This past month my wife Sarah made a five-day Ignatian retreat. When she returned it had felt like I hadn’t seen her in weeks, but as she walked through the door she was glowing. As she began to share about her prayer experiences and how vividly the Gospel stories unfolded in her imagination, I knew she had a very real encounter with God. I could feel the graces she received spilling out onto me, and I began to tear up. I recalled praying with some of the same passages on my own retreat and how I too was beaming when I returned home.
Moses’s face was also shining when he encountered God on Mount Sinai. When he descended the mountain with the news of a new covenant, the people could see how his face glowed. “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God,” the Scripture says (Exodus 34:29). He had such an intimate encounter with the divine that his face could not help but show this joyful truth. Where do you think the expression “You’re glowing!” came from?
Sarah’s face could not hold back her joy, and I couldn’t help but feel some of those divine rays reaching from her to me. Making a retreat is a very special time, because it allows a lengthier encounter with God. Imaginative prayer can help take it even further as we imagine ourselves in the presence of Jesus, chatting with him, journeying with him, and being fed or healed by him.
Pope Francis’s emphasis on having a personal encounter with God is nothing new, but he’s brought attention to its life-changing power. I think the public has noticed how the pope’s face shines with joy. Our faces can shine too, like the pope, like Sarah, and like Moses. When we meet God face to face in prayer and allow ourselves to be touched by God’s divine rays, we too will be glowing with joy.