Keeping Focus on Jesus

“Jesus took Peter, John, and James 
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance 
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, 
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus 
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, 
but becoming fully awake, 
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, 
“Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking, 
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, 
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, 
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time 
tell anyone what they had seen.”

I started praying the rosary regularly in college, probably around my sophomore year.  At first, the intentional time with Our Mother seemed unnatural, almost forced.  It was nearly impossible to keep my focus, with or without scripture reflection. And it never mattered whether i said the prayers out loud or in silence, I almost always lost track of which Hail Mary I was on and sometimes even what decade I was praying.  Thank goodness for those beautiful little beads!

But when it came to that beautiful day of Thursday, I was fine. I LOVED the Luminous mysteries; for some reason these certain events in Jesus’ adult life really resonated with my heart. I was a freshman in college when the Year of the Rosary closed, and I made a pilgrimage to the National Shrine with my mom to hear speakers reflect on the beautiful of those little beads.  The most fascinating thing, however, was hearing that Pope John Paul II actually commissioned for NEW mysteries.  This was the first time I had heard of these luminous mysteries, and I found the reflections beautiful.

As college went on and these prayers became a regular part of my life, it was the luminous mysteries that continued to capture my heart, particularly the story of today’s Gospel: the transfiguration.  Each time I prayed this beautiful scripture, I would place myself there with Jesus, making the difficult and arduous climb up the mountain. And each time I would bring different people with me on my journey, my close posse of Peters, James’ and Johns.  Each time I would climb, the Lord guiding me and my closest friends and family with me.

But the more I would enter into this reflection, I began to notice a disturbing pattern.  My focus began to be for those I brought with me on the journey instead of who invited me on the journey. It wasn’t that I didn’t acknowledge Jesus or know he was there, I just was more worried about pleasing the people I brought with me than I was about pleasing Him.  And if I would fall, they would help me up, but it always seemed to happen again…and again…and Jesus  was there holding out his hand, and i would reject it, choosing a companion instead. I was devastated when I realized this: why did I choose others before Jesus? Why was I more concerned about pleasing them than Him?

Years later I was talking to a dear friend (now a wonderful priest) about his latest adventures into reading theologian Balthasar (heavy, i know!), and he brought up this story of the Transfiguration. He said Balthasar believes (please correct me if I’m wrong Balthasarians!) that Beauty is what is unveiled at the Transfiguration. When Jesus is transfigured, he unveils God’s Beauty. I went home, prayed the decade, and cried: I was rejecting BEAUTY. Real, authentic Beauty. God’s gift drawing us into His very life, and I reject it! I reject it when I choose to believe that I am not as beautiful as others think I should be.  I reject it when the world entices me with desires for popularity, praise, or simply wasted time (being fascinated with the lives of other people rather than being present in my own!) I reject it when I willingly fall into loneliness, despair, self-doubt, or any other dangerous vice the devil throws our way. I am rejecting BEAUTY.

So this Lent I have tried, as best I can with God’s grace, to recognize and embrace the Beauty God provides in my life and in my family. My son’s sweet giggles, my husband’s incredible servant heart, the awesome snow storm that has left my street with a piercing white blanket. I am choosing not to relish in the lives of celebrities, other bloggers or my friends but instead try my best to be grateful for the incredible life I am living NOW.  This is my daily struggle, but I hope that as I continue to enter into the beautiful story of today’s Gospel, God’s call for me to choose HIS BEAUTY instead of the counterfeits of the world is present evermore in my heart. What an incredible challenge I have ahead of me! 🙂

How are you choosing to embrace God’s BEAUTY this Lent?

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