Time away with Jesus can be transformative
by Sister Sally Ann Brickner
Have you ever had a “mountain-top” experience? I have climbed many heights in various parts of the world. I visited sacred shrines such as Mount Tepeyac in Mexico City, Mount La Verna in Italy, and the Aztec pyramid in El Tepozteco near Cuernavaca, Mexico. I’ve enjoyed spectacular views from the Great Wall in China, the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Pike’s Peak in Colorado, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico. And I fondly recall morning prayer with three Sisters on the top of Rib Mountain, a billion-year-old geological formation in Wisconsin. These experiences included so many elements -- ascending and descending, companionship of friends, thoughts of others who had climbed the heights throughout history. However, these mountain-climbing activities were a mere shadow of powerful interior spiritual experiences such as my 30-day directed retreat at Colombiere in Clarkson, Michigan.
St. Matthew’s Gospel passage for this Sunday of Lent is about Jesus’ Transfiguration. Peter, James and John must have experienced awe and wonder on Mount Tabor when they scaled the nearly 2,000-foot peak with Jesus. To have a vision of Jesus with Moses and Elijah! To hear a “voice” proclaim Jesus to be a “Beloved Son” to whom they should listen! To see Jesus in glory! It must have been a mystical moment for the three disciples. Frightening, perhaps. Wondrous, no doubt. Unforgettable, to be sure.
Did Jesus have a reason for allowing his intimate friends to see Him glorified? They had come to know Jesus during the months of traveling with Him. But at times they exhibited incomprehension of Jesus’ real identity and His message. Perhaps Jesus wished to strengthen their faith in anticipation of His forthcoming passion and death. They, in turn, could later share the vision with others after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and thus be a source of strength for the community.
We, too, may recall some “mystical moments” when we felt transfixed by beauty, even ecstasy. Perhaps these spiritual experiences gave new meaning to our lives, or provided insights about who God is and God’s purpose for us during some very difficult times. During this holy season of Lent we are invited to climb the mountain of the Transfiguration: to spend more time apart with Jesus, to hear His invitation to follow His way of life-giving service, to be transformed gradually into God’s beloved sons and daughters.
A peak mountain top experience for me was seeing my first-born grandchild for the very first time.
Although I had been en-awed by the first and forevermore sight of each of my four children, the "sight" and the moment of beholding my first grandchild was truly ecstasy for me. I felt like I was looking at the very first creation in "The Garden of Eden!" And I realized how true it is that we are, each and all, and every human being, a "first creation." There never was and never will be another "you" or "you" or "you" or "me."
As "mountain tops" become - or lead us to - "valleys," so did I come to know and realize a lonnnnnnggggggggg and lingering valley experience when my second grandchild, whose birth and presence in my life was another - or continuation - of that mountain top. His very being was such great JOY for me, as have been and remain each one of my seven grandchildren.
Yet, as I experienced the struggles of being "alone" in parenting, along with my single-Mom daughter, and coming to encounter and learn of my grandson's emotional, mental, and social struggles associated with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, my prayers became filled with lamentations, sorrows, and what I would come to learn was grieving for 'a -- or multiple -- loss/es.'
Yet, it is through ALL of this -- the mountain tops AND the valley/s -- that I have come to know the Love and Mercy and Salvific, Healing, WHOLING Grace of God in so many very real ways. And I have become much more alert, attentive, attuned, and caring toward the sufferings and struggles of others, even when I might not fully understand them.
God-With/In-Us is a sure and certain Reality for me as a result of all of this -- mountain tops and valleys included.