"This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."
Sunday Word: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031614.cfm
2 Tm 1: 8b – 10
Mt. 17: 1-19
Mountain top moments in our lives are more occasional than they are the norm. Those big celebrations: our first communion or confirmation, graduation from high school or college, a wedding day, ordination, the birth of a child, the baptism of that child, a trip overseas, your first grandchild, a 90th birthday party. In the ebb and flow of everyday life, these moments stand out for us as highlights. Family members and friends come together to celebrate these significant events; we have pictures of them, we talk about them to others, and they are meant to be joyful times. When the “party” is over, we may feel sad wishing it could just go on a little longer but sooner or later we know we have to get back to our routine.
Our Gospel this second Sunday of Lent presents a mysterious mountain top moment for Jesus and three of his inner circle confidants: Peter, James and John. It would be great to know what these three disciples of Jesus were thinking as he took them up the mountain. Maybe Jesus just wanted to get away, far away, from the crowds. Maybe he wanted to share some personal secret with these three that he could not trust the others with. Or maybe they recalled that their scriptures reminded told them that a mountain top was always a place of meeting between God and the leaders of his people. It was the place for Moses to receive the Commandments from God and other times when a high place was the scene of an encounter between God and his people. The great Temple of Jerusalem was built high in order to be seen by all.
But, on this mountaintop they were about to have an experience with Jesus that was intended to strengthen them for the future. The passion and suffering of Jesus was on the horizon and he knew their faith in him would be greatly tested and those of the other Apostles. They needed a morale booster, some indelible experience that would reveal more to them in the midst of Jesus’ suffering. The cross was not the end but the beginning of God’s eternal plan and they would be the direct messengers of that good news to the world.
Peter in particular had recently proclaimed the truth about Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But, they and we as well, needed to know that the glory Jesus would bring was going to be won at a price – the price of our sinfulness which opened up the floodgates of God’s forgiveness and mercy for all humankind. The Cross loomed soon and the resurrection would put the exclamation point at the end of that sentence.
As Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus, who was now mysteriously transformed, they endorse all that Jesus said and did. That he was the fulfillment of the original covenant given by God through Moses on another mountain, Sinai. That Jesus was in the line and the fulfilled promise of the great prophets of Israel and Elijah, the greatest of those prophets who had railed against idolatry, now comes to affirm this truth.
Yet, in all this shining glory, Peter offers hospitality: “Lord, it is good that we are here . . . I will make three tents here.” Peter, like most of us want those mountain top experiences to last forever, or at least to go on longer than planned. Just show me the good stuff don’t tell me anything sad. “What’s the minimum I have to do?”
In this radiant splendor, they see the divine nature of Jesus so why not just take our time and enjoy this for a while. In short, I think we would all rather take the easy way out. In this present time of technological wonders, why not just hook in to high speed everything and get instant results.
But, as we know, life isn’t that way nor was it going to be for Jesus and his intimate followers. Nor can it be for us who walk the Christian journey. Our daily life is a back and forth from cross to resurrection so what sustains us?
Like these three intimates of Jesus, it must be the voice of the Father speaking to us about his own son: “Listen to him.” Where and how does Jesus speak to us? In his Word of the Scriptures, in our prayer, in the sacraments of the Church, in the suffering of others, in your children and your spouse, in the people we serve, in those times when we struggle with confusion about our faith, in the tough and disappointing moments when Christ stands with us. Basically, not on the mountain only but in the valley where we live. These three disciples did not descend that mountain alone.
Our first reading reminds us that Abram was called from his comfortable senior living to now fulfill a new mission for God. Like him we are called to be faithful.
Mountain top experiences are important for our lives. In our gathering for the Eucharist, we need the beauty of holy Mass with an inspiring environment, carefully prepared music, a great homily, faith filled participation of the assembly, kind and compassionate fellow parishioners who are serious about their faith and inspire us, the generous service of others and “ah – hah” moments in prayer. All this is good but we can’t, nor are meant, to stay there.
God comes down from the mountain to meet us. As we journey through this Lent toward the glory of Easter, let’s look for the Lord who walks with us and calls us to hear his voice.
O God, who have commanded us
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased, we pray,
to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that, with spiritual sight made pure
we may rejoice to behold your glory.
(Collect of Sunday)