Why We Need An Experience Like That
Sunday of Week 2 in Lent - Year B
Among the indelible memories I treasure of the Holy Land is my first visit to Mount Tabor one evening when the sun was setting and the sky was aglow in red. I could almost see Peter there saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is wonderful for us to be here.” What an indescribable experience it must have been for Peter, James and John to be with Jesus on that lonely mountain and to bask in the light of His glory. All of us need that kind of experience!
Plunged into the noise and materialism of this world we can think that this is all there is to life. Somehow in private devotion or our public worship, we need to go to a mountain top with Jesus and catch a glimpse of something better. From the Preface of the Mass of the Transfiguration we know why Jesus appeared to His three Apostles “bathed in dazzling radiance, so that His Disciples might not lose faith when they saw Him stricken on the Cross; and that the splendour of the Head might prefigure the destiny of His Body, the Church”. What does an experience like that mean to us and why do we need it?
Firstly, we need to be reminded of those values that the world makes us forget. Modern life encourages us put first things last and last things first, to make significant things seem small and the small great. Someone once said, “A penny held close enough to the eye can block out the sun.” That is what the world does to us. It fills our vision with the little things until the big things can no longer be seen. If we live with that long enough, it is to be expected that we lose the values that really matter. What a difference it would make if for a while we could focus our minds on Jesus and the truths for which He stands. We need to be reminded of the important things that the world makes us forget.
Secondly, we need that kind of experience to enable us to regain our sense of direction. We do not correct our course in life merely by working longer and trying harder. If lost in a maze or in the woods, the worst thing you can do is to keep going. Almost invariably, you will be walking in circles, using up the daylight and burning up all your energy. If there is a hill or a high tree close by, climb it, to enable you to see some horizons and where you are. The pressures of daily living are sometimes not unlike a jungle. We can get lost in them and forget who we are, why we are here and where we are going. To climb a mountain with Jesus somewhere in our minds could get us back on course again.
Thirdly, we need a transforming experience to highlight what is wrong in our lives. In the day-to-day events of life, it is dangerously easy to get by with a lackadaisical conscience. We can think that there are plenty of people living lives worse than ours while we hide the spots and stains of our own character. The Devil has a tendency to help us compare ourselves to others! But get alone with Jesus and your worst self is challenged by His best. This is what Peter felt when he fell to his knees and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” That was a humbling experience for him, as it is for us, but without it there can be no spiritual health. We can spend all our time with the world and think pretty well of ourselves, or we can slip away to ‘a mountain top’ with Christ, and let Him show us what we are and help us to become what we ought to be.
Finally, we need this mountain top experience with Jesus in order to find the balance between prayer and work, to rededicate our lives and release the power within us. A little further in Mark's Gospel we are told that when Jesus and His three Apostles came down from the mountain, they were met by a frantic father with a sick son. There was work to be done for Jesus and there always will be for us. But work alone is not the answer because it must be backed up with prayer. Work must be the fruit of our prayer life, not a substitute for it. One without the other is like trying to row a boat with one oar. We will find ourselves going in circles and getting nowhere!
Like Peter, James and John we all need ‘a mountain top’ experience of being alone with Jesus, to help us to lead lives of true values, clear direction, moral integrity and practical usefulness.
Lord Jesus let us never forget that, on some regular basis, each of us needs to find a way to close out the world, to enable us to focus our minds for a while on Your radiant glory.