Why We Can’t Stay on the Mountaintop – Following and Resting in Jesus

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Depiction of the Transfiguration, inside Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor

Depiction of the Transfiguration, inside Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor

“Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray.” In the Gospels there are several moments of significance when Jesus takes Peter, John and James to be alone with him. Here, on Mt. Tabor the three apostles will witness something that the other apostles did not. They will see Jesus glorified speaking with Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the Law and Elijah represents the prophets. All that God had revealed to His Chosen People could be summed up in the Law and the Prophets. Now, Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah and he is above them; he is the fullness of God’s revelation, being God and man.

Mt. Tabor is unlike most of the mountains or hills in the region which are usually connected or part of a chain. Mt. Tabor is a mountain all by itself in the middle of several valleys, only a few miles from Nazareth and Cana. As a matter-of-fact, you can see Nazareth from the top of Mt. Tabor, which you reach by way of a zigzagging road which is too narrow for a bus.

Nowadays, when you arrive at the top, you see a beautiful church with three domes; the one in the center is larger and taller because it is over the altar dedicated to Jesus Christ. The one on the left is dedicated to Moses and the one on the right is dedicated to Elijah. These three domes were inspired by the words of Peter, “…let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For the moment, Peter was caught up in the ecstasy of that mountaintop experience and wanted to remain on the mountain.

Church of the Transfiguration atop Mt. Tabor

Church of the Transfiguration atop Mt. Tabor

However, if they would have remained on the mountain, they would have neglected their mission. It is a temptation for all of us to hope we will find a place where everything will be okay and we won’t have to be concerned with trials and difficulties. However, that was not real life for the Apostles and it is not real life for us. The Lord will continue to take us to places where we must depend upon him so that we can become spiritually mature and be filled with hope, even in the most difficult circumstance.

By his transfiguration, Jesus is preparing Peter, James and John for the scandal they will witness when he enters into his Passion. As they follow Jesus, there will be many things they will see and hear that will challenge their faith, so Jesus has given these three this glimpse of his glory to strengthen them.

We are beginning the second week of Lent. The purpose of this liturgical season of Lent is to renew the mission of Christ in our lives so that by cooperating with his grace, we will be reconciled to God and one another. It doesn’t happen automatically. We must make concrete choices. That is why we once again look at prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a means of surrendering our hearts to the Lord. If we do not take time to pray, if we are not generous with what we have, and if we allow our appetites to dominate us, we are far from the kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ is not just a God of miracles that we look to in our time of need, hoping he will fix everything for us. Sometimes he does that, but most of all he wants a personal relationship with us that draws us into intimate and fervent prayer, that leads us to trust him completely with every aspect of our lives. This trusting relationship will free us from anxious dependency on our own resources so that we will be generous with what we have, knowing that God cannot be outdone in generosity.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves and the people we love is to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus by being faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church. He is the one who brings peace and happiness into our lives, but on his terms because he knows what is best for us. If we do not look to God for direction as we make our plans, we are destined for unhappiness.

St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless O’ Lord until they rest in you.” Lord, you have created us to be in relationship with you. There is no other way we can reach our potential for happiness. Give us the grace Lord to love you above everything else and our neighbor as our self so that we may be happy now and for all eternity. Let our prayer be, Lord I desire that my heart should rest in you.

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