The Mountaintop Experience
Mountains are often used in the Bible as the stages of important encounters between God and his people. Though we may have never visited the lands of the Bible, we are all familiar with biblical mountains and the great events of our salvation history that took place there. On the second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading proclaims the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. The context for Mark’s Transfiguration story is similar to that found in both Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ prediction about his passion. After this, in each of these Gospels, there is also a discussion of the cost of discipleship. Also there is reference to Elijah and Moses. They are significant figures in the history of Israel. Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and received from Yahweh the Ten Commandments. In appearing with Jesus at his Transfiguration, Moses represents the Law that guides the lives of the Jewish people. Elijah is remembered as one of the most important prophets of Israel who helped the Israelites stay faithful to Yahweh. Some Jews believed that Elijah’s return would signal the coming of the Messiah for the Jewish people. This belief is evidenced in the question posed by Jesus’ disciples after they have witnessed the Transfiguration. The appearance of these two important figures from Israel’s history with Jesus signifies Jesus’ continuity with the Law and with the prophets and that Jesus is the fulfilment of all that was promised to the people of Israel.
The awesome Gospel story of the Transfiguration gives us an opportunity to look at some of our own mountaintop experiences. How have such experiences shed light on the shadows and darkness of life? What would our lives be without some of these peak experiences? How often do we turn to those few but significant experiences for strength, courage and perspective? How has the mountaintop experience enabled us to listen more attentively to God’s voice — a voice calling us to fidelity and authenticity in our belief? When we’re down in the valley we often can’t see Christ’s glory. The most consoling message of the Transfiguration is perhaps for those who suffer, and those who witness the deformation of their own bodies and the bodies of their loved ones. Even Jesus will be disfigured in the passion, but will rise with a glorious body with which he will live for eternity and, faith tells us, with which he will meet us after death.