Three Mountains

Feast of the Transfiguration

Why Do I Climb Mountains?

As many of you know, I love the wilderness and mountain climbing.  The feast today has challenged me to examine the question – Why do I climb mountains?

·     I climb mountains because I like the perspective from the top.  It changes your outlook on the world.
·     I climb mountains to find solitude with God.
·     I climb mountains because it is hard.  My friends and I enjoy the challenge.
·     I climb mountains to encounter nature –it’s beauty and ruggedness, nature that is raw, unruly and untamed.
·     I climb mountains to know that I am alive - it is not simulated or fake – it is creation at it’s best.

The Three Mountains of Scripture
There are 3 Mountains in scripture related to the Feast today.  Tabor – the Mount of the Transfiguration, Calvary – The Mount of the Crucifixion and Olivet – the Mount of the Ascension.

·     Tabor shows us the Glory of God, and teaches us that God comes to touch us.
·     Calvary shows us the Love of God, and teaches us that God can heal us from our sin.
·     Olivet teaches us the Reality of Heaven, it teaches us about our final destiny.

Fortunately, we cannot skip from mountaintop to mountain top, rather we need to descend into the valleys and then toil our way back to the top of the next peak.  Let’s examine the Gospel to see how Jesus climbs.

How Does Jesus Climb Mountains?
Jesus took Peter, James and John and climbed up a high mountain to be alone… 

Do not climb alone
The first thing that we notice in the Gospel today is that Jesus does not climb alone.  Climbing alone can be a bad idea, because if we get into trouble we have no one to help us.  Jesus brings along Peter, James and John to the top of Tabor because he wants them to experience the fullness of the Father’s Glory together – in community.

Am I climbing alone?  Time for community
For this reason Christ established the Church – that we journey together.  Who is in my Church?  Who is in the group that I can have those authentic faith-filled discussions with – my friends who share my faith and challenge me in my journey.  Is that my family?  Are these my friends?  Where do I find my companions for the journey?

Who do they encounter on the way?  Moses and Elijah
While they are on the way Jesus, Peter, James and John encounter Moses and Elijah.  They are conversing with Christ about the next mountain that Christ would climb – Calvary. 

Moses represents the Law – that is knowing how to be in relationship with God.  Elijah represents the Prophets – Knowing how to act out of our relationship with God.  These two men show us how to have an authentic relationship with God, and how to live out of that relationship.  It is a kinetic experience – it is moving and flowing and transforming.

Peter wants to memorialize this into the tabernacles.  He wants to get caught up in the here and now – yet Jesus reminds him that it is a journey that we are called to.

Then we encounter the presence of God the Father.
When I was younger I climbed Mount Massive, the second highest peak in Colorado.  We made it to the top on a windy and cloudy day.  While we were atop the mountain, looking off to the north west a cloud was blown up and onto the top of the mountain.  We were enshrouded in fog and the vast vista was cloaked in mystery.  After a minute or two a hole opened up in the sky and the sun shone down onto the cloud that we were in – atop the mountain and the fog was transformed into this curtain of dazzling bright white light.  It was as if we were trapped inside of a sun beam.  Everything was illuminated.

I imagine that this was the kind of experience that Peter, James and John had when the Father spoke to them atop Mt. Tabor – they found themselves wrapped in the presence of God the Father.  That presence can be terrifying because it illuminates the reality of where we are and where we are in our relationship with God.

Mount Calvary - Sin separates us from God. 
Our sin becomes like a mountain that divides us from God.  Our sin is why Jesus needs to go from Tabor to Calvary – to die to conquer the mountain of our Sin.  In the Psalm today the psalmist prays.  “The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the LORD of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory.”, and later on he prays “Because you, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth, exalted far above all gods.” 

When we harden our hearts with sin they become like mountains of rock that block us from the love of God, and when we choose to sin we make ourselves god in place of God – and yet when we have the opportunity to experience the Transfiguration like Peter, James and John the presence of God melts the mountains of our sin and we recognize the reality of God.  This is an experience of humility.

Jesus comes with a healing touch to cure our sinfulness
In the depths of their sin it is Christ who reaches out and touches them.  It is a human, a physical interaction that Christ performs to draw Peter, James and John out of the terror of the moment so that they can resume the journey with Him.

We experience the touch of Christ here in this liturgy tonight – He touches our ears when His word is proclaimed in the Mass.  He touches our hearts when we receive Him in the Holy Eucharist.  He calls us to touch others as we go out into the world this week to live out this Gospel.  Take a moment during this Mass and allow Christ to touch you.

Mount Olivet
After Calvary, Christ is raised from the dead and then leads the Church to Olivet – the Mount of the Ascension.  It is at Mount Olivet that we learn that Christ takes our Humanity into the fullness of the Divinity.  This is expressed in the vision from Daniel in the first reading today.  Here comes the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven he received dominion, glory, and kingship.  All things enter under the providence of God – the Truth of who we are, our sin is subjugated and we enter into life with God for eternity – it is the ultimate goal that we are created for, and that we strive for.

Why am I Catholic

I am Catholic for many of the same reasons that I climb mountains –
  • I desire a better perspective on life. 
  • I have fallen in love with the beauty of divinity.
  • I thrive on the Challenge to become a better man, a better person.
  • I love to work to grow closer to God – In Prayer, in my actions, in my deeds.
  • I am Catholic because I love the community – Like Peter, James and John I am not alone, but I have Brothers and Sisters who climb with me.
  • I am Catholic because I realize in my encounter with God that He is wild, unruly, untamed.  There is a rawness to the reality of God that energizes and inspires me.  Like Peter I can say that God is reality and not simulation, and the encounters that I have had with God inspire me to become more connected to Him in His totality.