This Sunday, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This experience, as witnessed by Peter, James, and John, took place on a mountain top. High elevation often suggests that a spiritual experience is to take place. In this week’s Gospel reading (Mt 17:1-9), we hear:
“Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.”
In recovery, we speak of a supernatural—or spiritual—experience that sparks our will in the direction of faith. Just like we heard in the parable of the buried treasure and the parable of the fine pearl in last week’s Gospel, the route we take to find spiritual treasure can vary, as can the intentions behind finding such gifts. The story of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ reveals the height of all spiritual experiences here on earth: when we recognize Jesus in His purest form.
Bishop Robert Barron uses the phrase “mystical experience” to describe this encounter with God. He defines it as, “the experience of spiritual things within the ordinary, and a keen conviction that the spiritual realm is far greater and far more beautiful than ordinary experience.”
Moments like these can come early in the recovery process for some, while others may not share such an awakening until getting deep into the Twelve Steps. There are often stories of individuals finding miraculous healing through the Sacraments of the Church, particularly through Reconciliation, the Eucharist, and Anointing of the Sick.
Anyone that can relate to a spiritual encounter of this kind knows the grace that follows it offers a great deal of momentum to find further mercy and share it with others. As Bishop Barron continues on the topic, “to experience the world beyond this one is to experience a sublime beauty.”
This week’s Second Reading is Peter’s personal account of the Transfiguration. He writes:
“We did not follow cleverly devised myths
when we made known to you
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father
when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory,
“This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.”
The experience, strength, and hope shared by Peter in this passage can be similar to ours as we try to describe what has made things in our lives different. Sometimes that means refuting claims that we are following an ancient myth by giving our own witness to what He has done in our lives. Sometimes this is difficult, as it can often be to describe the supernatural.
At Christ’s baptism, the voice of God proclaims the same words, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Our identity lies in the truth that we are beloved sons and daughters of God. Our relationship with Him, and our willingness to surrender to his will for us, can depend on whether or not we claim that identity. Oftentimes, the grace to encounter a life-changing experience is accompanied by a fellowship of others seeking to witness it themselves or keep it by giving it away.