“Rabbi, how good it is for us to be here!” Mark 9, 2-10.
On this Second Sunday of Lent, we have moved from the desert — to the mountains. Here we witness the Transfiguration, a “hold your breath moment” with Jesus, Peter, James, and John; and when we hear the voice of God saying: “This is my beloved Son!”
The Transfiguration in the New Testament was the creation theme in the thinking of Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Among his favorite quotes is this gem: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, rather we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Indeed, this event was high on a mountain, and as the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac – both are genuinely transformational moments. For Teilhard, creation is not fixed, and a once for all event. Rather an on-going transformative story.
We have a clue of this particular aspect of the story where Peter suggests building three tents to house Elijah, Moses, and Jesus. Most of us would want to hold that precious moment in time as if wrapped in cellophane or Glad Wrap, and yet, in reality, this can not happen.
Teilhard believes that the paschal mystery is an unfolding narrative for Christians and in Jesus – who comes down the mountain on his journey toward Jerusalem. Most important, Jesus takes us with him: to the cross and Easter with strength, skill, perseverance, and creativity. Here is an on-going creative love, a “new creation.”
So today, we have ascended to this mountain – “hold your breath!”
Back in January, the world was watching when Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson climbed the 3,000-foot wall of Yosemite’s El Capitan. Their form of “free climbing” was a straight-up climb of the Dawn Wall, that face of smooth granite and El Capitan’s most dangerous route. Many believe this is the hardest climb in the world. It took the men – 19 days to arrive at its peak on January 14th.
According to the sportswriter in the New York Times: “Caldwell and Jorgensen have ropes that catch them if they fall, but the ropes do not help them ascend in any way – rather progress is made with strength, skill, perseverance, and creativity.”
To have this “hold your breath moment,” we too need the strength, skill, perseverance, and creativity, to listen for the voice of God saying: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him!”
Scriptures find God in various locations – in the desert and on the mountain. Perhaps these are competing geographies: an Eden-like paradise surrounded with palm trees as if an oasis, or the high mountain –with its grand vistas and that sense of achievement after the hard climb up.
In any case, if Jesus were to call me, frankly, I would prefer to meet him on the beach. Point Lobos, here in Carmel, would be an excellent location for me.
These are the two rules for good climbing.
Rule One: Don’t climb mountains you are not ready to jump, or prepared to climb. Some hills are challenging and dangerous, requiring great agility, physical know-how, and long periods of training. Lent is a time of preparation for the challenging terrain ahead.
Rule Two: Having climbed the mountain and after having scaled its height and seeing its vistas, you come down a different person. You see things differently – a transfiguration, that “hold your breath” moment. It’s at these moments that you hear the voice of God more clearly: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!”
I’ve been told that coming down the mountain, a descent can be as dangerous as the ascent. So be careful. It’s on this journey with Christ – a journey that brings us to Jerusalem, the cross, and the resurrection, that makes us know more clearly that “we share Christ’s passion for the universe.” Each of us has a role in this on-going creation. In this, we find out who we are – as people of faith, hope, and love. We become human because Christ is “God’s human face among us.”
According to Teilhard: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, rather we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
San Carlos Cathedral, Monterey, CA.