In my excitement about the developments at Catholic Life and Faith, I neglected to post this week's reflection on the Sunday Gospel. Here it is!
“Lord, it is good to be here…”
Sometimes, we need to go up on a mountain – if not literally, then figuratively, in our mind’s eye. We walk away from all that is comfortable, secure, and ordinary. We walk away from daily pressures and worries. We walk toward a place that can provide perspective, and pause.
If done with purpose, approaching the mountain can lead us to look at our lives differently – we may find a way that is brilliantly clear, a way of holiness.
One time when my husband and I were vacationing in Colorado, we climbed fairly high up in the mountains, planning to spend the day and so not feeling concerned about how far we were traveling. We ate a picnic lunch at a clearing about two-thirds of the way up the mountain, and then, as the afternoon hours approached, so did a thunderstorm.
We could see it building in the distance, and at first thought maybe we should begin our descent. We were soon to realize, though, that the storm was actually below us, and that it was better for us to remain where we were.
Jesus took Peter, James and John to the mountain alone. We are told in other gospel narratives that Jesus went to the mountains to pray. Jesus understood the need to move away from others for times of prayer and reflection.
What perspective might you gain from some time alone, for prayer and reflection?
We watched as the storm approached the village below. We could see the headlights of cars, cutting the darkness of the approaching clouds. Occasionally, we would watch lightening and hear the thunder, the sound seeming incongruous with the image from our “vantage point” above the action. Suddenly, one bolt of lightening stretched from above us and severed a hole in the roof of the Catholic church in the town below. Oddly separated from what was taking place in the distance, we watched as fire trucks rushed to the scene, struggling to control the fire that was overtaking the frame structure.
We were filled with awe at the incredible power of this creation of the Lord, feeling tiny and wondering at our own place in God’s heart. Our lives with God came more clearly into perspective as we watched in silence. Protected from the storm and still aware of its power, we recognized our total dependence upon God, and through our vulnerability, we understood God’s love in a new and profound way.
In the account of Jesus and the disciples on the mountain, we notice that Jesus does not leave the disciples alone. They become fearful when they hear the voice of God calling to them. Jesus reassures them through his words and his presence with them.
Have you ever felt fearful of allowing God to change your heart? How do you recognize Christ’s presence with you, and allow that reassuring presence to strengthen you when you are afraid?
Jesus took three disciples up to a high mountain, from which they would envision the world differently. They are given a brief view of a world to come. It is on a mountain that Moses heard God speak – where he received the law that structures and guides his people’s (our) behavior toward one another. It is on a mountain that Elijah hears the whispering, still voice of God and is filled with certainty as to God’s purpose for him and God’s chosen ones. Now it is on a mountain that Jesus takes Peter and James and John, and where he speaks again with Moses and Elijah – this time face to face. The disciples see the prophets, and realize that Jesus is fulfilling that for which the prophets prepared their people.
We hear God’s voice proclaiming Jesus as God’s beloved – God’s chosen. Through Christ, we too are God’s beloved, and yet, we often find ourselves doubting, wondering, struggling to believe. We experience uncertainty in the face of situations in our lives, and we find life confusing. “God, you gave the disciples an image of glory and radiant life. I sure could use some sort of sign like that right now,” we think. And yet, how many times do we stop to recognize the blessings, little miracles, unexpected and powerful moments in our lives?
Jesus tells Peter, James and John that they must descend the mountain and face the trials to come. What sorts of trials do you face? Do you do so with the knowledge that Christ is with you, leading you, urging you onward?
In Matthew’s account of this experience, the disciples are instructed not to be afraid. We are told to listen:
Listen to the voice that told Moses to take off his shoes, stand on holy ground, receive the way that God will show him – leading the people out of bondage and into freedom…
Listen to the voice that whispered to Elijah – leading him in the sure-footed ways of the Lord, even when surrounded by those who would not hear…
Listen, as we, with Christ, are called God’s beloved, God’s chosen, as our minds and hearts are filled with God’s presence in us, around us, amongst us…
Listen, and watch, as we are given an image of the kingdom that is here and yet not present in fullness, a time and place and state of being when all the just are joined with God – Moses, Elijah, and we who are faithful – all the angels and saints and the generations who have gone before, and those who will go after – all risen and clothed in dazzling white – washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.
How is our weekly gathering at Eucharist a vision of a kingdom to be shared and to be anticipated? Does your participation in the Sunday celebration urge you toward a passion for transformation?
Do we listen to Jesus, really? Do we listen when he says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice?” Do we listen? Do we listen when Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and wealth?” Do we listen? Do we listen when he tells us that the hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned are to be cared for as Christ? Do we listen? Yes, at least sometimes, we do listen. And we try, in our own ways, to serve and to care. But we also sometimes put the cotton of indifference in our ears. We hum a tune that will keep us from hearing. We become complacent and we convince ourselves that we need not do more than that with which we are comfortable. That’s when it is time to go back to the mountain, back to a place (physically or spiritually) where we can listen through sacred Scripture and the witness of saintly people through the ages, gain strength and resolve, and return to love and serve the Lord more deeply in our lives. We develop a passion for transformation, our own transformation as Christian disciples, and through our living discipleship, the transformation of our world.
What in your life needs to be transformed by God?