2nd Sunday of Lent

Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18    Romans 8:31-34    Mark 9: 2-10

TransfigurationSomeone once said that “Great things happen when men and mountains meet”.  Our scripture readings today certainly point to the important place mountains have in the history of our Salvation.  The experience of being on top of a mountain gives us a broader perspective of the surrounding countryside and, indeed, of life in general.  Not surprisingly in the Bible, mountains are usually associated with divine encounters. But when we reach the top of a mountain we are only half-way on the full journey!  There is always the decent from that height and that can also be the challenging part of the journey.  Climbing the mountain is symbolic of the effort and learning that goes into achieving the goal.  If the goal has been to build for something in the future then the decent is filled with the blessings and benefits of effort and learning.

Abraham and Sarah were given the gift of their son, Isaac, by God. The name Isaac means ‘the expression of the smile of God.’  Abraham’s journey to the top of the mountain in Moriah required all the effort of a faithful servant of God.  And his willingness to sacrifice his most important gift was blessed by God’s smile. And so, his descent of the mountain, the second half of the journey of his life was to be lived out as the father of a great nation and people. 

The three apostles, Peter, James and John, climbed the mountain just after hearing, for the first time, the prediction by Jesus of his rejection, his death and his rising from the dead. On reaching the top of mountain Jesus was transfigured and revealed for who he was. And, though they did not fully understand, the descent of the mountain had them prepared for all that was to come and the journey to Jerusalem.

I quoted the saying “great things happen when men and mountains meet”.  It occurred to me that it is usually men that we see on the mountains of Scripture! I wondered ‘why not women?’  I then remembered that it was into the ‘hill-country’ that Mary travelled. The challenge of the climb may not seem as great.  But the constant effort of ups-and-downs, of changing pace and adapting to the difficulties and uncertainties and worries of the journey can call for great courage and strength and faith. This was what Mary had and surely it earned a greater ‘smile of God’. 

The spirituality which is centred on the Cross has its limitations but it does prepare us to persevere with the Lord through suffering and darkness and times of dryness in our prayer. Today’s scripture readings show us that we need always remember that before God tests the soul he will first have given us his smile and his joy. The bread that we are given is blessed before it is broken. Abraham enjoyed the smile of God before he was tested. The three apostles glimpsed the glory of Jesus before the experience the rejection and humiliation.

The view from mid-way of the mountain journey was a blessed one of light and surely it was this light that sustained them in the darkness of Gethsemane and in the days after Jesus went from them. We are given these lessons and glimpses of hope in today’s liturgy to encourage us on our Lenten journey. 

May we be blessed on this journey by the loving smile of God!