By: Daniel Cadrin, OP
Last Sunday, we entered Lent following Jesus in the desert, ant then on the road to proclaim the Good News. On this second Sunday, we continue our journey, both personal and ecclesial, with a new step, an ascent, which requires an effort, followed by a more contemplative pause. Today, we are on the mountain.
In the desert, on the road or on the mountain, we are in the most important places of the encounter with the living God in the Scriptures. There is also the temple, where we will be next week. The mountain is more related to God’s greatness and glory. Elijah and Moses went to this place, which was central in their religious journey. Now it is the turn of Jesus and his disciples to experience the mystery of the mountain and its call.
But here it is in Jesus himself that God’s presence is revealed. We find the usual signs indicating this mysterious presence, which is beyond us: the light, the cloud, the voice; and two people already linked to the mountain, Elijah and Moses, heralds of the First Covenant. Both, Elijah the prophet and Moses the guide, come to be associated with Jesus, the Messiah who inaugurates the renewed Covenant.
Before this strong experience on the mountain, the disciples recognized Jesus as the Messiah. “You are the Christ,” said Peter. But then, Jesus told them that he would pass through death and the cross. Shock and scandal for Peter and the disciples: how could a Messiah be weak and die crucified? It is disfiguring the Messiah.
Jesus takes the three disciples, who are closer to him, and leads them up a high mountain. Then and there, they can grasp a little more that Jesus is truly God’s messenger, in whom God’s greatness and glory are present. It is the most intimate disciples of Jesus who have access to his luminous face; as if the intimacy with Jesus makes us enter more deeply into his identity, helps us to glimpse it, even for a moment.
The disciples are overwhelmed by this experience: they do not know what to say. Often in Mark, the disciples just do not understand. And here, they would also like to settle down in this place: it is more reassuring than the challenges and conflicts down the mountains, in the plains. And at the end, they ask themselves: rising from the dead: what is he talking about? Is it not at the end of time …
But the core element of this story, beyond and through all the convened signs and the reactions, comes from the Word, the heavenly voice that is the voice of the Scriptures (Is, Dt), the same voice that was heard at the baptism of Jesus. This voice calls us to listen to Jesus: “Yes, this Jesus is indeed my Son, beloved; you can trust him, follow him. He will disturb and surprise you, he speaks of cross and risk, but his way is the way that leads to Life. I fully approve.” In our prayers, we say: “Lord, listen to us”. But here the roles are reversed: we are the ones who are called to listen to Jesus.
On their uncertain and confused road, like ours, the disciples, at least for a short time, experience a unique light that can sustain them. The road ahead, following Jesus, will be difficult, even incomprehensible. But a light has shone in their darkness.
These experiences on the mountain are temporary, one cannot settle there. Suddenly, everything is back to normal and we have to go back down to the plains, to the everyday life, with unresolved questions. But the experience on the mountain remains in the most intimate part of oneself.
What are these mountains where, alone or with others, I have glimpsed this amazing light, this face that illuminates? A special place, a special time, an intense celebration, an inspiring group, an enlightening encounter, a moving event, a luminous word, an experience of beauty through art, … In this time of Lent, it may be worth going back there for a visit. And what do these experiences on the mountain invite me to hear, to listen to?
Today’s three readings speak about filiation. In Genesis, Abraham and Isaac: Abraham who gives his son, but who also discovers that God wants life and not death, and does not want children sacrificed, an important passage in the history of religious traditions. Paul reminds us in Romans of the heart of our faith: Christ dead and risen, who loves us and is the Son of God given to us. And in Mark, the voice and the beloved Son. The transfigured Christ, our elder brother, assumes all our humanity and shows us our true vocation: we are called to enter with him into beauty and light.
May this light shine in our hearts today, may we glimpse it, even for a moment, on our ordinary or more solemn mountains. May we listen to the Word that comes from this light, may it be a source of peace and trust within us. And may we, in turn, be able to radiate it around us, in its discreet radiance that enlightens and warms.
Let us give thanks for the luminous face of Christ, who comes close to us on this mountain of our Eucharistic celebration. Amen.