“Jesus asks us to take the fruits of our time with God to others. To come down off the mountain. And to do the hard—and rewarding—work of being an apostle for social justice.”
On the last day of my first retreat as a Jesuit novice, my spiritual director said, “Time to come down from the mountain!” I had no idea what he was talking about. So I said, “Huh?”
Smiling, he reminded me of today’s Gospel passage, the story of the Transfiguration, when Jesus is “transfigured” before three of his closest disciples. (The Greek word used is metemorphōthē: he undergoes a metamorphosis.) It’s a mysterious reading in which Jesus’s identity as the Son of God is again revealed to the disciples.
In response, the disciples want to stay. “Let us build three tents,” says Peter. Who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t want to remain with Jesus there forever, worshiping him and basking in his (literal) glory?
Yet this is not what they are called to do. Following Jesus’s lead, they “come down from the mountain.” They return to the day-to-day work of being a disciple.
Working for justice can be hard. Several years ago, I asked Sister Helen Prejean why it seemed that so many people who work for justice can be, for want of a better word, angry. She said it was because they sometimes found it hard to see discernible “results.” Think of how long Sister Helen worked against the death penalty—decades—before Pope Francis declared it “inadmissible.” Justice work is necessary, but hard.
After a consoling time in prayer, a moving liturgy, a satisfying retreat, an inspiring book, an hour in spiritual conversation, or a walk in the woods in silence with God, we sometimes want to do nothing more than “remain.” But Jesus asks us to take the fruits of our time with God to others. To come down off the mountain. And to do the hard—and rewarding—work of being an apostle for social justice.
- What “mountaintop” experiences do you find to sustain you in your work for justice?
- How are you being called to come down from the mountain—taking the fruits of your time with God to others as an apostle for justice?
James Martin, S.J., is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America, consultor to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication and author, most recently, of Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone.
James Martin, S.J., es un sacerdote jesuita, editor general de la revista “America”, consultor del Dicasterio para la Comunicación del Vaticano y su obra más reciente es: “Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone” (“Aprendiendo a Orar: una Guía para Todos”).