Sunday Scriptures

Spiritual Life Is About Climbing Mountains

By Father Christopher O’Connor

Around All Saints Day, my youth minister and I gave our Confirmation class an exercise. Each group of six students was given a saint and a short biography. They had 15 minutes to come up with a short skit about the life of the saint and perform the skit for the class.

One of the skits that stood out most for me was the one on Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.  The students put a bunch of chairs together and stacked a few on top of the others. One of the students, acting as Blessed Pier, climbed to the top of the chairs, while a narrator said that Blessed Pier liked to climb mountains to be closer to God. I was amazed by the students’ ingenuity and their insight.

They got the point but also showed how throughout history, going up the mountain to worship or pray was a common practice.

Abraham brought Isaac up the mountain for the sacrifice, Moses saw the burning bush up on a mountain, Moses brought the Israelites up a mountain to worship God, Elijah defeats the false prophets on a mountain and Jesus goes up the mountain to pray about who the 12 Apostles will be. In today’s Gospel, Jesus goes up the mountain for the Transfiguration.

In this incredible event, Jesus gives a glimpse of His future glory in the Resurrection. He just previously told the Apostles about His impending death at the hands of authorities.

As He is praying, Jesus’ face changed in appearance just as Moses’ face would change as he entered the meeting tent with God. His clothes become dazzling white as Elijah and Moses appear with Him.

Luke makes a distinction which the other synoptic Gospels do not. The other Gospels mentioned that Jesus was conversing with Elijah and Moses, but only Luke tells us about what they were conversing: “his exodus.” That word means departure, recalling the exodus that Moses led from Egypt to free the Israelites from the yoke of slavery. The exodus of Jesus will free us from the yoke of slavery to sin.

Peter is amazed by this event on the mountain and does not want it to end. He probably recalls the words of Jesus speaking of His impending death and he wants to prolong this glorious moment. As he suggests to make three tents, the cloud comes down on the mountain. Being good Jews, Peter, John and James, would have a good idea about what is happening. They would remember how the cloud came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with Moses, how the cloud would lead the Israelites through the desert and how the cloud would cover the Tabernacle. This is the reason why they are frightened: They know they are in the presence of God.

Then God speaks. A very short phrase, easy to remember and full of meaning: “This is my chosen Son; listen to Him.”

God calls Jesus His Son, which means He is greater than Moses and Elijah, who represent the law and the prophets of the Old Testament. These two men are revered throughout Judaism and the voice says that Jesus is greater than them. As such, His words must be heeded.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading that “our citizenship is in heaven.” The goal of every Christian must be to get to heaven. It is promised to us, but not assured if we do not listen to Jesus. All of our work on earth – all of our praying, fasting, almsgiving – is preparation to live as citizens of heaven.

Homeland of Heaven

You cannot come to the United States and just expect to become a citizen. You have to work for it and eventually take a test.  To enter into our true homeland of heaven, we also have a test and we will be judged by how much we listen to Jesus.  Listening does not mean just hearing the words, but acting on them and living them as Jesus intended.

​In our first reading, Abram, soon to be Abraham, is rewarded by God for his faithfulness, for listening to God’s Word and believing in it. God accepts the sacrifice of Abram and promises him that his descendants will be as numerous at the stars.

​St. John of the Cross wrote that all of the spiritual life is about climbing the mountain.

The ultimate goal is union with God, in particular, in heaven. He wrote that if you are not climbing the mountain, you are falling back down; there is no stopping.

In this Lenten season, we are invited to go up the mountain with Jesus and the only way we can get to the top is by listening to him.

Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Psalm 27: 1-14

Phillippians 3:17 – 4:1

Luke 13: 31-35

Father O’Connor is the pastor of Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians parish, Woodside.

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