“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,