One of the three elements that are an essential part of the Lenten journey is prayer. Prayer is not just saying words. Prayer is the awareness of what we had in the responsorial psalm: “I will walk in the presence of the Lord.” The Transfiguration of the Lord on the mountain is mainly a prayer event. It displays visibly what happens when Jesus talks with his Father, when he enters into a conversation with the one who sent him and who is his Father as well. For Jesus prayers isn’t a break in daily life when we spend some time with God but it is a continuous dialogue which intensifies when we take some time from our daily life to be with God. Prayer isn’t about getting something from God or paying God for the things we would like to have but it is about being with God to come to know him better and to love him stronger.
There is a story about a young monk who asked an older one, "How come that so many people set out to be good, and so many people come here to join the monastery, but after some time they leave again or give up the effort?" The old monk thought for a while and then answered. "Sometimes as you stand here in front of the monastery you will see a rabbit pass by pursued by the village dogs, barking and howling. After some time the rabbit comes back but there are only one or two dogs in pursuit. These are the dogs which actually saw the rabbit - the others were only following the barking. Likewise, if we are to persevere in our pursuit we must have had a glimpse of the Lord and not just be following the barking."
Peter, John, James needed a glimpse of God to sustain them. We must never forget that the disciples had a very limited understanding of what Jesus was about. They had some idea of the Messiah but the only way in which they could imagine his role was that he should drive out the Romans and deliver the people from political oppression. However, Jesus' kingdom was not of this world and instead of being lifted up on a throne as a king, becoming a political leader, he was lifted up on a cross to die like a criminal. That’s why the disciples needed a memory, a glimpse of glory, which they got in the Transfiguration, to sustain them when their hopes about Jesus were shattered and they had to face their own failure.
Sometimes early on in prayer the Lord can give us a glimpse of himself - a moment of closeness, a feeling of certainty about his presence, a call to commitment to the work of prayer and of greater openness in our relationship with him. Then that becomes a memory which will later sustain us in the bustle of everyday life and in the dryness of distracted prayer periods. The big temptation is that of Peter to want to build a tent, a monument - to freeze the moment of presence. The poet William Blake said, "He who binds himself to a joy, does the winged life destroy, but he who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in eternity's sunrise." We don’t pray to relax, to calm down or to feel better. Although at times you may feel like this, don’t focus on this. These things will never keep you with God. You may get disappointed very quickly.
The genuine presence of God is like something glimpsed in a rear view of the mirror. It has gone when you notice it. And that is as God wants it to be. We do not seek his consolation but only Himself. This is what we do each time we pray. But if we have had some transfiguration experience, some glimpse of the Lord, it will do much to give us courage on our weary, yet, joy-full journey.