Saturday, February 28, 2015
As we celebrate this great Feast of the Transfiguration. And I think we all want that experience of being with God, of experiencing God. You know, I think that's why we come here every Sunday, because we want to have this encounter. We want to have this experience of God.
I know from the time I was a little boy, I used to love going to the Eucharistic adoration. So my mother would go late at night and sometimes she would take me. I would get to go with her and experience just being in silence and being in prayer in front of our Lord and the blessed sacrament.
So over the years I just continued to do that, through all my high school and college years. And when I finally entered the seminary, I continued to have a deep love for this Eucharistic adoration, just being in God's presence. And I'll never forget, it was my first year in the seminary and we were on a retreat. And it was a very much like it is now. It was ice cold outside. There was snow everywhere. It had been snowing for weeks and weeks and weeks, and there wasn't much you could do outside, so you had to stay inside. I found myself spending a lot of time in the chapel. I would just go in there again and spend time in Eucharistic adoration.
I will never forget this moment or this experience that I had. It was a time where I just felt, as I was praying, like all of a sudden I was in God's presence; like I was with God; like I was being held by God. And I don't know how long the moment lasted. I don't know how long I was even there in the chapel. It could have been hours. It could have been minutes. It could have been seconds. But I wanted to be there forever. And it was from that moment on that I realized how loving God is, and not only how loving God is, but how loved I was uniquely by God, and I wanted to stay there forever.
And I imagine that's kind of what the experience of the transfiguration was, you know, for those disciples. They were taken up to the mountain, and Jesus took them up there alone just to be with them, and he revealed himself as he truly was. And as they're there, all of a sudden this cloud comes down and wraps around them, which symbolizes the Holy Spirit. They hear the voice of the Father say, "This is my beloved son. Listen to Him."
The disciples had what the saints would call a mystical experience. They got to experience the reality of who Jesus was, the mystery of Jesus truly being God and have that revealed to them. And the notion was Peter, they wanted to stay there forever. He said, "Let us just build three tents so that we could just stay here." And at that moment they hear the Father's voice, and before you know it the moment's over and they have to go back down the mountain into life.
The truth is we're all called to have these experiences of God in our lives. We're also called to have experiences, and we kind of go back into our regular and ordinary life with having that memory or that experience. I think sometimes we think that that's only for, like, you know, the saints. Well, the truth is we're all called to be saints. Maybe that is not for everyone or maybe that is only for a priest to experience. We're all supposed to experience God like this, to have some kind of transcended experience of him. And the truth is you probably wouldn't be here if it hadn't happened to you.
So I want you to think about that time in your life. Have you ever had a time in your life where God made himself known to you, where you knew, without a doubt, that you were experiencing God? The truth is we want to stay there forever. We want to embrace that moment. We never want to leave. And that's ultimately what heaven is being with God and experiencing that love. But sometimes we do have to go back, go back down the mountain and go back in life. We yearn for another time. We yearn for another time where we get to be with God and prayer like that and experience him like that in the moment.
Well, the truth is, as we begin to grow in our prayer life and begin to be transformed more and more into his image, not only our prayer time, but our whole life becomes more of this experience of being in God's presence. Instead of just having a moment or a taste of it, we begin to live our whole lives with this experience of God's presence.
And as you know, sometimes I like to bring out the ukulele. And this is one of my favorite songs. It's an oldies song, but it was recently redone, and the title of it is "Tonight you're mine completely." I want you to think about God singing these words to you, of having you his completely just for a time and all of a sudden the moment is over. But him yearning for you, wanting to have you with himself completely.
Tonight you're mine completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow
Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment's pleasure
Can I believe the magic of your sighs
Will you still love me tomorrow
Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I'm the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun
I'd like to know that your love
Is love I can be sure of
So tell me now and I won't ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow
Well, thank you.
So this whole notion of "Tonight you're mine completely," of having that moment where we feel like we are God's and he is ours, and we have this feeling of completion, this feeling of union. The saints and the mystics call it a mystical union. We have this experience of being totally united to God. The truth is we are all supposed to have this.
