(Editor’s note: On the feast of the Transfiguration, Archbishop José H. Gomez delivered this homily to more than 1,600 young people attending this year’s City of Saints festival, held Aug. 4-6 at the University of California at Los Angeles. The following is adapted from the archbishop’s reflections.)
Our Gospel tonight leads us up the high mountain — the mountain of God. It is almost like we are chosen witnesses to go up with Jesus. Just as he chose the three apostles to go with him in the Gospel — St. Peter, St. James and St. John.
We have the privilege tonight in this Gospel to see what they saw, to hear what they heard — the “transfiguration” of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is an amazing scene. The face of Jesus “shining like the sun.” His clothes turned into “white light.” The great prophets Moses and Elijah appear out of nowhere. And then, of course, we hear the voice of God — speaking from out of a cloud that covers the whole sky.
It is totally amazing to imagine what they see. This reminds us that our lives are part of a great mystery — a cosmic reality — the loving plan of the living God.
My young friends, you and me — we are “part of the plan.”
In the reading we heard tonight, from the prophet Daniel, it is another fantastic scene. God on his throne surrounded by “wheels of burning fire” and “a surging stream of fire.” And the Son of Man comes on heavenly clouds and is given power and glory forever over “all peoples, nations and languages.”
Again, it is amazing to “visualize” this scene. And, again, it tells us that our life is bigger than we can ever imagine. Whatever is going on in our lives or in the world — all the news and events: the wars, the politics and celebrities — God’s plan is still going on.
“Behind the scenes” these wheels of fire are still turning. Behind everything that we can see, God is making this world into his kingdom — into a beautiful “city of saints” with people from every nation and language, with Jesus as our King.
The purpose of our lives is to be transformed and transfigured, to become more like Jesus every day of our lives — until one day we will shine like the sun, just as we saw his face shine like the sun in the Gospel today.
This is God’s plan for your lives — to be his sons and daughters. Just as Jesus was his beloved son.
So how are we going to do it? That is a big question. But we have the answer in the Gospel. We heard God’s voice coming from heaven at the Transfiguration: “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!”
Jesus is the answer! Listen to him! This is the best advice you will ever receive, because it comes from God himself!
Let Jesus be your teacher, your “coach,” your “personal trainer.” Enter into his plan for your life. It is a plan of love, a plan that will lead you to happiness.
Two practical things in my life have helped me listen to Jesus — prayer and reading the Gospels.
I urge you to develop these two habits in your life. I know I have told you this before, but it is so important: make time every day to be quiet and to pray. Talk to God, ask him questions and make time also to read and reflect on his words and his example in the Gospels.
You can download a “Bible app” onto your phone and you will have the Gospels with you everywhere you go. When you get a minute, you can read a passage from the Gospel. It is way better than checking your Instagram feed!
The more we pray, the easier it becomes to open our hearts to God. The more we reflect on the Gospels — the more we begin to see Jesus alive and working in our lives and in the world.
The more we try to listen to Jesus, the easier it becomes to hear him, the more we want to be with him — in the Eucharist, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
And, slowly, we have a “transfiguration” in our lives. That is how it works “behind the scenes” — we start to think and act more like Jesus, more like a child of God. And it is a beautiful thing. You realize you are joyful, you are happy.
As we continue the celebration of the Eucharist tonight, in a few minutes, try to think about this. Just as Jesus changes the bread and wine into his Body and Blood in the Eucharist — in the same way he wants to change our lives into his image.
Let us always go to our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary. May she help us to listen to Jesus and to be “transfigured.” And may she help us to transfigure our world into a City of Saints!