Listen to Him
Gospel Reflection for 2nd Sunday of Lent
Rather than going “into the wilderness” this season, many of us have felt like we haven’t left the desert since the world was turned upside down in Lent 2020. Solitude is less foreign to us and sacrifices are more common than we may have ever known. It was difficult to choose a penance in a time such as this.
After the snowstorm on Ash Wednesday, I still didn’t know what I wanted to give up. The couple of days I was snowed in reminded me of what God had taught me in these months of quarantine: I need to prioritize margin, rest, and silence.
The next day, I got into my car and made my Lenten promise. Commutes in the next 40 days would be silent: no radio, no podcasts, no music, no phone calls, no IG TV… nothing. Even if they are prayer-related. Jesus made His presence known in the passenger seat and just wanted to be with me. Just me and Jesus.
It’s definitely been a penance that has pinched me. I like to spend my time in the car listening to someTHING ; God wants me to spend Lent listening to someONE – the best copilot that I could ever ask for. He doesn’t even need a seatbelt.
In these first 10 days, Jesus has already delved right into my heart. Sometimes He doesn’t even say a word and we just sit together. Sometimes, He brings up sensitive wounds and I’m brought to tears. Sometimes, we sing and laugh together. Sometimes, I just praise His goodness or thank Him for the opportunity to process a tough day of therapy sessions with clients.
I have felt less anxious and frazzled and more peaceful and energetic. Rather than consuming more content, I’m free to process what is already spinning in my mind and heart. Rather than striving to catch up, I’m receptive to being restored. No matter how busy our days become, most of us have commutes in a car.
How do we use that sacred time that is inevitable for any job or responsibility outside of the home? For those of us who work from home, how do you utilize those few extra minutes you may have spent in the car?
For those of you who enjoy doing the Jumble puzzles, LISTEN and SILENT contain the same collection of letters! This reality helped me to recognize I was listening more because I was making room for silence throughout the day. Then, I reflected on God’s command in the Transfiguration: “Listen to him!” and then recalled the sacred silence that is found on mountaintops.
In the Summer of 2018, I found myself on a mountaintop that took me days to get to. I was walking the Camino de Santiago to reflect on my 20s and welcome my 30s. I hiked alongside people looking for answers after quitting a job, divorcing their spouse, retiring from a career, or ready to graduate college. Some came alone like me while others adventured with their parent, spouse, or friend.
One day I was walking with a guy whose wife just left him unexpectedly. He was devastated and came to the Camino for hope. He told me, “these silent miles help me to be emptied of all of the ‘whys.’” The main thing on the to-do list each day on The Way is to walk. To wake up and walk. That’s all.
Since I was traveling solo, I brought my headphones in case I wanted to listen to something. Not once did I press “play” while hiking. There were so many days where I had fellowship on my hikes that I savored the times when I was hiking alone. Days sometimes went by without me having time to reflect on what I came to process on the journey. As pilgrims approached Santiago, The Way became busier with more chatter. The newer arrivals were not accustomed to the beauty of the silence.
As I hiked through towns and along countrysides, the sounds of my boots and walking sticks crunching the trail below were calming and comforting. Just thinking about that sound makes me yearn to return. The path is marked by a yellow arrow pointing one direction and it’s a faux pax to go in the opposite direction. So, walking meant going forward. With each step, my eyes took in the scenery, my heart pondered God’s loving promises, and my mind asked a million ‘whys?’
As my fellow pilgrims and I hiked up to the mountain town of O’Cebreiro, one person after another seemed to call it a day at different albergues along the way and planned to reach the top the next day with full strength. [Elevation in feet : Min 2,480, Avg 3,602, and Max 4659]
Not only was I on a tight itinerary as I planned to visit Fatima the following week, but I was also determined to reach my intended destination. My feet were beginning to blister, and I was exasperated every time I thought I had reached the top and was not yet there. During a water break, I looked down at my pack and saw my Saint of the Year, Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati. He seemed to say to me, “Let’s climb a mountain together!”
“The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ.” Blessed Pierre Giorgio Frassati
This climb was one of my proudest moments. It was hard and I kept going. The guidebook I followed said I would wake up above the clouds if I spent the night on top of the mountain. Anyone who knows me can appreciate I am sentimental and don’t like to miss out on any once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. So, I was determined! I was going to wake up above the clouds the next morning. End of story.
On the way up, I met up with a hiker from the Czech Republic. She and I took a break together sitting on the green grass looking out on the breathtaking landscape that surrounded us. We felt like we were the only ones on that mountain because it was so quiet. There was no noise coming from roads, crowds, or electronics. It was just us and nature.
In the Transfiguration, it took 6 days for Peter, James, and John to climb to Mt Tabor with Jesus. It was not a quick and easy journey. It required dedication in their mind, body, and spirit to endure the hike with Our Lord. They had to leave their busy ministries behind. All they had to do in these 6 days is walk with Jesus. On the 7th day, they saw His glory!
When I arrived in the small village of O’Cebreiro, I was overjoyed! I made it! I went to Mass to give thanksgiving to God for my safety and endurance along the way. I learned that this little chapel held a Eucharistic Miracle!
“One icy winter in 1300 a Benedictine priest was celebrating the sacred Mass in a chapel beside the church of the convent of O’Cebreiro. On that miserable day of unceasing snow and unbearably freezing wind, he thought that no one would dare show up for Mass. He was wrong. A farmer from Barxamaior by the name of Juan Santín, left the convent to attend Mass. The priest saying Mass, who did not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament, despised in his heart the farmer’s sacrifice of goodwill. He began in this way to celebrate the Mass, and immediately after having professed the words of the consecration, the Host changed to Flesh and the wine changed to Blood, and was expelled from the chalice and stained the corporal. At that very moment, it seemed that even the head of the wooden statue of the Madonna was leaning in adoration. The people today call her the “Madonna of the Sacred Miracle”. The Lord had wanted to open the eyes of the incredulous priest who had doubted and to compensate the farmer for his great devotion. For almost two hundred years the Host-changed-to-Flesh was left on the paten until Queen Isabella learned about the miracle when she passed through O’Cebreiro while on pilgrimage in Santiago de Compostela. The queen immediately had a precious crystal shrine custom-made to hold the miraculous Host, the chalice and the paten, which to this day, can be admired in this church.”
