Friday, March 9, 2012

Crumbling Away

There is not space in this blog post to fully expound the following problem.  This will count as a start.

In last Sunday's Gospel, we heard the story of the Transfiguration - a name that's as mysterious as the event.  Most of us will recall the story:

Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain and is transfigured before them, meaning the his appearance changed, and his clothing too!  Moses and Elijah show up for this event and Peter wants to construct some tents. 

I care to focus on the last few lines of this episode, as reported in Mark's Gospel.  Those lines read:

"As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant."

Why does Jesus always do this sort of thing to people?  "Here, let me perform a miracle for you, heal your mother-in-law, or even be transfigured before you.  But, you shall not tell anyone what happened."  Is he ashamed of his abilities?  Doubtful.  Does he want to avoid being pegged a magician?  That certainly could be true.  Is he purely afraid of the authorities finding out about him?  They already knew, plus he wasn't afraid of them on any other given day.

I can reflect back upon my own encounters with Christ, whether they happened at Mass, in prayer, on retreats, or going about my daily business - they were all decisive and profound, and nearly all of them very difficult to express in words after the event, especially immediately after.  Many of us have had instances like this, where you're telling a story about a retreat experience, or even the experience of traveling overseas, and as you're telling someone the story, it's as if this precious gift is crumbling away in your hands.  You can't share enough detail, or give them enough background information to help them understand what was going on at these precise moments.

Frustration, impatience, and even skepticism can result - either from your inability to explain adequately, or the other's inability to grasp fully what you experienced.  This is almost always my experience when trying to explain a retreat to people who were not in attendance.  Perhaps it helps us to understand why Jesus so often spoke these words to people - "go home, don't tell anyone."  Perhaps it is for our own benefit.

We read in Luke's Gospel of how Mary, who had the most time and encounters with Jesus, treasured these experiences in her heart and pondered them.  Maybe we ought to do the same.  Instead of so quickly trying to share exactly what it was that happened in an encounter with Christ, it may be more fruitful to remain in the encounter, to dig deeper into its meaning for your life.  By no means does this mean that you never share the experience with anyone - obviously the Apostles who saw the Transfiguration did eventually.  But, remain where the fruit is - rooted in the experience, and rooted in, sharing that experience with those who were with you when you experienced it.  This is why a special type of community forms amongst those who attend retreats - they experienced something together, and when they come together to further discuss and understand those experiences, the memories take on new life and provide greater fruit.  The Apostles in the story of the Transfiguration do this as well, keeping the matter to themselves, and questioning various meanings.

The good fruit borne from a retreat, fruit that you continue to ponder and pray with, still bears fruit - even if you don't share the whole story of what happened with everyone you know - in the life of the believer, because the life itself is converted, transformed, and cannot remain the same.

I'll end here.  I just thought this was a timely Gospel for all of us who finished up retreat last Sunday.  Remain patient and diligent in praying through your experience with Christ last weekend.  Eventually, the time will come to share your experience with many, when it becomes integrated into your very being.  

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