“He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified” – Mk 9:2-10
Have you ever had an experience with the Lord that terrified you? We normally don’t use the word “terrified” in our faith because it implies fear (the opposite of faith). Other Catholic translations of today’s Gospel referring to Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration use the words “frightened” and “exceedingly afraid”. We might use words like “in awe” or “overwhelmed”. I like the translation of “terrified” because it connotes both faith and fear on the part of the Apostles. It was unlike anything they had ever seen or experienced, so they didn’t know what to think initially. They were probably in shock! They were being introduced to a whole new supernatural realm. It took some getting used, I’m sure. Rest assured, it was all good, just new.
I will use the word “terrified” to describe some experiences friends have had with the Lord. One lady was terrified with a vision recently on a retreat. It occurred during Eucharistic Adoration and healing prayers. As the priest prayed over her, she had a vision of the Blessed Mother. And, she saw her mother and grandmother on either side of Mary! She began to cry uncontrollably. It was all good, but overwhelming. The vision brought her much peace, and likewise her family when she told them about it.
Last year, a buddy of mine visited our rectory. He had a lot of stress in his life, and it was really getting to him. After hanging out some, we went into the rectory chapel and I exposed the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance on the altar. I left him alone with the Lord for a while. He told me later the Lord spoke to him very clearly (and he’s not mentally ill, Ms. Joy Behar): “can you let me take over for a while?” The Lord’s voice asking to take control of his life was clear as day, and he began to sob. The experience was terrifying in its power, but also ultimately brought him great healing.
Three years ago, a married couple began taking the miraculous powder of Our Lady of Milk in hopes of conceiving a child for the first time (after trying for four years). They also had Rosa Mystica (a statue of our Lady with its own powerful history) in their home at the time. During this grace-filled time, they had a terrifying vision one night. A single handprint appeared on their dining room window above Rosa Mystica just after they finished praying one night. It was not a handprint they ever saw before then, and they saw it only once afterward. It certainly seemed to them that it was the hand of God. It was terrifying but comforting. Within a few weeks, they conceived their first child.
The second time that I heard the Lord’s call to the priesthood was terrifying. It was on a retreat and during Adoration. It was my second year of seminary when I was 50/50 on whether I was called or not. I was begging the Lord to give me an answer about my vocation, and I resoundingly heard, “I am calling you to be a priest”. As with my friend, it was clearly the voice of the Lord. My heart skipped a few beats, and then it started racing. “Be careful what you wish for!” Tears began to roll down my face. This was it. The answer. Then, over the next 30 minutes or so, He gave me a clear vision of what my priesthood would look like. I was terrified but excited.
Many of us have the experience of being terrified at some point in our faith. It’s bound to happen because we are dealing with the supernatural realm which is unfamiliar to us. More than that, though, God can surprise, overwhelm, and even terrify us with how awesome He is and how intimately He loves us.
May you know the freedom of Christ this Lent,
I’ve been meeting with a young man who desperately wants to experience the presence of God. He was raised as a Protestant, so he has had Christ in his life from the beginning. He converted to Catholicism in college, but has struggled with signs from the Lord. For his relatives, faith seems to come more easily and naturally (supernaturally?) than it does for him.
He and I talked months ago when he was going through a bit of a “dark night.” This means that his spiritual life was in darkness, and that God seemed hidden. He was still not seeing any signs. Then, we met about a month ago, and God had revealed Himself in dramatic ways to this young man. He was so happy!
So, when we got together for dinner last Tuesday, the first thing he said was that he was fasting. I asked why, and he said it was to help overcome his doubts about God and Heaven. Our waiter was not too happy!
Last Tuesday was a feast day in the Church: the feast of St. James the Apostle. Catholics don’t fast on feast days. It’s like when Jesus says, “as long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast” (Mk 2:19). We apply this to the feast days of certain saints who had the bridegroom with them in extraordinary and major ways. So, feast days are celebrations of God’s grace through particular persons.
I waited for a moment to tell this to the young man so as not to jump all over him for fasting. I figured he didn’t know about feast days. But, then again, he was telling me about how he had been going to pray at a Catholic church during his lunch break each day (he really wants to experience God), so maybe he had some “church” in him. I told him about the feast day and the meaning of it, and he responded very well. The next thing he said was, “Waiter, I will order after all.”
