Jesus took Peter, James and John and went up the mountain to pray. Today’s gospel is one of Jesus’ many mountain experiences. Before choosing the twelve apostles, Jesus went up the mountain and spent all night in prayer. After the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus went up the mountain and spent the night in prayer. Jesus spoke of his charter for the Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. At the Mount of Olives, Jesus prayed his heart out to the Father, hours before his death.
Those who go on retreat sometimes compare this time apart to a mountaintop experience. Being away from the sounds that confront us every day, away from e-mails, cell phones, pagers, news broadcasts and other distractions, we have an opportunity to truly listen to God’s voice as the apostles were asked to do in today’s gospel – “This is my beloved Son, … listen to him.” Abram in today’s first reading answered God’s call to leave his homeland and his father’s house and became a blessing for others and in turn be blessed by those who received him.
Mountaintop experiences often arise out of the desert, when we are away from luxury and excess, and can focus on essentials. This is perhaps one reason why Lent can be such a powerful experience – our usual routine is disturbed – without clutter or distraction, we listen more attentively. In this stance we may be more open to, and be able to accept more freely, God’s transforming ways working in and through us, by our prayer, fasting and almsgiving of this holy season of Lent, as we climb the peaks to the Mountain of Easter.
Conquering the peaks to the Easter Mountain can be difficult if we really want to listen to and follow God’s voice. Timothy suggests to us today that we bear our share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.
Isaiah tells us that the fast God wishes is “relaxing the bonds of those unjustly tied, setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked and not turning your back on your own.” Our present world situations offer us many opportunities to practice this fasting right now. Are we willing to accept the challenge as Abram, Jesus and the Apostles were? Then, please God, we, on reaching our own Resurrection Summit, will each hear God’s voice say to us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.”(Mt. 25:40)
Perhaps the challenge for us in prayer is how to create more space in our busy lives for listening to God? How might we create an atmosphere of serenity in our lives, even for a few minutes each day? Can we sacrifice some time during the day, when we turn off the cell phone, the ipad or the soap operas, and listen to God speak to the heart. One may be graced during these moments of prayer with some Transforming Experience of Wisdom from the Word of Life, allowing us to accept and carry our daily crosses while endeavoring to climb to the summit of Easter Mountain. These graced moments can carry us forward to the Mount of Calvary and our final journey to the Easter Summit.
Therese Lenehan, O.P.