Readings: Genesis 12:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-19
Living in the shadow of the Blue Ridge has made me sensitive to mountains in Matthew’s Gospel. It makes sense to me that when Jesus goes up a mountain, something special will happen.
Perhaps there’s an important clue in the first ascent: Satan takes him up a mountain to view the entire world. It’s a viewpoint above human civilization, a broader perspective than everyday survival that reduces the ambitions of the Roman Empire to insignificance. The mountaintop offers a global perspective, poised between creation and the Creator.
In today’s Gospel when Jesus climbs a mountain with Peter, James and John, something incredible, something overwhelmingly beautiful happens as Jesus is transfigured into light, conversing with Moses and Elijah.
Moses and Elijah, too, witnessed God’s presence on mountains. Both of them passed from this life in mysterious ways, leaving no trace behind. Free from time and mortality they’re ever available to help their people.
They are the true, connatural company of Jesus. Not the Jesus treading the dusty roads of Judea, but the Jesus who preached the Beatitudes, who prayed with the Apostles and was confessed as the Messiah, who healed the crowds and miraculously fed them with a few loaves and fishes–all mountaintop episodes according to Matthew.
This is the Jesus who will meet his followers after the resurrection on the mountain, promising to be with us always even to the end of the world.
This is the Jesus we meet when our human complexity stumbles into the simplicity of God and, for a moment, the perspective is clear in that heady atmosphere poised between creation and the Creator.
Then there’s talk of the suffering of the Son of Man–how unfortunate that the lectionary selection doesn’t continue for a few more verses! That’s where Jesus foretells this destiny. How could we evade the inevitable tragedy our convoluted human ways impose on God’s gift? Such a beauty is too fragile to survive our clumsy handling; all the same, isn’t it too true, too divine to be annihilated by our meanness?