Building a dwelling place for Jesus in our hearts
March 6, 2020
Each year, on the Second Sunday of Lent, the church takes us up to Mt. Tabor to contemplate with Peter, James and John the glory of the Lord in his Transfiguration. Just as Jesus desired to give his apostles a glimpse of the Resurrection while they were still on the way to Jerusalem, so too does Holy Mother Church want to encourage us in our Lenten journey with this same vision of hope.
In his 2002 apostolic letter on the Rosary, Pope St. John Paul II described the mystery of the Transfiguration as “an icon of Christian contemplation.” He said, “to look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and the sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father: this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us” (“Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” no. 9).
The word contemplation comes from the same word that gives us temple, a place carved out or set aside for God. Unlike other religions, Christians have never built physical temples for God. Rather we recognize that God has chosen to dwell in and among his people through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16-17). Indeed, Jesus Christ himself is the very revelation of the nearness of God (2 Tm 1:10). The mystery of the Transfiguration reminds us, nevertheless, that we still need to carve out a place for God through contemplation if we are to see and hear him.
The Apostles knew Jesus better than anyone – except perhaps his mother, who is the first to teach us the value of contemplation (see Lk 2:19). The Apostles lived with Jesus day in and day out for almost three years, but it was not until the Transfiguration that they beheld the glory of his divinity for the first time. Peter was so mesmerized by this experience that he wanted to build dwelling places (temples perhaps?) and remain there. The voice of the Father instructed them instead to listen to his Son. Far from a repudiation of Peter’s desire, God instead taught him to build up a temple in his heart to hold the mystery of his beloved Son.
Contemplation is the temple erected in the heart that allows one to see, hear and remain with God at any time and in any place. We need not climb a mountain or sail across the sea to dwell in the Lord’s temple and to gaze upon the loveliness of God (Ps 27:4). Instead, with the apostles and with Mary, and in the depths of our hearts, we gaze more lovingly upon the face of Jesus and listen more deeply to his words. In the temple of contemplation, the mysteries we encounter this Lententide, will reveal more than suffering, death and defeat. Rather, they will reveal to us divine love, new life and victory over all that weighs us down.
Father Jeffery Loseke is pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Gretna.