About two centuries ago, some atheistic scientists in France set about to prove that, if an individual is never told about God, he will never even know that there is a God. And so, they devised a strange plan. They spoke to the parents of a newborn infant and decided to remove the entire family to a remote region, where they enjoyed the very best by way of nutrition and recreation. The little boy was duly educated and by the best of tutors, who were strictly instructed to never make mention of God.
When that little boy was seven, his nurse found him missing one morning. In a state of alarm, she searched for him until she found him on a little hillock, facing the rising sun. He was on his knees, his hands were reverently joined, his head respectfully bowed and his eyes were closed as though he was lost in prayer. “What on earth are you doing?” demanded the anguished nurse. Without batting an eyelid, the little fellow said: “I am only praising the almighty Person who has made that beautiful sunrise!” And there ended the sinister plan of those atheistic scientists and their presumptuous objective.
It is important to know that each and every individual experiences God’s presence in their own personal lives and in a most remarkable way. For example, one person describes how such an experience came suddenly and unexpectedly while hiking with some friends. This is how he framed it: “All at once I experienced a feeling of being raised above myself. I felt the presence of God…The throb of emotion was so violent that I could hardly tell the others to pass on and not to wait for me. I sat down…and my eyes overflowed with tears. I thanked God that in the course of my life he had taught me to know him. I begged him ardently that my life be consecrated to doing his will.”
The psychologist, William James, relates another such experience in his book entitled Varieties of Religious Experience. A man was standing on a hillside at night. All of a sudden he felt his soul soaring upward as he sensed a powerful presence. He says: “I could not any more have doubted that God was there then that I was. Indeed, I felt myself to be, if possible, the less real of the two.”
Experiences such as these indicate just how wonderstruck and overwhelmed the three apostles were when they saw Jesus transformed, so that “his face changed in appearance, and his clothing became dazzling white. Then “a cloud…cast a shadow over them, and…from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son’” This confirmed them all in their faith in Christ Jesus, as the promised Messiah and the living Son of God.
Years later this is what St. Peter would write: “We had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, ‘This is my Son…’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with hi on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)
Each and every human being can recall instances when they felt so close to God that they could literally feel as though they were experiencing a foretaste of heaven. Each and every human being can recollect times when, for a split second, they truly sensed the actual presence of God around them. And, finally, each and every human can remember occasions when, in a flashing moment, they truly had a glimpse of eternity. The three apostles, Peter, James and John were truly privileged to experience all in moments that they would always thereafter treasure as a singular blessing from God.
This is how the renowned spiritual writer, Bede Griffiths, described it in his book The Golden String: “Now that I look back on it, it seems to me that it was one of the decisive events of my life…I was suddenly made aware of another world of beauty and mystery such as I had never imagined existed…There can be few people to whom such an experience does not come…These are moments when we really come face to face with reality.”