Our readings this weekend mention two mountains on which people had an extraordinary experience of God: the mountain Abraham climbed with his son Isaac, and the mountain that Peter, James and John climbed with Jesus.
For some reason mountains have always had a strong connection with our imagination and the experience of accomplishment, encounter, fulfilment and happiness. If we use the imagery of our Scripture passage for today, we call it a “mountain experience”. It is an experience of fulfilment, like celebrating a birthday or passing an exam. It is that experience that words can’t quite capture, that euphoric feeling you have graduating from school or university, your first pay packet or your honeymoon after the wedding. Whatever the experience that comes to mind for you there is an understandably human urge to want that moment of sheer bliss to last forever. For a moment it reinforces everything that is good and worthwhile in life!
If you know what I am talking about then perhaps you are getting close to the kind of experience the three disciples had on the mountain. It was their “mountain top experience”.
They were so overwhelmed by their happy experience that none of them wanted to end it. Peter famously said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Who in their right mind would want to go back to their ordinary life? You can almost imagine the 3 disciples saying, “Let’s stay here. Let us just be happy. I do not want to have problems anymore. I do not want to go back down the mountain and confront all my problems.”
But a voice said to them, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” God wanted the disciples to be realistic. As Jesus led them up a high mountain to experience happiness, Jesus would also lead them down to face the ordinariness and messiness of life. They do so, however, this time with a new perspective. Life is not simply a search for happiness but a journey with God.
We all need mountains in our lives. Life can be flat, routine sometimes even dull. Now and then, we need high mountains, not just little hills, mountains that take us to great heights and give us an experience of God that stays with us long after we’ve come down from the mountain.
Sometimes I wonder if we are inclined to settle for small hills now and then, because it takes too long and it’s too much work to climb a mountain. Perhaps this Lent we might have the imagination to move beyond our normal routine, climb the mountain, to open ourselves to the possibility of experiencing God and, in the process, allowing God’s grace and that experience to make sense of our lives, our relationships and the highs and lows of living authentically these remaining weeks of Lent.
Wishing you every blessing as we, together, begin to live the second week of Lent,
Fr Peter Brannelly