Gospel Story of the Week
The Transfiguration of Jesus – Matthew 17: 1-9
“Suddenly appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’” (Matt 17:3-4)
Reflection on the Gospel
Peter is captivated by the vision. With characteristic enthusiasm, he offers to build three dwellings or tents. It’s easy to identify with Peter’s desire to make this moment last. The feeling of ecstasy is so wonderful that he wants to linger here and cling to it. Like Moses in the presence of the burning bush, Peter recognizes that he is on holy ground, a place where God is profoundly present.
As our Lenten journey encourages us to continue to reflect on ways in which God touches us, most of us have to admit that we have never had such a dramatic experience of God’s presence. Oftentimes, we only recognize God’s presence in our lives only as we look back on our experience with the benefit of hindsight.
While I have never had a dramatic experience of God’s presence revealed in divine majesty, I can identify any number of God-touching-me experiences. When I was a sophomore in college, our Associate Pastor invited me to teach a religious education class for high school freshman. I thought he was crazy to ask, and I’m not sure my first students benefited from their rookie teacher. What surprised me, though, was how that invitation changed my life. It launched me on a spiritual journey that continues to give meaning and direction to my life. Now that almost 50 years have passed since that invitation, I realize that the priest wasn’t as crazy as I thought. There was no blinding vision, but I know now that it was definitely God touching me.
I had another God-touching-me experience in my early 20’s. Four of us were returning home from visiting friends in another city. It was well after midnight, and I was driving. Everyone else in the car was asleep. My head began to nod, but I didn’t have the good sense to ask someone else to take the wheel. The next thing I remember is hearing a passenger in the back seat yell my name. He jerked me back to attention just in time to negotiate an S-curve at 60 miles per hour. In another few seconds our lives and those of our families would have been changed forever. Some might call this a close call or a lucky break. I name it as “God touching me.”
Our goal in the spiritual life is to learn to recognize God touching us in the everyday experiences of our lives. That touch doesn’t have to be dramatic or life-changing. My list of “God touches” is a long one – including many simple yet profound moments in my life: prayerful sunrises, strangers who took the risk to smile, unexpected gifts and surprise encounters. These God-touching-me experiences range from the subtle to the profound, and they cover my entire life.
Our attempt to live a spiritual life begins with striving to recognize God’s presence in the everyday fabric of our lives. This ability to see with the eyes of faith has more to do with the ordinary than the spectacular. Cultivating the eyes of faith and attempting to see God in the everyday needs to become a core discipline and everyday practice. Cultivating that practice is also the best way to prepare ourselves for our ultimate encounter with God in divine majesty.
Questions for Reflection
- As you look over your life, are there any events or series of events that you would describe as God touching you?
- Even if you didn’t recognize it at the time, as you look back over your life where do you see God touching you?
Invitation to Prayer
Jesus, help me trust you as the incarnate presence of God surrounding me every day. So often, I long to see you in dramatic events and fail to recognize you in the simple ways you touch and shape my life. Help me discover and recognize your presence in ways both big and small. Give me the faith to see you in every moment of my life . . .