While he was praying, Jesus’ face changed in appearance and his clothes became dazzling white as he conversed with Moses and Elijah. Fully awake, Peter, John and James saw his glory. Luke 9:29-32
Because of this Gospel, they are called “peak experiences” — those intense religious experiences that many of us have been lucky enough to have at least once in our lives.
In fact, I believe that this is the main thing that keeps people in organized religion — at least one “peak experience.” On the other hand it is also the main reason some people claim to be agnostic — the absence of even one “peak experience.”
“Peak experiences” cannot be staged or created. They are simply moments of grace — spontaneous gifts from God. We can go to places where “peak experiences” have happened to other people, even places where we have experienced them before, but that does not mean we will have another one. They are simply unpredictable and unannounced gifts from God.
How they happen, why they happen and when they happen cannot be predicted, staged or even understood. They all seem to be glimpses into another level of existence or little previews of coming wonderful events that God gives some people who need a reason to hang on!
Those of us who have experienced them know how mind-blowing and life changing they can be. To those who cannot say they have ever had such an experience, I would say, “it ain’t over till it’s over” and “your time may be right around the corner” at some unexpected and unpredictable time.
These “peak experiences” have several things in common.
1. Regular contact with God through prayer does not guarantee one of these experiences, but makes them more likely to happen. Your mind has to be open and you have to remain in a receiving frame of mind.
2. There is always a temptation to want to freeze the experience, repeat the experience and make the experience permanent. One of the things that Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, Medjugorje, senior retreat, Lourdes and other similar experiences have in common is the desire to repeat those experiences.
They are never meant to be permanent. They are only glimpses into glory. God wants us to “come down the mountain” and go back to our ordinary lives, with that precious moment in the back of our minds to sustain us.
Lastly, “peak experiences” are meant to help us “see connections,” to see the connection between where we come from, where we are now and where we are destined. Just so, our “peak experiences” remind us that there is something wonderful in the invisible world that awaits us on the other side of this life.
May you experience your own “peak experience!” May God give you a “glimpse of glory!” May you get a “sneak preview” of the world to come. May that “peak experience” sustain you in the sometimes tediousness of worldly existence and help you keep your eye on the prize.
Father J. Ronald Knott