Strength from the Mountaintop

The following is Deacon Dan’s homily for the Second Sunday in Lent (March 20, 2011)

In the Bible, mountaintops are privileged places for encountering God, for having life-changing experiences with God. It was on a mountaintop that God first spoke to Moses from the burning bush. It was on a mountaintop that the prophet, Elijah heard God speak to him as well – not from a burning bush, but with a “still, small voice.”

God speaks to all of us in different ways at different times. For Jesus and three of his disciples, it was also on a mountaintop that they hear God’s voice as he proclaims: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This isn’t the first time we hear God proclaim in public that Jesus is His son and that he is pleased with him. We hear it when Jesus is baptized in the Jordan, as Jesus begins his public ministry. In today’s Gospel, God again proclaims his love for his son as Jesus begins his journey to the resurrection.

Sometimes, in special occasions in our lives, we also “hear” or “feel” God in a special way.

My guess is that most of us have experienced some type of mountaintop moment in our lives; times or moments when we felt God’s presence almost palpably; times we knew with absolute certainty that God was watching over us and guiding us. Maybe it was when you were on a retreat. Maybe it was when you made your first communion. Maybe it was in the midst of a tragedy, a difficulty, or a sickness. Or, for you, maybe it was some other event where, in that particular moment in time you saw, or heard, or felt God in a different way.

I know that my wife, Becky, and I felt that way this Thursday when our daughter gave birth to our first grandchild, Claire Anne, an Irish lass born on St. Patrick’s Day.  If you’re a parent or grandparent, you know the joy such a moment brings. And, chances are, in a moment like that, you are tempted to be like Peter in the Gospel and want to capture that moment in time and hold on to it. Peter wanted to erect three tents and allow Jesus, Elijah and Moses to stay on top of that mountain for as long as they wanted.

Well, if you’ve ever had a mountaintop experience you know that you can’t stay on that mountain forever. Eventually you have to walk down the mountain and continue your life as normal (whatever “normal” may be). That’s what Jesus told his disciples. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them to not let anyone know what they had witnessed until “the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Jesus was telling them to go about their work; following God’s plan and let God’s will be done.

Jesus knew that the days ahead would be difficult for him and his followers. He knew that no one would believe the story of the Transfiguration until his passion, death and resurrection. But Jesus also knew that the mountaintop experience his disciples enjoyed would provide strength for the journey.

I have a real simple, but valuable exercise for you this week – something to think about, and to pray about as you continue your Lenten journey. Think about the mountaintop experiences you have enjoyed in your lifetime. Reflect on the time, the place, and the circumstances when you felt the presence of God is a special way. Allow those thoughts to renew your faith in God’s goodness and wisdom.

With renewed faith, we will be able to live Lent well, listening to Christ and obeying his will.

Copyright © Deacon Dan Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.

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