How many of you love your bed? How often do you find yourself in the morning, right when you wake up, struggling mightily in that eternal battle between the degree of coziness of the sheets and your need to go to the bathroom? It’s really hard, isn’t it? When I hear teenagers tell me that they slept in until 12:30, I am angry – mainly because I wish I could spend all day in that comfy, womb-like sanctuary of my beloved bed.
I’m sure there are a lot of experiences like that: where we feel very comfortable, safe, and cozy, and we never want anything to change. This is life. However, if there is anything that the history of the world has taught us, it’s that the one thing that remains constant in life is change. Life goes on – even when it is uncomfortable, even when we would rather it didn’t. The greatest moments of our lives are just that: moments.
Robert Frost wrote a poem that my sophomore English teacher made us memorize. It is called “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” It goes like this:
Nature’s first green is gold –
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Fr. Bechtel would be proud that I remembered that!
The message is that everything changes, and our lives are a constant flow toward wherever God may be leading us. We may not like that; we might wish to remain somewhere or at some time or with someone longer than we can. But that flow of life always continues – for a purpose.
Today, the Apostles experience the melancholy realization that “nothing gold can stay,” as they encounter Jesus on that mountaintop. Christ is transfigured – shown in all His glory and power as the Son of God – and the Apostles are blown away. “Finally!” they might think. “Now, we see the Messiah coming out in Him.”
St. Peter doesn’t want to lose any of this experience. He suggests erecting three tents – and setting up a permanent place of residence there on the mountain, with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Forget all the other business of wandering Palestine and preaching; forget all those people who constantly bug us for some time with Jesus; never mind those hungry, sick, or possessed folks who keep taking up all our time. We are enjoying this powerful moment, and we never want it to end.
But nothing gold can stay.
Jesus turns right back to His mission. They must return – down the mountain and back to the day to day grind of His earthly ministry. The Kingdom must be preached; disciples must be made.
The experience of Lent is a solitary one – like being in the desert or up on that mountain. There might be great spiritual breakthroughs or wonderful consolations that God gives you. It is tempting to simply rest in those consolations and to cling to them as our own permanent possessions. However, these experiences – like this experience of the Transfiguration – are meant to simply nourish us, and then to send us back out to be about the work that Jesus gives us. We can never relent in our mission to make disciples – even as we are shaped more and more into disciples ourselves.
It is good that we are here – at Mass, in church, gathered as a supportive community. However, we are here for a reason; and that reason is to be sent. Jesus reveals Himself to us so that we are encouraged to remain faithful to Him. Perhaps nothing gold can stay, but the gold that God promises to us is the fullness of life in the Kingdom that we are meant to help to build.