Fr Anthony Charanghat
Two weeks into our Lenten Journey, and the Liturgy calls us to the mountaintop experience of personal encounter with God that offers us the truth of Jesus and a glimpse of His glory erupting through His humanity. It was the identical call that the three apostles received at this sacred moment on Mount Tabor. This call to the mountain of prayer and worship that manifested the Transfiguration of Jesus is the key to our trip to Transformation in the season of Lent.
Peter, James and John, who were privileged to be there, had a startling experience of Jesus' face and clothes changed, and Moses and Elijah in conversation with Him. Then came the voice of the Father, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him." Those words of the Father are at the heart of this moment. This experience will enter the deep memory of the apostles, and will sustain them in difficult times ahead, because these same apostles will be with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.
Here they had an experience of Christ's glory that would bolster them through the Passion and death of Jesus. They were told to listen to the words of Jesus about His own sufferings and passage into glory, because that will be their own journey as well. They will know the suffering in their own life, and this experience of the mountain will give them the assurance of glory.
For all of us, Mount Tabor represents the mountain of worship. At the Eucharist, we rise in the very presence of God. In our life, we need the mountain of worship to help us in the valley of work that we have to do here on earth. All of us need to move back and forth between the mountain and the valley.
There is always the tendency to emphasise one over the other. There is the desire, like Peter, to stay on the mountain. Jesus was there in radiant power, with Moses and Elijah from the past. The Law and the prophets all came together in one place. The problems of the world were left behind. Peter wanted to freeze that moment, and hold it like a snapshot. We all have had such moments, and for some people, their Christian faith is exclusively that—a retreat, an interlude and an escape.
But then there is the valley. The valley is where people live, work and navigate their struggles. Many do not take time for the mountain, but they desperately need its grace, its moral clarity and its spiritual power. Without the mountain of worship, we lack spiritual resources, and can easily be burned out and depleted without a moral compass. Without the valley, we end up with a religion of escape or private religious experience that transforms nothing, redeems no one, and is isolated from the world.
We all need the mountain, and we all need the valley. On the mountain of worship, we inhale the power of Grace and the truth of Christ. In the valley, we exhale the life and spirit of Christ to those with whom we love and work. On the mountain, we draw spiritual life and vitality. In the valley, we breathe out that life to others.
The words of the Father on the mountain: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him" are also directed to us. Do we listen to Him? The Lord speaks to us in Scripture and the Sacraments, but also through the failures of our life. The Lord can speak to us through difficult relationships and conflicts. The Lord can speak to us through illness. The tragedy of the Cross is woven into the triumph of His Resurrection. Are we willing to listen to the Lord when called this Lent to endure suffering and pain as a path to deeper life and glory like His?
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