Second Sunday of Lent (Year B)
1st Reading: Genesis 22 v 1-2, 9-13, & 15-18
2nd Reading: Romans 8 v 31-34
Gospel: Mark 9 v 2-10
I read somewhere on-line that mountains of one sort or another are mentioned in scripture over five hundred times! And that’s not surprising when, in Psalm 67 for example, the word is mentioned six times in just two sentences when it says: The mountains of Bashan are mighty mountains; high-ridged mountains are the mountains of Bashan. Why look with envy, you high-ridged mountains, at the mountains where God has chosen to dwell?
Mountains have a significance all of their own in that, on many occasions, they are where people encounter God. In Greek mythology, mountains are the dwelling-place of the gods, their tops reaching up to what we would call heaven. And so in scripture also, God is to be found – God is encountered – on mountain tops, and that is the case in both our first reading and our gospel today.
God instructs Abraham to take his son Isaac and go up the mountain that he will show him. The account in Genesis doesn’t say which mountain, but it will be where Abraham will encounter God, the place where God will put Abraham’s faith and trust in him to the test. And because he demonstrates his faith in God the mountain becomes the place where God confirms the promise that he had made to Abraham when he first called him, to make him the father of a great nation, God’s chosen people – Israel.
And then in the gospel Jesus takes four of his apostles 1900ft up Mt Tabor to witness his transfiguration which, along with the voice of God the Father which they hear, confirms the faith of the apostles in who Jesus is, and sets them up for the mission for which he is preparing them. Again the mountain is a place of encounter with God. We too experience God in the high points of our own lives – especially, for example, on retreats and, of course, in the celebration of the eucharist when, hopefully, we can say with St Peter: “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here”. And it will be even more wonderful when, hopefully not too long from now, we are going to be able to gather in unrestricted numbers to celebrate the eucharist together once again, and our mission (then and now) will be to live what we have celebrated and experienced on the mountain – our faith strengthened and confirmed by the word of God and nourished by the sacrament we have received – and then to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by our life”.