God likes to show up on mountain tops. He likes us to participate in the journey and boy does it require work to hike up a mountain! My experience in O’Cebreiro would not have been the same had I not surrendered my time, energy, and blistered feet to get there. I believe this was the same with Peter, James, and John as they followed Jesus up the mountain. They didn’t know what to expect and as the impulsive fisherman and “sons of thunder” they probably weren’t comfortable being quiet long either.
The Transfiguration is not just an event that happened a couple of thousand years ago. It is an invitation for us each and every day to see, listen, and change. The definition of transfiguration is “a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.” God wants to encounter us so He can show us who He is, speak Truth into our lives, and call us to change as we grow into better versions of ourselves. One of the most powerful and real ways He encounters us is through the Holy Mass.
At the top of the mountain, I met an American, a German, and two Italians. We broke bread together and shared a couple of bottles of wine. Though we came from all different parts of the world, we were all on the journey toward the same destination. Strangers became friends that evening as we laughed and celebrated the fact that we made it to the top of the mountain!
This experience reminded me of Mass because we come from all walks of life to share in a Eucharistic Feast as One Body in Christ. At Mass, we remember, we experience, and we go. We remember what happened on Mt Moriah when our spiritual father Abraham didn’t withhold his beloved son from God. We remember what happened on Mt. Sinai when Moses interceded for the Israelites when they quickly forgot God’s faithfulness and became unfaithful. We remember what happened on that same mountain when Elijah walked forty days and forty nights to hear from Our Lord and ended up discovering Him in “a light silent sound:"
“Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.” 1 Kings 9:11-12
We experience the still small voice in the Mass as we encounter the Risen Christ disguised in a small white host. It is in those precious moments after communion where Christ becomes one with us by flowing through our veins. We are reminded that we are what we consume. We are filled up with words of hope, songs of praise, and an hour of prayer.
Though we would like to stay in these incomparable moments of transfiguration, the best is yet to come! At the end of Mass, we participate in an exodus or a departure. God calls us into freedom as we go out and radiate the light of Christ that we experienced with the world. Like Elijah, we receive our call to action or our mission that we will fulfill when we come down from the mountain. Though Peter exclaimed a desire to pitch tents on the mountain, the apostles had to walk down the mountain with renewed strength and inspiration to carry their crosses. He wanted to hold on to the moment rather than recognize that this was preparing them for something greater that was still to come.
After waking up above the clouds in O’Cebreiro, I was astonished by the beauty like Peter was. Yet, I had to start walking down the mountain and continue on The Way toward the final destination. After all, the ultimate goal was not to make it to O’Cebreiro, but rather to reach Santiago. If I never left the mountain, I would have missed the joys of the adventure ahead as I received my Compostela and headed to Fatima. If I would have stayed on the mountain top, I would’ve missed the experiences I had when I returned home like writing and publishing my first book. I could go on and on about everything that lays before us if we walk down the mountain with God.
This video is of Mass at the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. This the Botafumeiro ceremony that used to be common. Now, it is rarer. I was ecstatic that I was in attendance!!
What have been moments of transfiguration for you? What was it like to “walk down the mountain?” How did you remember the experience in your heart? Was it easy to forget about the mountaintop when you were back in the world?
It’s important to emphasize again the importance of silence. There’s a fabulous book by Cardinal Sarah called The Power of Silence. We have become so accustomed to the noise and have forgotten how essential and beautiful silence truly is:
“Our world no longer hears God because it is constantly speaking, at a devastating speed and volume, in order to say nothing. Modern civilization does not know how to be quiet. It holds forth in an unending monologue.” Cardinal Robert Sarah
Silence is hard for us! Though Peter likely did indeed want to stay in the beauty of the moment with the Transfigured Christ, commentaries also suggest that he was afraid and unsure of what to say. So, he just said anything to break the silence: “Let’s uh pitch some tents, eh?” (I’ve been hanging out with Canadians, what can I say? ;) )
In the counseling room, a therapist can get a client to speak by remaining quiet for a time. If we don’t feel the urgency to break the silence, the client will say something eventually. Therapists learn to tolerate and use silence as a therapeutic tool in sessions for the purpose of giving the client space to share.
I know Christ, the Good Counselor, uses silence a lot in each of our relationships with Him, too. He sometimes just sits with us or walks alongside us. Sometimes, He whispers. We need to mute the noise of the world around us in order to hear His still, small voice. In order to enter into silence, we need to turn off the TV or the radio. We may need to take a walk or a jog around the neighborhood. If you’re lucky, you may even have a hiking trail or mountain nearby. The perfect place for silence is in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus is fully present in the Tabernacle or in the Monstrance. He wants to speak to you and when He is silent, He knows you’ll eventually have something to say, too. Let’s not be so eager to break the silence though. It is in the silence where we discover our Lover, Savior, and King.
“Through silence, we return to our heavenly origin, where there is nothing but calm, peace, repose, silent contemplation, and adoration of the radiant face of God.” Cardinal Robert Sarah
In this Lenten season, let’s adore the radiant face of God by listening to what His beloved Son has to say to us. Let us receive His peace and consolation. He knows we need it this year!
How will YOU listen to Him this Lent?
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