Wednesday, February 28, 2018

CLIMB THAT MOUNTAIN: a homily for the Second Sunday of Lent year B (Mark.9:2–10)

The audio is here.
            I hope that all or most of you have climbed a mountain at some point.  It's one of the things one should do in life.  The view from the top makes the effort worth the while.  It is no surprise then that mountains appear again and again in the history of religions.  They are a natural symbol of the upward journey to God.  We have one here in this church and in every church.  I am standing on top of it.  It is the sanctuary where the altar and the tabernacle stand.  It is a symbolic mountain for it stands not only for Calvary where they crucified our Lord but also for Sinai where Moses received the Law and for Tabor where He was transfigured.
            It was in late Summer that the Lord took His disciples up Tabor.  We know this because Peter talks about making tents or booths for our Lord, Moses and Elijah.  At the harvest festival of Tabernacles, when people stayed out in the fields, they made shelters from the branches of the trees and so Peter thinks of making shelters on the mountaintop. 
            Our Lord brings His closest men up the mountain so when at its top He is transformed, transfigured, they can be reassured and strengthened for the trial to come, the trial of His suffering and death.  He allows His Divinity to shine through His humanity and so illumine these men.  Moses and Elijah appear, Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the greatest of the prophets, speaking to our Lord.  They stand for the whole of Jewish religion pointing to Jesus as its completion and fulfilment. 
            The apostles cannot comprehend what they are seeing.  They are stunned at this mystery.  Peter then, as usual, puts his foot or rather his mouth, in it.  He speaks as if our Lord were merely on a par with Moses and Elijah.  A cloud descends, an event that happened often in the Old Testament when God appeared, and a voice from Heaven speaks: "This is my Beloved Son.  Listen to Him."  What more affirmation does one need?  Still they do not grasp what has been revealed to them.  They are obedient to our Lord but they still argue over what 'resurrection from the dead' means.
            At every Mass we come to the Mountain of the Lord.  At every Mass we are in the Presence of the Lord.  At every Mass the Sacrifice of the Lord on Calvary offered to the Father but that is so much, much more than it appears.  On Calvary our Lord offered to the Father His entire Divine Person through His humanity on our behalf.  He offered the Father His total, absolute and unconditional obedience and His utter worship, the total adoration, obedience and worship that He gives freely in eternity to the Father.  He made it visible, and available to us, in becoming human and, above all, in His suffering and death on the Cross. He offered it freely, gladly, to the Father on our behalf.  His sacrifice infinitely outweighs any and all sins that the human race could ever commit.  It is an inexhaustible fountain of mercy and forgiveness.
            At every Mass therefore we come to adore Him at Calvary and yet more than Calvary.  The Christ we adore and receive is not the crucified Christ, still less the dead Christ, but Christ reigning in glory in the heart of the Trinity.  We receive all of God in Holy Communion for He holds nothing back.  Only the cloud of our weak senses and our weak faith prevents us from seeing that glory.  We are blinded by the dust of this world's smog and choked by the fumes of its lies.  We need to climb up above it by our spiritual warfare, by praying, fasting, and giving to the poor.  By ascending the mountain in Lent we prepare to face the Lord not only on Calvary but on that Holy Mountain that is Heaven.
            Unfortunately we cannot be all the time on the mountain of the Mass not in this world.  We are sent out to our neighbour to draw them to the Lord.  We return to the mountain by taking Lent seriously.  We return to the mountain by prayer.  You may have heard of a 'spiritual communion.'  A 'spiritual communion' can be made whenever circumstances prevent us from going to Holy Communion.  Perhaps we are sick in bed, detained by some urgent act of charity or not in a state of grace with no chance to confess yet we want to receive the Lord.  Then we can turn to Him, repenting of our sins, and ask Him that He still make available to us those graces we would have had if we could receive Holy Communion.  He will not deny us what we ask in faith and repentance.  But one can make such a communion anytime, anywhere, whenever we desire to receive the Lord.  The saints recommend us to do so frequently.  Indeed every time we pray it should involve a 'spiritual communion' where we return in faith to the foot of the Holy Mountain of His Presence and ascend to Him, asking for those graces He desires to pour out upon us.  He delights in blessing us.  All prayer, whenever we lift our heart and mind to God, is an ascending of that mountain, a seeking of God's merciful Presence. 
            Not only at every Mass but whenever we read the Scriptures, and above all the Gospels, the Beloved Son of the Father speaks to us and we are commanded by the Father to listen.  The Father has nothing more to say since He has said everything in His Son.  How can we claim to be Christians if we do not even read or listen to His words?  How can we be His sheep if we do not even know the Shepherd's voice? 
            I often recommend that people read Scripture and to want to know more is a holy and noble desire.  The Bible, Scripture, is not a single book but a library and it can be confusing without a map or a plan for reading it and it helps if one has a guide.  If you want to know more about Scripture then I recommend that you read it with the Church, that is, with Her liturgy.  The best way to do this is to invest in a Sunday Missal and, if your pocket stretches that far, even a daily Missal.  In this way we can read and pray our way through the Church's year, listening to the Lord speaking to us in manageable pieces.  In addition the prayers from the Mass are included so that one can use these as models for one's own prayer.
            No one can climb the mountain for you.  Each of us must choose to go up to the Lord or not.  No one who has made the effort ever regretted the climb.  

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