Since my childhood I liked mountain climbing. No, actually I didn’t like the climbing because it can be hard, tiring, and exhausting. I liked the moment when after the tiring climbing I reach the top and can enjoy the breathtaking view.
One of the great experiences I had was when I climbed with a pilgrim group Mount Sinai. Three hours up and up and up. Not to forget Mount Sinai is in the desert and so you don’t have trees or bushes or anything green around you. Only stones and rocks. The last part was exceptional difficult. Because of the height it was difficult to breathe, a strong cold wind began to bite nose and ears; and it was very steep. But then, once on top of the mountain, all effort and pain and suffering was forgotten. The sunrise and the splendid view were more than one can expect as a reward. One feels so close to God. The members of our group could not but spontaneously begin to pray and praise God.
On top of a high mountain you get a wider perspective; you see things not anymore narrowly as in the valley. Your eyes roam across the other mountains far away to the horizon.
That brings us to today’s Gospel.
Jesus had spoken about his approaching suffering and death. Yes, he had mentioned his resurrection but obviously his disciples did not understand what that meant. They focused on his suffering, on his death only. And so worries, anxiety and doubts troubled them.
You know very well that appearances can be deceiving. After all, Jesus still was for them just another Galilean. His hands were the rough hands of a workman. People in Nazareth knew his mother. Some even remembered the man they thought was his dad.
His disciples must have asked themselves nagging questions, like, “If he is the Messiah, why should he suffer? Why can he not do something to avoid it? And what about us? What will happen to us? Will we as his disciples also be arrested and put to death? Is he really the Messiah”
And so Jesus took three of his closest disciples up a high mountain to widen their perspective. There his appearance changed. The glory of his divinity suddenly became visible, shining through his humanity, dazzling his overwhelmed disciples.
For a few moments they were graced to have a glimpse of his divine glory; they began to understand what he meant with resurrection. Suffering and death would not be the end; something beautiful, something indescribable was waiting beyond the darkness of death. They saw the light of eternal life at the faraway horizon.
How often do we experience the absurdities of life so that our minds are filled with doubt and we ask, “Where is God?” Think of those who have heard about the scandals in the Church they love so much.
Or we might have experienced the deep-rooted individualism and insensitivity of some church people, and some might ask, “How can God be in this place.”
Many disappointed faithful end up losing their faith. Think of people who are traumatized by their experience of social injustice and discrimination.
Or those who apply for a job but people who are less qualified than they get the job because they have the right connections.
Or those who see people advancing in society through unfair means and they ask, “Where is God?”
Or you may know someone undergoing a personal or family crisis such as terminal illness, breakdown of the relationship between husband and wife, between parent and child, between friends.
Don’t we sometimes feel like the whole world is collapsing on our heads? Are we not scared of what is going on around us? Hardship, worry, anxiety, doubt – all that the disciples experienced before Jesus took them up the mountain we, too, experience. And they and we are not alone.
The first reading presents us a beautiful example of a person who walked into a dark future and yet moved on and on: Old Abraham. He had heard a command from a God he can’t see, but believes that this God must know what He is talking about, and begins a journey to he knows not where. St. Paul once said “we walk by faith, not by sight.” That’s why Abraham is the great model of faith in the Old Testament. For faith is not just about believing. It’s about walking, even if the future is uncertain and dark. Abraham was very old but God promised him descendants as many as the stars in the night sky. The first reading tells us that in spite of such unbelievable things he was told, “he put his trust in the Lord.” The mysterious event we heard about in the first reading was Abraham’s mountain experience.
All it takes is a little glimpse of heaven to empower us to take up our daily crosses and follow Jesus, knowing that the cross of Lent is followed by the light of Easter.
At times we need to go up the mountain of prayer and ask God to open our eyes that we may see. When God grants us a glimpse of eternity then we shall realize that all our troubles in this life are short-lived. Then we find the courage to accept the apparently meaningless suffering of this life, knowing that through it all God is on our side and leads us to a beautiful future.
And so we are invited today to join the three apostles up on that mountain and be reminded that sufferings, disappointments, dark futures, fears, and anxieties are not the end of our journey through life.
Also for us, as for Christ, for Abraham, and for the disciples, something beautiful lies ahead. And God grants us once in a while such mountain experiences, not only now during this celebration when we join for a moment the apostles and Jesus in their mystical experience. Facing the reality of suffering in daily life God provides us again and again with moments of peace, with moments of joy, with moments of feeling ourselves close to God – especially when we spend some quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament.
Let’s cherish these moments. Let’s not take them for granted. Let’s thank God for such moments because he grants them to give us the strength to face and conquer what lies ahead.