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February 18, 2023

His Face Is Shining

His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. Something wonderful was happening with their Lord, and all Peter could say was: “Let us camp out here.” This was the day when Jesus was transfigured before the disciples’ eyes. Prophets appeared before them. A bright cloud covered them and a voice from heaven said: “Listen to Jesus.” Something precious was unfolding. God reached out from His divine abode to reveal a beautiful encounter, and all Peter could do was talk about building some tents there in the mountain.

Tomorrow is Transfiguration Sunday. Please read our Lectionary Gospel Reading from Matthew 17:1-9. In our present day, we have similar experiences, akin to the mountain-top encounter of this Transfiguration. Most of us are quick to go and tell the world of our spiritual encounter. We start opening our mouths like Peter. Just like the disciples, our sharing is more of a response out of fear, distress, and confusion. Look again how Peter and the rest of the group responded in verses 6, 19, and 23. Henri Nouwen suggested that when we have a spiritual encounter, we need to nurture it in silence. Remembering God’s visit guards the fire from within. It is only from this sanctified quietness that words will start forming and a time for sharing will be revealed.

Nouwen states: “But let us at least raise the question of whether our lavish ways of sharing are not more compulsive than virtuous; that instead of creating community they tend to flatten out our life together. Often we come home from a sharing session with a feeling that something precious has been taken away from us or that holy ground has been trodden upon…. What needs to be guarded is the life of the Spirit within us.” Nouwen continues: “Our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers” (1981:53-55).

(Henri Nouwen. 1981. The Way of the Heart: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. NY: Harper Collins Publisher)