Pitching tents

It’s that time of the year again. In a week’s time it will be the Sec 4 Confirmation Retreat for our parish. Every year, this weekend retreat is the spiritual highlight for many of our youth – both retreatants and service team members. For many of them, it will be at this weekend that they have their first significant God experience or have a much needed re-encounter with God. But just like Peter in the Transfiguration narrative, many of them will have such a great time that they would want to pitch tents on the mountain and stay there. And many of them do.

All of us have experienced this phenomenon. After a spiritually enriching experience – whether it was a retreat, pilgrimage, rally or even a faith-sharing group, we immediately set up tents to preserve the beautiful experience that we had.  Some of us become retreat/pilgrimage/rally junkies, going for one after another in an elusive attempt to get a fix of the spiritual high we had experienced. This may work for a little while but very soon we will find ourselves dry again and even more frustrated and disgruntled than before.

Then there are some of us who pitch tents by clinging on to the people that were with us on the mountain. We may begin by hanging out with them and reminiscing about the wonderful time we had on the mountain, but very soon, we just end up hanging out. The friendships we had forged during a previous mountain experience become the tents we pitch and we stubbornly stay on long after Jesus had descended the mountain to go to Jerusalem.

Therein lies the problem with pitching tents. The mountain is not God. The sights, sounds, smells and wonderful experiences are not God. The friends we make are not God. We miss the point when we cling to the external trappings of the situation and place in which we encounter God. When we substitute the mountain for God, we get left behind when Jesus continues his journey into Jerusalem and unto Calvary. Soon we will find ourselves on an empty mountain, wondering why God had abandoned us. We don’t realise that the answer is simple: stay close to Jesus and be with Him wherever He goes.

Many people have a profound conversion experience at some point in their lives, but few follow Jesus into Jerusalem. These few are the ones who have found the real treasure and continue to grow in discipleship. These are the ones who discover that they still have peace and joy even when they face their own Calvary. All because they are with Christ.

So to my young friends out there who are seeking God, and to the many who will have a Transfiguration experience next weekend, remember that the real prize is Jesus. If you keep close to Him, you will find that it does not matter where you are – in a boat on a stormy sea, on a mountain, on a cross, or even in a tomb. Stay with Christ, know Him, love Him, and serve Him; and you would have found what you are seeking for.

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