So lent is a wonderful time because during lent we increase our prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving. And when we put ourselves in this state or this disposition where we increase all of that, the likelihood of us experiencing God in these transcending moments is much greater during lent. The truth is we are all supposed to be mystics. We're all supposed to be saints. We are all called, and God does gift us all with these experiences. The frustrating part is we can't make it happen, we can't make God do it, but we can place ourselves in the disposition.
That's what lent is for. These 40 days and 40 nights of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving put us in a right disposition to receive God's grace. I think it's profound that the second Sunday of lent we're given this image of the transfiguration. It's an image that during our prayer, fast and the almsgiving, it's an image that gives us hope already of the resurrection, already of the eternal life where we get to be with God forever.
So Karl Rahner, who is a Jesuit priest said that "when God is with man in awe and love, that's when he is praying." So what does that mean to pray? Just to be with God in awe and love. Have you ever had that experience where you've just been taken back in awe before the beauty of God, maybe in prayer or maybe out in nature or maybe just the experience of love where you are completely awestruck?
He says, too, that "in the days ahead you will either a mystic, one who has experienced God for real or nothing at all." And that's the world we live in now. Either we are called to be mystics and truly experience this loving God, or we give ourselves over to despair. We're called to be mystics.
St. John on the cross is one of my favorite saints and one of the greatest mystics of the church. When he was leading some of his followers, he gave them three principles. And that's what I am going to give to you today, three principles, in terms of how to experience and to put ourselves in the disposition to have this encounter with God.
So this was a meditation that he gave to his novice. It's three points. The first point is to summon up the mysteries of Jesus by imaging them. So do that right now. I want you to just close your eyes and try to imagine one of the mysteries. Let's go with the transfiguration. Imagine being there with Jesus on the mountain top. And when we imagine, we are supposed to use all of our senses. We're supposed to see, hear, taste, touch, feel what it's like to be there with Jesus.
So the first step is to imagine. We can do this with any of the mysteries in Jesus' life. We can do it with the nativity. Often in lent, we do this with the Passion, with the Stations of the Cross. The first thing is to imagine.
The second step that he says is to ponder, to ponder in your mind what the mystery evokes. So just allow your mind to ponder what that means and what that means for you.
And the third step and the deepest step is to finally be still, have a loving attention of God, and it is there where the fruit of the other activity is plucked away and the door of the mind is open to God's life.
So first of all, to imagine a scene from God; secondly, to ponder what that means for you; and thirdly is just to be still. And ultimately, it's in that stillness and that silence that we experience that loving presence, that desire of Jesus where man is with God in awe and love. So we're called to ponder these mysteries and ultimately to rest there.
Now, as you may or may not know by all the bulletins and billboards and everything, I will be doing the parish mission for the next three days. So starting tomorrow and Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night, my hope for you is to give you a way to do this, to remain in God's presence, to experience Him, not only in prayer, but to remain in his presence throughout your daily life, because this is what we all yearn for and long for. You know, like the song "Tonight you're mine completely," we desire to be God's completely. But there are times we go away from the mountain, there are times we walk away from God and ultimately we want him to come back to him. How do we come back to him?
Well, over the next three days, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, what I'm going to lead you through and is one of St. Ignatius' most powerful prayer is called the Examen prayer. St. Ignatius actually says it, if we were to drop any prayer in our day because of tiredness or because of business, the last prayer that we should drop is the Examen prayer, because the Examen prayer ultimately helps us be conscience and be aware of God's love and presence in our lives.
So that's my hope for you, is to help us all to experience, first of all, this mystical experience, this transfiguration; but also, like Peter wanted to, to hold on to it and to be able to live there forever.
So if you could join us this Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., I promise you will not regret it. And hopefully, you will not only have a wonderful experience of God, you will know how to remain there when you've fallen away, you will know how to come back again. That's this Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night where I will be leading you through the parish mission in the Examen prayer. And every night there's going to be some entertainment and music, there's going to be stories that I share, and ultimately there's going to be very concrete ways where I lead you into prayer.
You've probably seen that I've developed an app for this. If you have your smartphones or device, Father Martello is not here. You are allowed to bring them. This will be one of the few times you can bring your cell phones into church. You won't get scowled at. If you don't have one, don't worry about it. We actually have handouts that we will be giving to people, tools that will help you pray this Examen prayer. So that's my hope and my prayer; that for all of you, this entire parish, that we will have this experience of the transfiguration and also the ability to remain there.