We reviewed the past month, and it turns out that he had received some signs from God. So, why had he returned to doubting God and Heaven again? Because he had been reading a book each day by a “humanist” (i.e., atheist). He is an avid reader and thinker, and he didn’t even realize the effect the book was having on him. It was about the time that he started the book that his doubts began. This led to many sleepless nights, and a lack of peace. And yet, God kept showing him signs, the biggest of which happened last Monday (the night before our dinner).
We discussed what happened that day – the sign that he received – and how he slept well Monday night. He vowed to put down the atheist’s book, and start reading Bishop Robert Barron or C.S. Lewis again. Smart move! Then, with the whole feast day thing – which really is evidence of God and Heaven – he walked away from our dinner totally at peace.
Do you and I long for the Kingdom of Heaven like this young man? Do we desire Christ so much that we will make chapel visits or fast in order to see or hear Him? These questions apply to today’s Gospel parables of the buried treasure and the pearl of great price.
Notice the desire of the person who finds the buried treasure and the merchant who finds the pearl: each of them “sells all that he has”. These two images represent the Kingdom of God, and specifically Jesus Christ. When we find Christ and His Kingdom, we desire Him above all things. We are so filled with joy – like the person and the merchant – that we will sell all that we have for Him.
My friend was like the merchant “searching for fine pearls.” He has been searching for Christ. He gave up his lunch break and some food in order to find Him and the treasure of heaven.
What are we willing to sell in order to receive the riches of the Kingdom? Do we have the joy of people who have found the pearl of great price which is Christ?
May you know the peace of Christ,
In celebration of Black Catholic History Month…
National Black Catholic History Month serves as a reminder of something we should keep in mind throughout the year: at its best, ours is a diverse and welcoming church, and there is much to be learned from one another, if only we would make the effort:
Moses the Black, sometimes called the Ethiopian, was a slave of a government official in Egypt who dismissed him for theft and suspected murder. He became the leader of a gang of bandits who roamed the Nile Valley spreading terror and violence. On one occasion, a barking dog prevented Moses from carrying out a robbery, so he swore vengeance on the owner. Weapons in his mouth, Moses swam the river toward the owner’s hut. The owner, again alerted, hid, and the frustrated Moses took some of his sheep to slaughter.
Attempting to hide from local authorities, he took shelter with some monks in a colony in the desert of Scete, near Alexandria. The dedication of their lives, as well as their peace and contentment, influenced Moses deeply. He soon gave up his old way of life and joined the monastic community at Scete.
Moses had a difficult time adjusting to regular discipline. His flair for adventure remained with him. Once he was attacked by a group of robbers in his desert cell, Moses fought back, overpowered the intruders, and dragged them to the chapel where the monks were praying. He told the brothers that he did not think it was Christian to hurt the robbers and asked what he should do with them. The overwhelmed robbers repented, were converted, and themselves joined the community.
After some time, Moses became the spiritual leader of a colony of hermits in the desert. After a while had was ordained a priest. At about the age of 75, word came that a group of renegades planned to attack the colony. The brothers wanted to defend themselves, but Moses forbade it. He told them to retreat, rather than take up weapons. He and seven others remained behind and greeted the invaders with open arms, but all eight were martyred by the bandits.
Moses the Black is honored as an apostle of non-violence. Moses the Black lived a rather dissolute life in his younger years, had a conversion experience in which he heard and heeded the call of God, was a leader of a religious community and known as a man of peace spending much of his ministry calling people to reconciliation and forgiveness by word and example.
Directee / FG
Be complete or whole
Not just lack of conflict, but all the good that comes from God in this life or in the next
Peace = share in Heaven
One with the Lord
Do His Will
v 31 – “I do as the Father has commanded me”
Let nothing disturb your peace
Only bad reasons for losing peace
Troubled of daily life / needs
Our own faults
Fear of suffering
1st holy communion
3rd Sunday Advent – “Rejoice in the peace of Christ”
Gaudete / rejoice!
Every Sunday here
What should we do?
Rejoice / 1st reading
Make requests known to God
Shalom – to be complete or whole
Wishing all good things
Fr. Greg Shaffer
3401 Martin Luther King Jr. AVE, SE
Washington, DC 20032
Fr. Greg Cell: 240-463-9960
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