In her book, Lent in Plain Sight, Jill Duffield states, “God works through the ordinary. Ordinary people, everyday objects, things we bump up against moment by moment. From burning bushes to talking donkeys to a booming voice from heaven, God goes to great lengths to communicate with people, sending Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, to unmistakably tell human beings about salvation, grace, and reconciliation. People of faith report epiphanies, revelations of God’s word to them, sometimes by way of miraculous interventions or otherwise inexplicable happenings, but often and also through the mundane made holy due to timing and perception.”
As I was reading this Sunday gospel, two images came to mind. One was of me standing on a mountain ready to ski down. The other was verses 7 to 8 of the Prologue of the Rule of Benedict.
I love mountains. When asked where I would choose to encounter God, I always say on a mountain. I have been fortunate in my life to have friends invite me to go skiing with them. Most of my skiing friends advanced their skills each time they went skiing. I, however, never really did advance because my focus was not on skiing but on being on the mountain. I remember one day when all my friends had skied past me down the mountain and I was left at the top of the mountain by myself. It was a cold cloudy wintry day and I could barely see anything in front of me. I was standing there in the stillness of the moment thinking about this magnificent creation of God when all of a sudden the sun began to shine and I was able to overlook the vastness of the valley below. Fresh snow began to fall. That moment was an exhilarating holy moment, it was an awe-inspiring moment that took my breath away. The brilliance of the sun mixed with the fresh snow falling and the beautiful scenery transported me from ordinary space to God’s sacred dwelling. Tears began to well up inside me. My heart was full! As I describe it now, I can feel that moment in my heart.
The disciples’ experience was very much the same. They said “yes” to their friend’s invitation to go for a walk that day. I can imagine them sitting on top of the mountain conversing with Jesus about their journey up the mountain when suddenly, heaven and earth seemed to merge. A brilliant light shines forth, figures appear within the dazzling light, the light disappears, and a cloud engulfs them and while their trying to get their footing, a voice speaks directly to them and then all goes quiet!
What happened to those disciples that day? What exactly did they experience? They were terrified at one point the reading says. They were transported from the ordinary to the extraordinary. What was welling up inside of them that day? We know they were perplexed because when they were coming down the mountain Jesus asked them not to tell anyone what happened until the Son of man rises from the dead. They were questioning what rising from the dead meant. I’m sure they were questioning everything about that day. How did this moment change them? Of what were they informed?
As we move through Lent, Jesus invites us to go on a similar walk with him. How will this time reveal God’s presence? How will we be informed? How will this liminal time draw us closer to God’s Word and the revelation hidden there for us?
In the Prologue 7-8 of the Rule of Benedict, he instructs his monks. “Let us arise, then, at last, for the Scripture stirs us up, saying, “Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep.” Let us open our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with attentive ears the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us, “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” And again, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” And what does He say? “Come, My children, listen to Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you.”
Benedict instructs his monks to stay awake always to the workings of God in their lives lest we miss those extraordinary holy moments with which God graces us. Let us all awake during this Lenten season and experience God’s presence anew.