In the Gospel today, we hear the story of Jesus' transfiguration as he appears in his heavenly glory before Peter, James, and John. As they see Jesus transfigured with Moses and Elijah, they can have no doubt that Jesus is truly God. Still, they were afraid and didn't know what to say. This was a one-of-a-kind event, transforming their lives. And yet, when Jesus was led to the cross, Peter and James were nowhere to be found and Peter even denied him three times. How could they so quickly abandon Jesus in his time of need?
Probably, many of us have had experiences in our lives when we have felt the presence of Jesus. It may have been a time of trial when we felt uplifted. Or, maybe we heard a reading or a homily at Mass which touched us. Maybe we were praying and heard an answer to a difficult problem.
These are spiritual highs when Jesus seems to be close to us. But, often, as we deal with the day to day issues of life, we can forget about these close moments and even wonder where Jesus is. We might think: "Has he abandoned me?" In fact, some of us may be wondering right now where Jesus is in our life. We may be experiencing a desert time in our spiritual journey. We may feel that he has turned away from us. Or we might even have turned away from him as Peter and James did during Jesus' passion and death.
Eighteen years ago, our pastor, Father Lou, Deacon Hershel, and several men and women from the parish were led by the Holy Spirit to bring Christ Renews His Parish or CRHP here. They hoped to renew the faith of the parishioners through a weekend retreat during which men or women witnessed to their faith. Over the past eighteen years, over 600 have attended these weekends including many who are here today. Many lives have been changed as a result of these weekends. Many non-Catholics have joined the Catholic church after attending a weekend. Many Catholics have gone to confession for the first time in years during a weekend.
One person whose life was changed by attending CRHP I'll call Joe. Joe's wife and children are Catholic but Joe wasn't and he never felt a real need for God in his life. So, when they went off to Sunday mass, he found other things to do around the house. Six years' ago, someone from the parish invited him to attend a CRHP weekend. Joe agreed to attend because he wasn't happy. He thought there should be more to life than the stress from his work. He was also lonely, because outside of his relationship with his family and some people at work, he had few friends. He hoped the weekend would give him some downtime to think about what he could do to improve his life. During the weekend, for the first time in his life, Joe felt the presence of God, especially in the love of Christ through the men on the weekend. By the end of the weekend, Joe had decided to become Catholic. At the Easter vigil the next year, Joe was baptized and came into the church. His life had changed because he found what had been missing - Jesus. He now had purpose. And he found friends he never knew he could have. He was more joyful, even at work, and began to attend daily mass and bible studies. Today, Joe continues to grow in his faith journey and help others in theirs. His relationship with Jesus improves through daily mass, an adoration hour, and meditation. And it all began when he attended a CRHP weekend. Are you being called to a closer relationship with Jesus?
I have been the lead spiritual director for CRHP for almost eight years. I have witnessed participants whose lives have changed, who have experienced the joy of renewal and transformation, and who are closer to Christ. Many have established a bond with others on the weekend who are now their lifetime friends. As I attend these weekends, I am continually blown away by the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those on the weekend. For many of them, it is as if they are witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus, just as Peter, James, and John did. For some, their lives will never be the same.
Also, these CRHP weekends have had a ripple effect. Many ministries in our parish have blossomed as a result of those who have attended these weekends. In addition, teams from our parish have helped two other parishes start their CRHP programs: St Patrick's in Morristown, Tennessee and St Henry in Miamisburg.
Truly, CRHP has been a blessing for the past eighteen years. But, like any long term program, after a time, it needs to be recharged, renewed, and reinvigorated. About a year ago, Mathew Kelly's Dynamic Catholic organization assumed responsibility for CRHP. They have changed the name of CRHP to Welcome in an attempt to change the focus from the parish to the individual. In addition, they have created new manuals for the program which are especially helpful during the formation process as the team prepares for the next weekend.
Our first Welcome weekends are approaching. The men's weekend is just two weeks' away - March 10/11 and the women's weekend is April 14/15. There are sign up tables in the foyer with men and women from the teams for the upcoming weekends ready to answer your questions. Please stop by and check it out. It can change your life. After the 11 o'clock mass, there will be an hour of adoration to pray for the success of Welcome in our parish. Please come and pray with us.
If you attended CRHP a number of years ago or in another parish, feel free to attend again. Over the years' CRHP has changed and now Welcome has also changed it some. Also, you have changed and you may be ready for a new encounter with Christ.
On this second Sunday of Lent, as we prepare for Jesus death and resurrection, please take this opportunity to grow in your faith, to experience the great love of Jesus, and to see the Holy Spirit working in your life.