This famous Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus, along with other stories in the Bible – and beyond – of divine glory and mystical experiences, can, for some people, actually be a discouraging Gospel, because believers try and fail to have such experiences themselves, and then they measure themselves negatively against those who do experience “mountaintop highs.” A hope is manufactured – “believe” and you can have this too – and when it doesn’t happen, they think something is wrong with them or their faith.
One such person was Sister Ruth Burrows, a Carmelite contemplative in England who is nearly 100 years old now. For many years, even as a sister, she felt on the outside of an experience of God. For a time, she didn’t want to hear about people who felt close to God, did not want to read about the mystics.
And then over time, and with much effort, she realized that her nonglorious condition of spiritual emptiness was actually – when entrusted to God – a container for divine glory. She realized that going to God with open hands, even at the base of the mountain, can be just as rewarding as the view from the top of the mountain.
Lent is the time to surrender to God in trust. Those who joined Jesus at the top of the mountain – Peter, James and John — had no choice, they were overwhelmed by divine glory. We have the opportunity to make a choice to trust more in God, and to stick with it. Surrender to God in trust. The reward of that surrender will take care of itself. Going more deeply within with God actually takes us up the mountain