Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. - Mark 9:8
The story of the transfiguration marks the last Sunday of Epiphany each year. Each year we hear this rather strange story of the disciples going off alone with Jesus to pray on a high mountain, where all of a sudden, Jesus begins to shine brighter than any earthly light, and the disciples see Elijah and Moses there, in deep conversation with Jesus.
Mark tells us that Peter and John are terrified! And Peter, not knowing exactly what to do or to say, stutters out the first thing that comes to mind: "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
But then a dark cloud surrounds them and they hear the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” And then, as suddenly as the whole thing happened, they looked around, and the vision is over. They see no one with them any more, but only Jesus. Everything was suddenly back to "normal." But can anything really ever go back to normal after an encounter with God? Peter and John were forever changed by their experience that day.
I remember a spiritual director I had years ago saying that though it does happen that sometimes people experience powerful flashes of insight, mystical visions, or white light moments like Peter and John had on the mountain in prayer, such experiences are not the norm, nor are they the goal of a life of faith. A life of faith is a much more ordinary experience day to day than that. We spend far more days in the valley than on the mountaintops. A life of faith is more about simply chopping wood and carrying water, as the Buddhists say, than about dwelling in the peak experiences. Expecting a life of faith to be all thrills is a set up for disappointment!
But yet, having an awareness of the holy while you go through your day to day life brings a quality of depth even to the most ordinary of situations. God's advice is well taken. A life of faith is not about erecting monuments or attempting to continually dwell only in the pinnacle moments. Rather, we're called to walk back down the mountain into the world as it is, keeping our eyes and ears wide open to watch for and listen to Jesus. Most of the time we do not get blinding white light or mystical visions or awe inspiring revelations. But we always have Jesus. Only Jesus. And that's all we need.