I’ve been to the mountain

mount-everest-himalaya_1105_600x450The Second Sunday of Lent ~ February 21, 2016

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have ~ well ~ a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

It’s a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

According to our Scripture-scholar friend William Barclay, this story is another of the great hinges in Jesus’ life on earth—and we’ll see why. He was just about to set out for Jerusalem, setting his face toward the cross.

In Luke, when prayer happens, something significant usually follows. (Magnificat)

He took his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray, On the mountain top, Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Moses was the great lawgiver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion were affirming Jesus to go on. (Barclay)

There’s a vivid sentence here about the three apostles . . . .

            “When they were fully awake they saw his glory.”

 In life we miss so much because our minds are often asleep.

~ There are many of us who are so clamped in our own ideas that our minds are shut. “Someone may be knockin’ at the door” but we’re often like sleepers who will not awake.

~ There are others of us who refuse think about anything. “The unexamined life, said Socrates, “is not worth living.” How many of us have thought things out and thought them through?

~ We can drug ourselves mentally against any disturbing thought until we are sound asleep that Big Brother can taken over. Ever seen the “Matrix?”

But life is full of things designed to awaken us.

~ There is sorrow. Often sorrow can rudely awaken us, but in a moment, through the tears, we will see the glory.

~ There is love. Barclay references a poem by Robert Browning telling of two people who fell in love: She looked at him; he looked at her—“and suddenly life awoke.” 

I remember a similar experience in reading Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain for the second time several years ago. When I finished it I found myself immersed in joyous tears for weeks on end—filled with love for Jesus that this young monk and elicited in me. This Lent, I’m trying to re-enable that experience.

~ There is a sense of need. It’s easy enough to live the routine life half asleep; then all of a sudden there comes some completely insoluble problem, some unanswerable question, some overwhelming temptation, some summons to an effort that we feel is beyond our strength. And that sense of need can awaken us to God.

We would do well to pray, “Lord, keep me always awake to you.” 

Source: William Barclay /Gospel of Luke pages 147,8.

But here’s a couple of other observations from the February 2016 issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine:

After the disciples witnessed Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, this appears in the text . . . .

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.(Lk. 9:34)

The overshadowing of the divine Spirit does not darken, according to Saint Ambrose, but reveals secret things to the hearts of people. It is the luminous cloud the soaks us from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith sent by the voice of the almighty God.

He’s talking about mystical experience that arise from deep prayer or centering prayer sometimes or even just experiencing an amazing sunset or an exhilerating conversation with a friend.

Anyway, what a gorgeous sentence that is “a luminous cloud that soaks us / from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith . . .  Wow!  Think on that one.

Immediately following, we here from the cloud a voice that said,

       “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

It is a call to heed Jesus’ teaching about his Passion and our need to take up our cross and follow him: Jesus is he Messiah who suffers.

       “After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent” . . . . 

Their silence was a mark of awe. As it was on the last day of Jesus’ life, when he said, “It is finished.”

You may never had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Even ONE mountain top experience  — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

And now before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn sung by the boy choir at King’s College in Great Britain Ave Verum Corpus. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here.

Acknowledgements: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke                                                                                     Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Magnificat.com / Yonkers, NY

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been to the mountain

mount-everest-himalaya_1105_600x450

The Second Sunday of Lent

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have ~ well ~ a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

For the full text of the day’s Mass readings go to the link provided here.  When you are ready to return to this blog page, click on the little arrow (<) on the top of your computer that points to the left.

Now click here for the Mass readings, if you’d like to read them.

It’s is a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

Peter, James and John are genuinely high in this morning’s gospel story.  First, they’re on a mountain – that’s high already, and secondly, they see Jesus transfigured before them in dazzling glory. This is a wonderful spiritual high , lest you get the wrong idea.  For Peter, James and John, this is as good a high as it gets – seeing the Son of God in his true glory.  They’re blown away.

