From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

Journey to the Mountaintop

Genesis 12:1-4;    2 Timothy 1:8-10;    Matthew 17:1-9

When Abram was 75 years old, at rest in a comfortable village of his own people, — somewhere in southern Iraq, we are told — God’s blessing came by calling him to move toward a new place. It was a land far from his own, between Turkey and Syria, and it was already occupied by a people alien to him.

In the Far East, the sons of Abraham terrorize each other in these same lands and in Palestine,. We have to wonder how Abram’s resettlement journey could possible bear hope for peace. And yet Abram’s moving into it is supposed to bear the blessing of God’s intimacy for “all the families of earth.”

Abram was called to let his material blessings go and walk into a future of mysteries, from the familiar, the self-serving, what he knew to what he did not  know, from what he had to what he did not have, from the comfortable to the strange and the unpredictable.  Today, most everything in our culture, education and employment encourages us to journey in the opposite direction: from what we do not have to what we think we want and need, making every effort to remove the strange and unpredictable in order to guarantee the safe and the secure.

In a similar way, three young men go up a mountain with Jesus whom they have grown to know as friend. They return down the mountain men called to believe what they think they saw. Jesus reveals Himself as more than friend. They see Him talking with Moses, a representative of the law, and Elijah, a prophet. Their friend, they see, is keeping pretty good company. They see their friend in a different light, a light so strong that it baffles the senses. They hear words which challenge their knowledge. They have known Him in one way and now they are being asked to give up that familiarity and move to an “out-of-sight” relationship involving not knowing, not seeing, but listening and walking back down the mountain in faith.

Abram left his familiar relationship with God through the land. The three apostles had to relate with Jesus by trusting in what happened when their friend was transfigured into their Lord.

Lent is calling each of us to embrace the familiar for what it is, a blessing. We are being called also to embrace the unfamiliar for what it is, a blessing as well. We love the security of the known and can hug it, possess it and make it our own, identity, our little god. We can relate habitually with the same ideas, friends, places, and no longer experience them as the blessing-gifts they  were meant always to be.

The Jesus of our younger days, as with the three mountain-climbers of today’s Gospel, changes. Maturity involves seeing former things, persons, ideas, differently as we advance.

Perhaps the three companions of Jesus could never explain what had happened “up there”. They were learning to walk with Jesus with their human doubts about Him and themselves. The big thing is they did walk into their futures less confined by the human demand to know and explain perfectly. The three transfixed-followers who witnessed the Transfiguration  hadn’t  seen perfectly, could not explain it perfectly, what they saw did not make them perfect, but they walked back down the mountain to continue their journey with Jesus more on the level of faith. We believe, because we kind of understand. Like love, we go deeper into it so we can find out our security is in the fact of Jesus more than the facts about Him.

The longest and hardest journey is not the journey without but the journey within.  Abraham’s journey becomes a metaphor for our spiritual journeys. The geography of Canaan pales in comparison to the complexity of the human heart.  It is far easier to leave Canaan than to leave greed and seek self-giving, to travel from envy, regret, apathy and bitterness and arrive at destinations such as gratitude, service and forgiveness.

You see, Lent is not about giving up chocolate, meat or alcohol. Those are only external reminders of an internal transformation that we seek.  Our ultimate journey is to move from a self-centered heart curved in on itself to an other-centered openness to the love of God, a love for others, and a love for all God’s world. That, of course, is a journey that lasts a lifetime.

The twin journeys of our outer choices and our inner hearts are closely intertwined.  Each one shapes the other. The outer choices we make, for example, about our time and how we use it, our money and how we spend it, our jobs and how well we do it, in some mysterious way, shape the person we are becoming, so that in a sense, we form ourselves by a lifetime of accumulated decisions. We decide our own journey. It’s destination is not as uncertain as it seems.

And so therefore, as we grow in the inner depths of our hearts, we learn to make choices that are wise and good for both us and for others.

Pastor Craig Barnes once wrote: The truly good news of Jesus is that “all of the roads belong to God”, and that “the Savior can use any road to bring us home.”  Quoting CS Lewis, he reminds us that God can even use the wrong roads to take us to the right places.

 

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