was literally and figuratively a mountaintop experience for me. 

The original (and best) “mountaintop experience” is recounted in this Sunday’s gospel. The Transfiguration is a beautiful account that confirms that Jesus is truly the Son of God on what is believed to be either Mount Tabor or Mount Hermon in Galilee.[1] There is much to ponder from this passage about the divinity of Jesus and the fact that both Moses and Elijah, two pillars of the Old Testament, were present. If I’m being honest, though, my favorite part is Peter’s speech about building tents.

Oh, Peter. The more I learn about our first pope, the more I can relate to him. The following description of Peter sums up his personality pretty well:

Though of irresolute character, he clings with the greatest fidelity, firmness of faith, and inward love to the Savior; rash alike in word and act, he is full of zeal and enthusiasm…and intimidated by difficulties.”[2]

When Peter sees Jesus gleaming brightly while conversing with Moses and Elijah, he says, “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” (Matthew 17:4). Peter was mid-sentence when the voice of God from a cloud said, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5).

Many theologians believe that Peter reacted the way he did because he thought the Messianic kingdom had come.[3] And who can blame him? He had never seen anything like it before and wanted to preserve the moment's awe. 

When I think back to that month in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I know exactly how Peter felt. I didn’t want to leave; it was pretty close to heaven on earth. I feel the same way about spiritual retreats I have attended. (If you’ve ever been to a Walking with Purpose retreat, you know what I mean!)

But as the story of the Transfiguration tells us, mountaintop experiences don’t last forever. After hearing God speak, Peter, James, and John find themselves alone with Jesus. They return to Galilee and, as we will see in the coming chapters, soon undergo and endure Christ’s passion.

William Barclay says of the Transfiguration: 

“The moment of glory does not exist for its own sake; it exists to clothe the common things with a radiance they never had before.” He goes on to say that “The Mountain of Transfiguration is given to us only to provide strength for the daily ministry and to enable us to walk in the way of the cross.”[4]

What I’ve come to realize is that these sublime experiences aren’t just like a spiritual gas pump—something we search for when we need to refill a depleted tank. More importantly, they are special moments with God intended to change us for a reason. The grace and goodness we sense there are meant to inspire us to return to our lives with a renewed purpose and mission. If you’re like me, you know that isn’t always easy, so I have some tips to help you re-enter the valley.

Before returning from a week-long Life Teen camp this summer, our parish youth minister talked to my teens about coming back home after experiencing a “Jesus high,” a.k.a. mountaintop experience. Here’s what she told them:

  1. Expect the devil to try and chip away at your renewed faith.
  2. Set specific faith goals (like planning a time/place for daily prayer or scheduling weekly adoration visits).
  3. Write down Bible verses or quotes from the retreat to ponder in the coming weeks. 
  4. Select an accountability partner to help meet these goals.

If you haven’t done this since your last “mountaintop experience,” take some time to do that today. Preserve the beauty, glory, and growth of your time with Jesus as you re-enter the valley. 

Don’t let what happened on the mountaintop stop with you. 

Peter sure didn’t.

With you on the journey,

Food for thought or journaling…

What are some mountaintop experiences you have had in your life? What aspects of those events can you recall to strengthen your vocation or mission?

Lord, thank You for giving me moments in my life when I profoundly experienced Your goodness and glory. Help me recall those moments when times are hard, or my faith is wavering. Let me continue to grow closer to You and, in doing so, bring others to You as well. 

[1] New American Bible, Revised Edition (New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Corp, 2011), Matthew 17:1 footnote, p 38.
[2] “Peter, Apostle, Saint.” Catholic Answers Encyclopedia (Accessed July 22, 2023): https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/peter-apostle-saint.
[3] Ascension Great Adventure Bible, Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition (West Chester, PA: Ascension Publishing, LLC, 2018), Matthew 17:4 footnote, p 1290.
[4] Barclay, William, The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), p 190.


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