Mountain climbing is typically a very tasking activity with a lot of physical, mental, and emotional demands. Between May 10 and 11, 1996, about eight people lost their lives while trying to make it to the top of the highest peak in the world in Nepal. The mishap eventually got the name, “the Mount Everest Disaster.” Most people who succeed to touch down after scaling those heights tell tales of exhaustion, various degrees of injury, hypothermia, frostbite, reduced visibility, hypoxia, and other horrible experiences.
The Gospel Reading (Luke 9:28b-36) tells us that Jesus Christ took three of the apostles to the mountain to pray. One may like to know why he selected the trio of Peter, James, and John excluding others. The answer is evident in their activities within the group. Peter has already received the key after confessing through the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Luke 9:20; Matt. 16:16-19). On the part of James and John, they showed their ambition to sit at the right and left hands of Jesus in his glory. It only fitted that they experience that glory for which they were ready to give their lives (Mark 10: 35-40).
On reaching the mountaintop and at the point of prayer, our Lord Jesus Christ was transfigured before the three apostles. His face changed in appearance, and his clothing became dazzling white. Furthermore, two biblical figures, Moses and Elijah, appeared and were conversing with Jesus. The sight was very overwhelming for the three apostles, and Peter speaks requesting that he builds three tents for Jesus and the two celestial visitors, but then the impressive sight ends before he could conclude his request.
Climbing the Mountain vs. Our Lenten Journey
The ascent to the mountain starts with the conscious disengagement from the base of the mountain. To disengage, one needs to leave certain things behind to ascend with ease. In the case of our Lord Jesus Christ and his three companions, they left the other disciples and possibly the crowd at the base of the mountain to reach up to the peak of the mountain.
Summarily, to climb the mountain, one must give up the pleasures and comforts of the ground level. The Lenten Season is closely related to climbing a mountain. We are invited to give up those things that delimit our journey especially sin. Before the transfiguration event, Jesus did instruct that whoever wants to be his disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23).
A common aphorism has it that “the journey is more important than the destination.” The statement means that without a worthwhile journey the destination would be wishful thinking. On account of this, we often wish people a “safe journey” because it precedes the arrival hence the way you travel determines how you would arrive.
On this journey, there is a need for focus while watching every step we take. One of the best pieces of advice from mountain climbers says, “you need to take one step at a time and be sure of where you want to put the next step.” Barry Finlay says that every mountain top is within reach if you keep climbing.
Transfiguration means Change
Most mountain climbers have a common thing to say, “it is a transforming experience!” Transformation, in turn, means a thorough change. Beyond the change of a physical position from the lower level to the upper level, mountain climbing brings about a transforming difference in the life of the climber.
The Gospel Reading relates the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ before the apostles while he prays at the mountaintop. Our Lenten journey would be useless if we do not experience a transfiguration from the disfiguration of sin. During these forty days, the Lord invites us to continue the journey with him from the desert of temptation last Sunday to the mountain of transfiguration.
The journey may appear crooked, winding and even dangerous but the glory is waiting for us at the peak; we need to stay in the climbing mode and never lose hope. In the Second Reading (Phil. 3:20-4:1), St. Paul tells us that the goal of this journey is to change our lowly body to conform with the glorified body of our Lord Jesus Christ and we look forward to this at the Easter.
Moving Forward: Conquer Yourself not the Mountain
When one succeeds in climbing and coming down from a mountain, the individual conquers oneself not the mountain. While the mountain remains the same, those who climb the mountain come down with transforming experiences and stories like Peter, James, and John could recall in the transfiguration mountain.
In the course of our Lenten Journey, we need to allow God to walk through us just as the fire of God passed through the pieces of sacrifice that Abram laid out for God in the First Reading (Gen.15:5-12, 17-18). May this journey bring unfailing divine transformation and elevation into our lives. God bless you.