Come Down From the Mountain

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

February 25, 2024 – Second Sunday of Lent, Mark 9:2-10

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On my fiftieth birthday I climbed a famous mountain in Colorado called Pikes Peak. It is over 14,000 feet high and offers a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape. While there was a touristy gift shop atop, I thought it would be a wonderful setting for a home. But I immediately saw the impracticality of that. No one lives on a mountain top.

Today’s gospel is one that most of us are familiar with. It describes an event in the life of the closest disciples of Jesus when he was “transfigured” before them. Some biblical scholars say that Jesus assumed an appearance reminiscent of his resurrection. The scene is placed right before the account of his suffering and death. The contrast is obvious, one scene being horrendous and painful, the other being glorious and triumphant.

So a question arises: Which scene is more ordinary and everyday for us? Most would say neither. But perhaps much of our daily life has more aspects of limitation and frustration than of ecstasy and unbounded happiness. Life can be tough for many, and very challenging.

So what’s the message for us this Sunday? Is it one of despair or hope? The disciples Jesus took to that mountain top wanted to stay there. They wanted to erect permanent dwellings for themselves and Jesus. But Jesus told them that this was not possible. While he wanted to show them what was possible (and what would be theirs after death) but not what it was like to live during their days here on Earth.

St. Paul would later write that we cannot directly see God now, but we can catch a glimpse of God by looking through a dark glass. In a sense, God’s presence is hidden behind every element in creation. God is especially there in our lives when we encounter others with love in our hearts. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote those wonderful lines that are found in religious hymns: Where charity and love is there, God is ever found.

And God’s presence and wonders are not limited to mountain tops. Jesus said that his chosen disciples needed to come down from that mountain where they would not leave God’s presence, but experience God as present in all creation. Achieving this experience of God requires God’s help and sustained effort on our part. During the season of Lent, many of us begin noticing life return to nature. The word “lent” is connected with an ancient word meaning “springtime.” Noticing new life in nature can bring us a greater appreciation of God in this world, ever hidden, ever springing forth.

David M. Thomas, PhD   

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