B Cycle – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
Recently I was talking to a friend who was telling me about a breakthrough experience allowing them to finally grasp a new mathematical concept. It was a concept presented at the end of their class and was to be used during a homework assignment that night. The concept was so new it was difficult to understand and she and most of the class was unable to complete any of the homework assignments. However, the next day, the teacher presented the concept in a manner that it became an epiphany moment, with a clear understanding of how to solve the mysterious problems.
Jesus today, after feeding the multitude, is telling you and me something very profound which for us should be one of those mystical moments when all becomes clear. He is revealing the key to unlocking our understanding of how everything we seek in life is found in him and how to never doubt it is ours. Jesus quoting from the scriptures tells us “…we will be taught by God” (Is. 2:3). The prophet Isaiah tells us God’s desire for us is to have that mystical moment of revelation when everything we need to be holy men and women becomes clear because God will open our eyes to see, our ears to hear and our hearts to respond.
That moment is often referred to as a “mountain top experience.” Listen to God speaking to us through the prophet Isaiah; “come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” This should be for us one of those moments of awakening our understanding, so we like Aquinas realize all our learning about our faith is like straw. It is nothing compared to the things God desires us to understand how much we are loved and how much we can experience.
It is interesting that on Thursday we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration, that moment when Peter, James and John experienced the divinity of Christ. That moment when God said to Peter and to us, “listen to him.” On the mountain, Isaiah prophesied, we will be taught by God. We will only hear what he wants to teach us if we listen.
Elijah, in our first reading, goes to Mount Horeb after he has eaten food given to him by an angel. The same food is given to us, the bread of heaven in the Eucharist, to sustain us on our way to a mountain top experience with God. It is there on that mountain; God reveals himself to Elijah in a small whispering sound. That same mountain, also called Saini, is where God reveals himself to Moses and describes his nature as loving, merciful, forgiving, slow to anger and rich in kindness. It is on another mountain, Moriah, where Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac and by Abraham’s obedience, we see is the ultimate revelation of how trust in God works.
One of the names for God in the Old Testament is El Shaddai meaning “God of the mountains” indicating how important our seeking a mountain top experience with God is to our growth into holy men and women of God. Peter believed he had the transfiguration moment figured out and wanted to bask in the glory revealed. We too love those big moments during a retreat, or a conference or during our prayer when we feel the presence of God, but we also know they do not help us sustain that feeling of God’s presence. Elijah had a momentous victory over the prophets of Baal just before the reading we hear today. What made the difference from that moment of faith and this moment of despair. It is a lesson for us showing us how easy it is for us to lose that spiritual charge given to us by an experience of God.
This only points out how much we need that mountain top experience where we experience a revelation of God which provides us with food for the journey. That moment can come as we receive the Eucharist, but it seems to be more prevalent when we hear that tiny whispering voice of God inviting us to respond. How do we get to that moment? We must desire it and that desire comes from the promptings of God inviting us to experience the transforming power of forgiveness.
Jesus invited the disciples to join him on the mountain of transfiguration. Elijah, Abraham, Moses was prompted to go to the mountain by God. We are being told by Jesus that the sustain come when God is our teacher and when we invite him to speak to our hearts during our private prayer or during our reading of the scriptures.
Or it could happen as we take the time to pray as we are waiting for our time to receive the Eucharist or during adoration because we are expecting to encounter God as we come before him. It could happen as we go away on a private retreat or during a time of desperate need like Elijah as he fled the wrath of Jezebel for embarrassing the prophets of Baal. The simple truth is God desires to reveal himself to you and to guide us spiritually to grow into bold witnesses of his love. We must desire what he offers us, and we must understand those moments come to us during our personal time with God.
Please do not misunderstand what this mountain top experience means. It does not mean it cannot or will not happen during our corporate worship time together. For my mountain top experience began during a time of corporate worship and that experience led me figuratively to a deeper mountain top experience where God was inviting a deeper response. It is by going deeper we experience that first awakening of the depth of God’s desire for all of us. If you think about it, the disciples had those moments of revelation before the transfiguration and after the transfiguration. Each experience builds on the other and each revelation moves us into a stronger and deeper faith which is founded on God touching our hearts.