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  • Josie Diebold

Taking Time on the Mountaintop


Today’s gospel, the Transfiguration, transports me back in time to the hollers and hills of West Virginia…to Nazareth Farm, a “Catholic community…that transforms lives through a service-retreat experience” and provides home repair to poor and working class folks in the area. My first trip to Nazareth Farm was over two decades ago, as a high school student traveling with other youth from my diocese. Yet, Nazareth Farm is not just a place I’ve traveled to, but a home that lives deep in my bones.


Being at Nazareth Farm was liminal in a sense – the grittiness of life seemed distant, and yet the whole week was bursting with aliveness. So, it’s fitting that on the last day, the staff read the story of the Transfiguration. However, they provided instructions rather different than Jesus’s admonitions to Peter, James and John not to tell anyone about what they had seen. Rather, the closing call at the Farm is to bring the aliveness, fullness, and spirit found up on the mountain out to our different corners of the world.


I’m realizing that I could use some time on the mountain. For several years, I’ve been on a politicized path of embodiment and healing. While it’s been powerful, it’s also made me aware of how far I am from where I long to be. For instance, I’ve been sitting in the grief of what I wish to, but do not, embody currently. That is to say, I wish that I could better metabolize interpersonal conflict and tension, but in practice, it knocks me off center (for days…). I wish I had a deeply held sense of inherent dignity to return to. More often, I pursue perfection as the metric by which I measure my worth. As I navigate this healing journey, I feel like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill – but the boulder is not falling backward onto me, the hill is just growing and the distance to travel increases.


Particularly in seasons of grief and grittiness, finding and creating liminal, mountain-top experiences seems vital. Peter, James and John descended the mountain into an unfolding story of loss and uncertainty. Perhaps Jesus brought them with him as an opportunity to be resourced and readied for the road ahead.


Indeed, that’s what the transfiguration has meant to me since my first trip to Nazareth Farm – the opportunity to be inspired and filled, so as to carry that aliveness into the messy and hard stuff. Of course, having a mountaintop experience does not need to be so literal (or involve traveling to West Virginia, though I highly recommend). There are those satisfying liminal spaces we can access through the day. Savoring the first sip of coffee in the morning. Standing outside as the sun rises or sets. Holding a loved one’s hand in reverent silence. I needed the reminder that today’s gospel provides: inexplicable and mysterious moments of resource do and must live alongside the grief and grit of our wild, beautiful lives.


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