Lectionary Readings: Gen 22 1-2, 9-13, 15-18 / Ps 116 / Rom 8:31b-35, 37 / Mk 9:2-10
Have you ever been up a mountain either on foot or on vehicle and simply enjoy the views from up top? I recall my grade 10 trip to Algonquin Park and hiking was one of the activities and the small group of us young men with the teachers went up Booth’s Rock. Even though the journey was tiresome up hill, the view up top was worth it, especially on a cool autumn day where you would see trees down below with red, orange, yellow and some green leaves. Nearly two years ago, I recall the time I spent in Europe within the short 12-days journeying through Spain, Southern France and Italy. Specifically, I recall a day in France visiting Les Baux-de-Provence. It was cold a morning and I only wore a hoodie. However, I enjoyed the views from the top just looking down. The last instance I would like to speak was that of Assisi. Assisi, indeed a “city on the hilltop,” looking down to the green valleys down below… simply breathtaking.
In today’s readings, we hear of mountains. In the first reading, we read of the great faith of Abraham in which God tells him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” (Gen 22:2, emphasis added) In the Gospel, we hear of the story of the transfiguration, which begins with the line, “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.” (Mt 17:1) What is the significance of mountains? When we hear of mountains in the Bible, especially in the context of today’s Lectionary readings, there is one common theme – test.
Among the figures being led up to God to a mountain, they first of all had total freedom as to reject the instruction and go about their own way. I think the men in today’s readings had to have much trust in God, trusting that God will lead them and do something better than what they could think of. Here is the thing – when we stay within our bubble and resist walking up and down life’s mountains, we become confined to our little space and our understanding becomes limited. No one will stop you from not going up the mountain, but the truth is, you are missing out.
The end of the test is the glory. Going up the mountain is always the most difficult part, but the result that you get from going up the mountain is always rewarding. For many it might be the view up top, or for some it might merely be the fact that one challenged themselves up the hill – that is the glory.
“If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom 8:31b) Our spiritual lives is consisted many mountains or battles. We know God is with us, but like St. Paul in his letter to the Romans in the second reading today, we should ask, “who is against us?” We can answer, “Oh evilness, the devil, Satan, etc…” However, we have the total choice to choose God than evil. Thus, the obstacle that discourages us is ultimately ourselves. Bl. Carlo Acutis once said, “What good is it for a man to win a thousand battles if he then fails to win himself?”
That is what Lent is all about, it is a battle, a journey up the mountain which is challenging. We face mountains physically, mentally and spiritually but who do we turn to when we face these trials? We must turn to God and trust in Him, like Abraham, like the disciples in today’s Gospel who without hesitating went up the mountain. They did not know what was going to happen, but they trusted wholly in God. Yet, we to achieve that, we must train ourselves to place ourselves constantly in the presence of God and His loving care. When we start to rely on ourselves and confine us to our very egos, we will go no where. If you fail, admit that you failed and move on.
Lastly, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37) So, even in the midst of life’s mountains, let us keep our heads high and keep our gaze on God who alone is the glory that our heart longs for.