Prayer is one of the disciplines we practice during Lent to help bring about a transformation to make us more Christ like. Being quiet of the is one thoughts that Fr. Steve gave us for this season to focus on God in prayer.
This week our Scripture readings gives us some examples of mystical encounters with God. It’s something that we don’t really think about in our busy and noisy world. We have too many distractions to realize the encounters we may have where heaven meets earth. In addition to the noise, our Western culture is skeptical that these can really happen at all. But if we spend some quiet time in prayer, we can become aware of God entering our world and the power of transforming it into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Does God enter our world, like we hear about in today’s Scriptures? A few years ago I had a unique experience with a homeless person that may have been one of these. I was walking back from my lunch downtown and running late for a meeting. I usually encountered homeless people on the way and would keep same change in my pocket to help them out. I would try engage in conversation when offering them money in order to show them some dignity. But on this one particular day I didn’t have time. I left late for lunch and had to hurry back for a meeting. I was across the street from my office just in time for the meeting, when a man riding a bike came straight over to me and said, “I’m hungry, and haven’t eaten for 3 days, can you spare a few dollars to help me out?” My thought was no way, I’m late for a meeting and have no change today, but something nagged at me to help. There was a convenience store on the corner, so I offered to buy him some lunch. He didn’t want much, just a hot dog and soft drink and, was very grateful. In leaving I offered short quick prayer for things to get better, as I really had to go. He responded looking me straight in the eyes, offering a prayer for my wife, two daughters, and son, along with a blessing. This really caught me off guard as I never mentioned anything about my family to him. In thinking about it later in the day I wondered, was this homeless man a mystical encounter with Christ?
In the Scripture today, we have two experiences of God directly entering our world. In the first reading God establishes a covenant with Abram due to his faith. God tells him his descendants would be more numerous than the stars and also gave him land to live in. This covenant is made by God in the darkness on the mountain through the mysterious action of the smoking fire pot and flaming torch passing through Abram’s offering. God chose to enter into world through the faith of Abram.
In the Gospel, Peter, James, and John went up with Jesus to the mountain to pray. Going up on the mountain is a sign of being close to God. Here Jesus’ face changesappearance and his clothing became dazzlingly white. He speaks with Moses and Elijah about his passion, death, and resurrection in Jerusalem. Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets that foretold of the new covenant Jesus would establish: everlasting life through faith in him as the Son of God. Up to this encounter, Peter and the disciples had witnessed Jesus’ healings and miracles, but they were not exactly sure who he was. On the mountain, Jesus appears in his glorified body. The cloud that appears is the presence of the Holy Spirit. The voice of the Father proclaims who Jesus is, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
The Transfiguration, the revelation of Jesus in his glorified body, is accounted for in the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and Mark. God chooses to enter the world at various times. This Trinitarian encounter for the disciples was for them to believe who Jesus is, the Son of God. It’s also provided for us to believe today as well. God the Father reveals who Jesus is, and also gives us direction of what to do: Listen to him.
How can we listen to Jesus? Through the quiet of prayer. Spending time with Scripture is an excellent way of encountering Jesus in prayer in this busy world. It’s one of the primary ways God speaks to us. Scripture tells us the story of the God’s covenants he’s established with his people throughout time, with the final everlasting covenant established in Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. The glorified body of Jesus revealed in the Transfiguration is what we hope for in our own bodies if we believe in him. St. Paul tells us that “he will change our lowly body to conform with his body.” We may have many struggles with our earthly bodies that fail due to age and disease, but we have the hope of being restored to a glorified body in heaven through our faith in Jesus.
We can encounter Jesus by quietly listening to him praying with Scripture. This us opens us up to the presence of God in our world. When we listen to Jesus we can be transformed to make the Kingdom of heaven present here. It also opens us up to encounters with the presence of him through the body of Christ, maybe even like I the one I had a few year ago. May this Lent be a good time for you to be with the Lord by listening quietly to Jesus in prayer.