VERBUM DOMINI

A Transforming Encounter

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Every once in a while I enjoy going on a hike. Besides being good exercise, there’s a real sense of accomplishment I feel when I’ve made it to the top of the mountain and spend time taking in the majestic view of God’s creation. A few years ago some teachers and I took two busloads of students from La Salle Academy to hike Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. It’s a fun hike but there are some difficult spots along the way. Some students complained as we climbed, but once we reached the summit they were amazed at the beauty of creation that surrounded them. We celebrated Mass at the summit, and the students agreed that it was the highlight of their day. That day, they encountered the Lord in creation and in the Eucharist.

In the Bible, mountains are often the place where people encounter God. God reveals the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. God shows himself to Elijah on Mount Horeb. And in this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus leads Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor and there he is transfigured before them, revealing his glory to his apostles.

Does this mean that you and I actually have to climb a mountain to encounter the Lord? The obvious answer is no. The Lord has made it much easier for us to encounter him in our daily lives. Besides, some of you might be incapable of climbing a mountain, and some of you simply have no desire to hike.

So how do we encounter the Lord? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the heart is “the place of encounter” (2563). Yes, the heart is the place where we encounter the living God. Not the heart in the biological sense, but heart in the biblical-spiritual sense. In biblical language, the heart signifies the deepest part of the human person, the place where we are most deeply ourselves, the place where God dwells and where we can encounter him.

You and I can experience what Peter, James and John experienced, not by climbing a mountain, but by making the journey into the heart through quiet prayer. Each and every day we can contemplate and experience the presence of the risen and glorified Christ. We most likely will not have a mystical experience like the apostles, but we will most definitely come to know Jesus in a deeper way and feel the interior effects of prayer: love, joy, and peace.

Lent provides the perfect opportunity for us to enter more deeply into our hearts through silent prayer. As the apostles were transformed by Christ’s transfiguration on Mount Tabor, he will transform us as we enter the silence of our hearts to encounter him there.

Father Michael Najim is Spiritual Director of Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Providence, as well as Catholic Chaplain at LaSalle Academy, Providence.