Sunday, March 1, 2015

Three mountains: 2nd Sunday of Lent

(Listen to this homily here).

            We heard about three mounts—mountains—in our readings today. 
Mountains are symbolic in Scripture.  They represent an ascending to God, rising from human to spiritual heights.
The first mountain was Mount Moriah—the scene of the test of Abraham found in Genesis 22.  This test may disturb us—how could God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son?  It may help to know something about Isaac to clarify this question.  If you are like me, you probably picture Abraham leading a young boy—a four or five year old.  Actually, Isaac was twenty to thirty years old.  He was in the prime of his life while his father Abraham was between 120-130!  At any moment he could have left his father but chose not to.  He chose to carry the wood and be obedient.
God stopped Abraham from actually sacrificing his son.  Remember, though, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering…”  What did Abraham see in the thicket?  A ram.  Not a lamb…
The second mountain was Mount Tabor—the place where Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John.  For a brief moment Jesus’ divinity shone through his humanity.  Also present were Elijah and Moses, a sign of fulfillment of both the Law (Moses) and prophets (Elijah).  Jesus’ ascension of Mount Tabor led to a remarkable manifestation of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Both Mount Moriah and Mount Tabor point to the third mountain.  Though it was not explicitly in the readings today, it is present nonetheless.  I am speaking of Mount Calvary—Golgotha.  Scholars have reason to believe that Mount Moriah and Calvary are actually one and the same.  In fact, the Dome of the Rock—the great Islam shrine—is housed over a rock on which Abraham was supposedly going to sacrifice Isaac.  A few blocks away is the Holy Sepulcher—the church which houses the site of the crucifixion.
It was on Calvary that Jesus, an innocent man, was obedient to his Father’s will.  He, the Lamb of God (not the ram!) offered himself as a sacrifice.  He offered both his humanity and his divinity so we could ascend back to God.
Finally, it is curious that we call what we are doing now—Mass, liturgy, Eucharist—the source and summit of our lives.  This language, I believe, is deliberate because it evokes a mountain.  When we come to Mass, we ascend this mountain.  When we come to Mass, we are mystically connected to Calvary.  May we ascend this mountain well at Mass today and may we ascend to God Himself.

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