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By Gretchen Crowder

I want my mountaintop experience, don’t you?

I want Jesus in all his tangible humanity and intangible divinity to come right up to me, grab my hand in his, and walk me up a mountain. Then, I want to see his clothes become dazzling white with my human eyes and hear “This is my Son!” with my human ears just like Peter, James and John did in today’s Gospel.

Wouldn’t that make it easier to believe in God’s magnanimous love?

The problem is, however, when I’m so focused on desiring a literal “mountaintop” moment, so focused that I almost am stamping my foot demanding it of God, I inevitably miss Jesus showing up right in the midst of my most ordinary of days. When I am looking for the burning bush like Moses saw in the Old Testament, I miss the quiet whisper repeating over and over again “I love you.”

I don’t think I have ever read a more beautiful description of the way God can show up in our most ordinary of moments than the words of Thomas Merton when he describes what he experienced on the corner of Fourth and Walnut. It was just an ordinary day. He was walking down an ordinary street in the middle of a common shopping district. But it was in that moment that he experienced God most profoundly. He wrote in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world … As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

He goes on to describe that he was, in that moment, able to see his fellow human beings as if through God’s eyes. It was just the briefest of moments, but like the mountaintop moment did for Peter, James and John, it fortified Merton to continue his work. He wrote, he preached, he prayed, and he continued again and again to try and get people to hear the message that they were loved, just as they were, no matter what.

It is possible that I will never experience such a defining moment like Thomas Merton did, but it is also possible that those kinds of moments are always just within my reach. If I only slow down and pay attention.

St. Ignatius wrote in the 75th paragraph of the Spiritual Exercises: “A step or two before the place where I have to contemplate or meditate, I will stand for the space of an Our Father, and, with my mind raised up, consider how God our Lord is looking at me…” What if I can have a semblance of the mountaintop moment if I, like Ignatius, pause to stand with my mind raised up and consider how God is looking at me?

What if you did the same?

Maybe then we’d be able to see what Thomas Merton saw on that corner back in 1958:

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes.”

Maybe then we would see ourselves as God sees us – walking around, shining like the sun.

Prayer Suggestion

Pray with this video reflection on the first six Stations of the Cross throughout this week. Consider journaling what comes to the surface as you pray with it, and revisit what you have written throughout the week to see what new insights come with time. Perhaps do one station a day to give more time to reflect on each question offered.


Gretchen Crowder

Gretchen Crowder wrote Leaning into our Belovedness, an introduction to her theme this Lent. Full of inspiration and prayer suggestions, you can download it as a PDF to pray with throughout the Lenten season. Gretchen is a campus minister and educator at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, as well as a writer, retreat director and podcaster. You can find her at gretchencrowder.com and on Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast, available anywhere you get your podcasts. 

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