Gen 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13,15-18 / PS 116: 10, 15, 16-17, 18-19 / Rm 8:31b-34 / Mk9:2-10
In the summer of 2013, Archbishop Carlson sent myself and two of my classmates to the picturesque city of Villa de Leyva in the beautiful country of Colombia. The city, at the high elevation of 7,000 feet, is surrounded by mountains which peak out another 5,000 feet above us at 12,000 ft. Coming from St. Louis it took me a couple of days to adjust to the 6,500 ft altitude difference, but once I did it was easy to climb the first 500 feet up a mountain to a statue of the Sacred Heart that overlooked the city. As we grew in confidence with the trek to the statue of the Sacred Heart we resolved to climb the whole mountain. While we had no problem with the initial 500 foot trek, as we climbed higher it became much more difficult to breath and we found ourselves stopping frequently to catch our breath. In the midst of the trek I felt like I was getting nowhere but when we stopped and looked out from the mountain I saw not only how much further we still had to go but I could also look down and see how far we had come. In life it can be easy for us to put one foot in front of the other day in and day out and continue to ascend the mountain without stopping to look at where we have come from and where we are going, yet if we constantly keep our head to the ground and simply pound the path it becomes very easy for us to get lost. Today we are invited to pause and look back at where we come from and look forward to where we are going.
Today we hear Jesus took Peter, James and John to the top of the mountain where He showed them where they have come from and where they are going. In the presence of Moses and Elijah they see God’s plan which began with Abraham, continued with Moses, the lawgiver, passed through Elijah, the prophet, and was brought to fulfillment in Christ. As the apostles stood there in awe with their forefathers they were given an understanding of Jesus divinity and the hope of the resurrection. In today’s Gospel Jesus shows us that our earthly pilgrimage leads to our own resurrection into eternal life. Just as Isaac and Jesus before us had to carry the wood intended to be the means of their death up the hill, so too do we need to carry our own pains and sorrows up the hill so that we can lay them at the foot of the cross. Just as God provided a substitute for Abraham, so he would not have to sacrifice his son, so too He provides us with a substitute, His only Son who died on the cross for us and now sits at the right hand of the Father where He continues to intercede for us.
During this season of Lent we are invited to stop on our journey up the spiritual mountain and look back to see how God has been at work throughout history and in our own personal lives, and then to look forward up the mountain towards eternal life. As we look back we should see God’s providential hand at work throughout history culminating in the sacrifice of His only Son on Good Friday. Even though Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, He did not leave us orphans. No our Lord who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father left us His Church whose central action is this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which makes present in all times and in all spaces the sacrifice offered on Calvary. Yes, you and I come to Holy Mass to offer praise and worship to God, but as we come we too stand at the foot of the cross. “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. ‘The victim is one and the same: … only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘And since this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner … this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.” Our Lord was sacrificed once and for all on Good Friday, but at every Mass that same saving sacrifice is made present for each and everyone of us and we are invited to participate in that sacrifice so that we too may too be glorified for all eternity in heaven. In just a few moments the gifts of bread and wine will be brought forward, symbolizing our offering for the sacrifice. Why not take a moment to make that offering your own by prayerfully offer to God all of your joys, sorrows, worries or anxieties and ask Him to transfigure them at the foot of the cross.
Last Sunday we heard St. Mark recount the temptation of Jesus in the desert, showing us that Jesus is truly human and today in his account of the transfiguration He teaches us that Jesus is truly God. In these two short biblical passages the past, present and future are summarized in Christ, who is both fully God and fully man and His mission is made clear; He was sent by the Father into this world to suffer, die and rise so that we too, following after Him, may also die to ourselves and rise with Him. Friends Christ’s coming into the world to be scarified for us should give us hope to endure even our darkest trials for “if God is for us, who can be against us?”
Our own journey up the mountain is a journey with Christ to the cross and ultimately to the resurrection. As we continue this season of Lent let us pause and recall how God has been working through the prophets, in His son Jesus and in our own lives and take courage and strength so that we can continue climbing in confidence with His assistance towards eternal life. As we gather around this altar, at the foot of the cross, with all of the saints who have gone before us let us ask them to pray for us that we might follow our Lord’s example and at the end of our earthly pilgrimage our lives may be transfigured by the light of His presence.
 CCC 1367