Ups and Downs

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home Depositphotos_17213783_m-2015.jpg

February 25th, 2018 – Second Sunday of Lent
Mark 9:2-1

On my fiftieth birthday I climbed to the top of Pike’s Peak, a well-known mountain in Colorado. I could have used a tram to the top or comfortably drive in a car, but I wanted the full experience and the joy that could only come by reaching the summit on foot. I was not disappointed. I still savour that moment when I stood atop that 14,000-foot mountain. It was one of the memorable “ups” in my life.

This Sunday’s gospel is about ups and downs. Jesus took his closest disciples up to the top of a mountain. Then after experiencing wonder at the top, they came down. The disciples, especially the rambunctious Peter, wanted to stay at the top longer. He wanted the pure joy that he experienced with Jesus transformed, standing there with two of the great Jewish figures of the past, Moses and Elijah, to last and last. But that was not to be.

Jesus wanted them to have that special moment with him, but it was even more important that they return to their ordinary lives, the lives they experienced with its moments of difficulty, suffering, loss, uncertainty and everyday routines. Not only was it impossible for them to stay in a cloud of ecstasy, it would not be good for them. It could result in them being totally wrapped up in that experience of delight. Like children who don’t want to leave the ice cream store or adults who are stuck in their addictions.

Our lives are given to us by God to make the best out of the ordinary and not to have “the best” all the time, which, if we are honest, is always a kind of delusion. God created the best setting for us to live our lives. In that setting life is never perfect. It has, as we say, its ups and downs. That not only makes life interesting, but it also gives us challenges (the downs) to work with them and to change them for the better, to create something good and wonderful out of them.

We also have a few up moments. Times with family and friends that are deeply enjoyable. Perhaps during a delightful vacation. Perhaps when stirred to a feeling of deep reverence and peace during a religious ceremony. Perhaps while simply enjoying life by yourself in the comfort of your home. I recall an ancient rabbinic teaching that goes like this: God will hold us accountable for every pleasure sent that we don’t enjoy. Wow! God wants us to have those up moments. The point is to truly allow yourself those enjoyments. Accept them with gratitude. And move on. Like those disciples did when they returned to everyday life with expectations that there would be further ups and quite a few downs. Just like us.

©David M. Thomas, PhD