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The story of my experience with the soon to be Blessed Pope John Paul II landed on the front page of the country’s most popular newspaper, the Philippine Daily Inquirer some weeks ago. Maybe some of my parishioners have read it, as did many of my family and friends.

When the late great Cardinal Jaime Sin, to whom I was private secretary at that time, announced that the pope granted my wish for an audience during his coffee break, I was ebullient, thrilled and awed by the prospect of a face-to-face meeting. But I was also nervous and afraid. Here was John Paul II, head of the universal church and I was just a simple priest. Here was a man oozing with holiness and I was a struggling sinner. Here was a worldwide superstar and I was a nobody from a third world country.

But the moment the pope met me, the first thing he did was to grab my right arm and leaned gently on me, releasing his cane. I don’t remember how I felt. I don’t remember the scene in the room. I do, however, remember how it feels when the pope’s hands rest on your arm. My arm was touched by a future saint!

The Gospel today shares with us the high point in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. On the mountain of Transfiguration, Jesus was bathed in glory. He was transformed into a living brilliance such as no one has ever seen. Jesus was flanked on either side by the greatest lawgiver of the Jews, Moses and the greatest prophet of the Jews, Elijah. And then, the Father’s voice boomed from a looming cloud confirming His favor on His only Son.

That was enough to make the disciples Peter, James and John fall to the ground in fear. There is only so much a human being can take when confronted with divine mystery. The disciples were afraid.

But then, the gospel mentions something, a detail we must not miss at all. When the disciples were prostrate on the ground due to fear, Jesus approached them and touched them and assured them: Do not be afraid.

The vision will not happen again for the disciples. But the touch of Jesus will always remain part of their experience. They will always be strong when they remember how he approached them, touched them and whispered to them: Do not be afraid. The gestures, the words clearly tell them that this Jesus is not a superstar to behold on the top of the mountain but a friend who journeys with them everyday of their lives. He may be bathed in glory as God but He is closest to them in their fears.

This Lent, we do not admire Jesus in His heroic suffering and death. We celebrate Jesus in His nearness to us. When you spend time at the adoration chapel, when you follow the Stations of the Cross, when you take part in the Masses and devotions of Lent and specially when you go to confession, Jesus approaches you, touches you and tells you: Do not be afraid. Don’t ever miss this experience of a lifetime. He is not just the Superstar, He is your friend.