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Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Mountain of Prayer is where we can see God's Plans

Growing up in Indiana, I've always been fascinated with mountains. I've not been able to climb many mountains in my life, so when I have, the experiences aren't really forgotten. Three times (In 6th grade and in high school and just a few years ago) I was able to be in the mountains of Colorado. I've been in the Italian Appenines visiting Assisi and the region around there. I've skied a few times in some good mountains with my friends. I think that's it. I love them. They are special places that will never get old for me. You know, Saint John Paul II loved the mountains, especially skiing. So did Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassatti, a remarkable saint who died at an early age.
But back to mountains. In Genesis Chapter 15, Abraham gets a glimpse of God's plans for him on top of a mountain. In Luke chapter 9, Peter, James & John encounter the same even as Jesus reveals a glimpse of His hidden glory to them. Mountains are special places for deeper vision. They are closer to heaven. We see earth from a totally different perspective: even though we can see much more, we also see less of the sharp, intense details of the small things. Our focus on the next five minutes switches to our ultimate goals. That change of focus is exactly what Abraham and the 3 disciples needed. They were too bogged down in the immediate concerns of their life to remember the big picture.
Abraham talks with God about his future. He doesn't see how God is planning to make good on the promise of numerous descendants since he has no son as of yet. So God take him outside and has him look at the stars. What's interesting in this passage, though, is that just a couple verses later (after preparing all the sacrificial animals and protecting them from carrion) then it becomes evening. Is God showing Abraham the stars in the middle of the day? Was Abraham keeping a night-vigil of prayer? Or was God reassuring Abraham by stressing that “Look, just because you can't see something doesn't mean that it isn't there.” We cannot tell for sure, but all three are good possibilities. I think the third does a great job of changing our perspective, reminding us that we creatures don't have it all figured out, and that God knows what He is about. It helps free Abraham from is imprisonment in the immediate things, and keeps him focused on the ultimate goal: God will fulfill His promises in His way.
Peter, James & John go up on the mountain one week after Jesus has just told them something heart-dropping: The Son of Man goes to Jerusalem to be rejected, crucified, and buried, but will rise on the third day. The disciples, naturally, cannot see past the first parts of this news to the last. They are stuck on the fact that their powerful, miracle-working teacher, who has shown no signs of weakness or defeat, whom they know to be the Messiah, will have to die such an ignoble death. So Jesus consoles them with this mountain-top experience to broaden their vision. He shows some of His glory, so that they might be able to “look past” the upcoming trauma of the crucifixion, and trust in the Lord's plans.

Lent is a time for us to receive the same gift as was given Abraham, Peter, James, & John. We have our own trials in life. We all have things that are sucking up our attention when they shouldn't be. We all need mountain-top experiences. And these events can only be found if we are people of deep prayer. If we are “with the Lord” and make sacrifices of our time and energy to be vulnerable to Him as Abraham was. Climbing a mountain is never easy, but it is always worth it. Prayer may be a sacrifice, but it is always worth it. When we are lost and cannot find our way, the best thing to do is get on high ground and see where we should go. This is what the Lord wants to do for us this Lent. Lord Jesus, give us the courage to climb after you and let you lead us to a deeper vision of our lives and futures. Amen.

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