Making Room for Prayer during Lent
Our second Sunday in Lent puts before us a great manifestation of the Glory of God which happens on Mount Tabor. It has much in common with other such manifestations in the Scriptures. For starters, it happens on a high place that was often seen as the place of encounter with God in the Old Testament. There is a sense of leaving the ordinary places of daily life so as to have an encounter with God. Both Moses and Elijah themselves had the experience of an encounter with God on a mountain. Moses climbed Mount Sinai where the Lord gave him the Law. Elijah, experienced the Lord’s presence on mount Horeb.
Despite the similar mountaintop encounters Moses and Elijah had, there are two things that are different about this manifestation on Tabor. First, it is not a lone experience of one key character, but the experience of Jesus along with three disciples, Peter, James and John. There is a group of witnesses to what happen. And most significant of all, is that this manifestation of God’s glory happens to Jesus Himself, showing clearly and unmistakably His Divine identity.
In last week’s liturgy, we were told in the preface of the Mass that the forty days of fasting by Jesus ‘consecrated the pattern of our Lenten observance’. By this, we can see that during Lent we move into the wilderness of the desert to experience some type of fasting, so that we might, as the preface continues, ‘cast out the leaven of malice’. Perhaps then we might think of this event of the Transfiguration as highlighting one of the other great Lenten disciplines, namely prayer. After all, at the heart of prayer is the experience of setting out to a separate place – to our room, or in church before our Lord in the tabernacle – anywhere away from interference and distractions of life with the hope of encountering God for a period of time.
It would seem that prayer is the most easily neglected of our spiritual weapons in this great season of Lent. Prayer is something that we Christians often fail to make time for because we are so busy. Perhaps some find quiet, reflective prayer in itself something difficult to practice. Americans are especially orientated to see results and to be productive. Quiet, reflective prayer might even be seen as a waste of precious time. For many during Lent it is much easier to practice fasting and almsgiving, as they are seen as more tangible and productive than prayer.
If we saw prayer for what it really is, we might be more easily encouraged to make it a priority. Perhaps if we looked upon quiet, reflective prayer time as a time to encounter God; as a time that we are willing to allow God to reveal Himself; as a time to simply rest in Him and His presence. In doing so, we might realize like Peter, that being with the Lord is not a duty, but is simply a wonderful place to be. Of course, we cannot, and indeed should not, simply stay, avoiding the realities of our daily obligations and struggles. But what might those obligations and struggles look like once we’ve climbed the mountain of prayer, and given ourselves time to rest in God? Perhaps the burdens we carry, the challenges of our daily life, the ups and downs of loving our family and neighbors might be seen from a totally different perspective.