A Transfiguration, but not on Mt. Tabor!
Once while giving a retreat to the Oblate missionaries in South Africa, I saw a true transfiguration. It wasn’t on Mt. Tabor and it didn’t involve Moses and Elijah. But it did include Jesus and ordinary people. And, it’s something I remember to this day.
Offering to help the Oblate pastor of a large territorial mission, we drove together over hills and dry, dusty roads to a tiny outpost village. Bringing Eucharist to the homebound first, we then were scheduled to celebrate liturgy for their weekly celebration.
Entering the village, composed of dirt streets, we noticed tiny two room houses standing in an orderly fashion side by side along the narrow streets. As I mounted the steps to enter a house, I spotted a small hibachi near the front door which looked frequently used. I knocked on the door which opened immediately.
As I stepped inside I was met with eight to ten young people from ages eight to twenty-three. They were dressed in what was their Sunday best: woman in colorful dresses, and men in jackets and ties. Everyone was extremely cordial and welcoming. They were there to greet the priest, who was carrying Jesus to their grandparents.
With accented English, they conversed well enough to be understood. They were the grandchildren of the couple waiting in their bedroom. The grandparents were ninety years old and celebrating seventy-years of marriage.
They explained how overjoyed the grandparents were to receive eucharist from a person far away. It was the highlight of their anniversary that Jesus is coming to them from America. It made them feel even more blessed by God who had already bestowed so many blessings throughout these seventy years of marriage.
After a few minutes of welcome, the relatives pulled back the curtain and beckoned me to enter. Alone in the bedroom I noted two pallet sized beds with a frail in-firmed man in one and a weak fragile woman in the other.
As I entered, the two reached across their pallets to clasp hands. Never taking their eyes off the Eucharist in my hands, they began to whisper familiar prayers never loosening their gaze from my hands.
When I started to say the preparatory prayers, they became visually moved as if anticipating the coming of Jesus. They both smiled when I walked towards them with the Eucharist. When they each received, they fell back against their thin pillows, closing their eyes seeming to disappear into the dim lighting.
At this point I realized they now had what they had waited for, and I had successfully completed my task. The power of grace in that tiny bedroom seemed to enlarge its dimensions to a king-size room with royalty submerged in those beds.
Their contentment and peace swirled around the faces of these elated grandparents and glided me through the door into the delightful, smiling, waiting relatives. I was moved by what was happening. I knew for sure it had nothing to do with me but was wrapped in the holiness of this couple lost with Jesus in the Eucharist, and their hungry desire for Him. Jesus knew from the first moment he entered the house, he was with friends and I was delighted to be with them as part of this celebration.
It was a true example of how holy ground transpires when two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name. There he is in their midst. Only this day we all saw and felt His presence.
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Blessings, Fr. De Lillio