The gospel for the second Sunday of Lent, the Transfiguration, is one of my favorite gospel stories. Jesus goes up Mt. Tabor with Peter, James, and John. And what happens? The disciples experience a magnificent happening. Jesus is transfigured–a sight to behold.
Have you ever climbed a mountain? What was your feeling as you reached the top?
Years ago, when I was spiritual advisor to the parish senior citizen group, we all went to Rock City, atop Lookout Mountain in Georgia. We followed the well-worn path, up and down the terrain of the land being careful not to trip on the many rocks. After squeezing through a small opening in the rock called Fat-Man’s Squeeze, we arrived at the Swing-Along Bridge, a 180 ft long suspension bridge that provides an amazing view. There was nothing below the bridge but a deep canyon with lots of trees. Looking down, I said “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Walking the bridge was the only way to cross to the other side to see the Seven States. Standing there, I did not want to move or cross the bridge. The entire group except me had crossed the bridge. The voices from the 70 and 80 year-olds were coaxing and encouraging me to get on the bridge. Here I was in my 30’s and these senior citizens, some with hearing or sight problems and other physical challenges, had crossed without any problems. They kept beckoning me, and I finally stepped one foot in front of the other and began the trek with great trepidation. With their encouragement, I finally reached the other side. The scenery was breathtaking. The panoramic view of the Seven States was a sight to behold. With gratitude, I praised the Lord for this beautiful and awesome vista.
Spiritual writers often speak of mountain-top experiences–a moment when God’s presence touches one deeply or a moment when one receives a faint glimpse of God’s glory. Such a moment graced Peter, James, and John. It was an ‘aha’ moment, the transfiguration of Jesus.
Have you ever experience a spiritual mountain-top moment? Maybe you didn’t realize it was a transfiguration, a manifestation of God’s presence that changed you in some way. It could have been caressing your new born for the first time; a near car accident where you felt the presence of God; a time of illness; at prayer; on a retreat; a family get-together; a breath-taking sunrise or sunset.
Biblically, mountains are symbols of a place of encounter with God; a place of getting in touch with self; a place of seeking a deeper understanding and appreciation of God; a place of retreat to discern and commune with the Holy Spirit; a place to get a glimpse of God’s point of view; a place of help “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:2); a place to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord”(Ps. 34:9).
If you have been to the “mountain top” you can say with Peter, “Lord it is good for us to be here.”
Just as Peter, James, and John did, we have to go down the mountain to our everyday lives. We cannot stay in the “aha” moment. However, we take with us this rich experience which will shape, enhance, and transform all our other experiences. Refreshed by this holy encounter, we continue our Christian journey of spiritual growth and outreach to others in compassion, love, and justice.
By Sister Marie Leonard, OSB
Featured photo by Alan Nakouri via exploregeorgia.com