We’re 10 days into Lent and we might benefit from taking stock of the experience. Have you found it challenging? Have there been any new temptations? Have you learned anything new about yourself, or others, or the world around us? Have prayer, penance, acts of charity and sharing alms revealed anything new to you? If so, Lent is going well…and you’re in good company. For my part, my prayer is going alright—a few ups and a few downs; there are a few more temptations, but that’s to be expected when we fast from distractions; my acts of charity are going well and sharing money with the poor is also up. So, as I take stock in Lent so far, my prayer is the thing that’s not going as I had hoped. Again, I may be in good company.
In today’s gospel, Jesus goes up Mount Tabor to pray. Remember in Scripture, mountaintops are places where God reveals Himself in some way. So far, Jesus’ public ministry—filled with callings, with healings and with miracles—has divided many and already He is becoming a threat to the Pharisees and the religious rulers. At this point now, there is a decision to make: will Jesus journey to Jerusalem to make a stand against the religious rulers, or will He retreat? As He prays, Moses and Elijah appear with Him and we hear that they speak of Jerusalem as Jesus’ passage…a word meaning either liberation and freedom, or death. Moses (the recipient of the Law of God) and Elijah (representative of all the Prophets) confirm that the path to Jerusalem is what will fulfill all that has been promised and foretold.
In Luke’s gospel, we do not hear that Jesus was transformed; rather, his face “changed in appearance”. This is interesting: oftentimes in Scripture, when one understands a teaching or sees something for what it truly is, “it’s written all over their face”. And so, the conversation with Moses and Elijah is a great moment of understanding for Jesus: He must go to Jerusalem for his death, in order that liberation may be won. And all of this insight is confirmed by the Almighty: “this is my Beloved Son, my Chosen One. Listen to Him.” From the same voice at Jesus’ baptism to now, the Father confirms the Son’s authority, the Son’s teaching, the Son’s witness.
So, this revelation, this great understanding, was all accomplished simply through prayer. Do you remember our reflections 10 days ago? I invited us all to retreat from so many things, and to retreat into prayer with Jesus. When we retreat into Jesus—like the three apostles on the mountain—we see His glory and come to know him. If we avail ourselves, He teaches us how to come closer to him, how to hear the voice of the Father, and how to encounter the glory of God. Yes, by taking time to go off and be alone with the Lord in prayer…to be in such moments of intimacy with God, we will find the light and strength and faith we need to withstand temptations, to build up the world around us, to transform the world into goodness.
Just as God had something to say to the chosen three, God also has something to say to us: he wants us to discover Him and His plan for each and all of our days. But if we refuse to go “up the mountain to pray”, we won’t be able to hear Him, to be with Him, and we won’t be able to receive the graces He has in store for us as we make our ways through Lent.
If you’re in the same shape as I am this Lent, we can each admit of our increasing need to draw close to the source of holiness, to draw toward God in prayer. If we do, He will fulfill all that is in store for us.