Peter, speaking for all of them, wants to stay there, at least, a good while longer.  But it doesn’t happen.  They have to come back down from the mountain.  We might say they had to return to reality, but that’s not accurate.  The vision of Jesus in brilliant light was reality too.  It wasn’t imaginary; chemicals didn’t artificially produce it.

We experience wholesome highs, too.  A particularly rewarding achievement, an especially fulfilling moment in a relationship–a time when, for whatever reason, the world is bright, life makes sense, and most of the pieces of our lives fit together.

It can happen in our spiritual life, too.  A retreat or some other spiritual experience can send us soaring.  At such moments, we may feel the immense joy of God’s love and affirmation intensely.  But the experience inevitably fades.  We “come back to reality.”  But, again, that’s not accurate.  The spiritual high was also reality; it becomes folded into the rest of our life, like salt that enlivens the taste of food.

Imagine that you are in Jesus’ company, along with Peter James and John as they are climbing the mountain.  You are about to have your own mountain top experience.

Perhaps you’ve lived in a valley all your life or are pretty much confined to the view that four walls bring you.

In the valleys, your view is limited; you cannot see either the sunrise or the sunset.  On a mountain top, your horizon gets expanded.  You can look far into the distance and see the sunrise, if you are looking east or the sunset if you are looking west.  Life in a valley can be boring, dull, monotonous.  Life as viewed from a mountain top can be exhilarating and exciting.

You may never had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Even ONE mountain top experience  — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.  I remember one I had in 1976.

I was making a private retreat.  My retreat director assigned me a scripture on which to meditate.  I was to take a full hour to reflect on the  account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert from the gospel of Mark.  Nothing came the first time.  Nor the second.  The third one was the charm.   One brief experience (it lasted only about 15 minutes) has changed my relationship with Jesus forever.  I had the experience that Jesus was quite close to me; in the meditation I got close enough to wrestle with him.  Yes, wrestle with him!  If that happened in my mind’s eye  then it was and is possible to think of myself very often as that close to Jesus (I felt quite certain that I did not conjure it up because I never would have dreamed of myself in that situation with our Lord.)

How about you — have you ever had a peak experience?  Have you had more than one?  Then you understand what I am talking about.  You know that such moments can be life-changing.

What does it take to have a peak experience?

It can happen just in the faculty of our imagination — that special place inside us where we can be led to  new and wonderful things, things never seen before.

It requires openness–a sense of adventure, a willingness to leave our comfortable place to climb a mountain.

Now imagine that you are accompanying Jesus and Peter, James and John as they climb the mountain……  And you see Jesus become radiant.  Dazzling.  Incredibly beautiful in his appearance– his face, his hands his hair, his robe.

And then hear the Voice from above proclaim to you and the others:

“This is my beloved son.  Listen to him.”

How would you feel?  Would you be  afraid?  Would you be filled with joy?  Would you fall to the ground in worship?

Let’s focus on one point of the story.

Jesus received a tremendous affirmation from his heavenly Father who was heard saying,  “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.”

This was a moment of affirmation for Jesus.  Surely he needed it; he could feel the weight of his mission upon his shoulders.  He had an intuition that his life would enter upon tremendous suffering and death.  He also received affirmation from Peter James and John, and they, in turn, were affirmed that their choice to follow him was essentially correct.

How about you — how often do you receive affirmation?

How often does your spouse praise you for something that you did or for who you are?  How often do your children praise you?  Probably not very often. How often do you sense God is affirming you?

Affirmation is very important.  It was important for Jesus; and it is important for you and me.

Athletes get lots of affirmation and praise especially the ones who get gold medals but maybe not so often for the rest of us.

I used to receive a lot of affirmation when I was in a parish.  These days my dog Shoney gets all the praise and attention.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

I pray for God’s affirmation for each of you.  Hear him say: “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter. “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter.

Now give someone a really good affirmation this afternoon.  And, before you go, here’s our traditional Catholic hymn Holy God We Praise Thy Name as you’ve never heard it before. Click here. 

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer