When I was six years old, my parents packed up the station wagon – a 1965 tan Plymouth Fury — piled suitcases on a luggage rack on the roof and took my sister and me on a big vacation out west.
We visited the Badlands, and the Corn Palace, and Mount Rushmore. But my most vivid memory was Pike’s Peak, in Colorado.
It was a blazing hot day in mid-August, and my dad started driving the station wagon up the long and winding road toward the top. If you’ve ever taken the trip, you know how terrifying it can be. One wrong move or bad turn and you’re history. Well, as we got higher, we found ourselves going through clouds, like a fog. And after a bit, we passed through the clouds, and went higher and higher up the mountain. The sky became overcast and gray.
But then, I saw something amazing.
It was actually snowing in August! Flurries everywhere. It was incredible. Mysterious. It seemed like we’d driven headlong into Christmas. I’d never seen anything like it before. To my six-year-old imagination, it seemed like magic — or, maybe, a miracle.
As we learn in today’s scriptures: mountains are places for miracles. They are where lives are changed and where eyes are opened. In scriptural accounts, they are inevitably places that are closer to the heavens and, therefore, to God. Mountains are the settings for teaching, for wisdom and for wonder.
They are also places for transition and transfiguration — where God is heard and where he is revealed.
On a particular mountain, at a particular time in my young life, I think I saw something of God on that summer morning 55 years ago. I thought of that when I read over the readings for this morning.
Of course, there is much to dissect about these readings. In the story of Abraham, we hear a foreshadowing of God’s sacrifice of his own son. And in the Gospel we get another foreshadowing — a glimpse of the glorified, resurrected Christ as he is transfigured. They point us toward Holy Week and to Easter.
The Bible reminds us that God often shows himself in astonishing, unexpected ways. He comes to us in a burning bush, in the figure of a dove at the River Jordan, in a voice from the heavens, in bread being broken on the way to Emmaus. He is a child in a manger, a man on a mountaintop.
But reflecting on this Gospel offers us a challenge, a question for this moment in our Lenten journey:
Where do we see God now?
Where do we see the ordinary transfigured into the extraordinary?
How is God revealing himself to us, here and now?
St. Ignatius famously told the first Jesuits to go out and “find God in all things.”
Over the last year, I know, that hasn’t been easy.
Yet, God has been there, if we only look for him.
He has revealed himself in the doctors and nurses and health care workers and ambulance drivers and chaplains who have worked the extra hour, taken one more call, held one more hand through a glove or made one more call to relative so they could say “I love you” on FaceTime with a mother or a husband or a child.
God has revealed himself in teachers juggling housework and homework while mastering the intricacies of Zoom. He has revealed himself through parents who have become tutors and experts in time management and the simple art of human patience.
He has revealed himself in the sure and steady faith of so many families over these long and painful months. God has accompanied those who have prayed and hoped and wept and grieved.
God has indeed shown himself. Have we noticed?
Consider once again the challenge of this moment.
We know the three pillars of Lent are fasting, almsgiving and prayer.
This week, with this Gospel in mind, make prayer a priority. Pray not only more fervently and more persistently to the God who loves us — but pray for something in particular.
Pray to find God “in all things.”
Pray for God to help us to see him. Pray this Lent for new eyes, new ears, new hearts.
Pray that we don’t take anything for granted. Pray to seek. To listen. To be open to wonder.
If you’ve still looking for something to give up for Lent, give up indifference. Give up cynicism. Give up everything that gets in the way of our seeing God.
If your heart has grown weary of the mask-wearing, the lockdowns, the headaches and heartaches…if you have grown impatient with the way the world has become, pray for a renewed sense of awe. Pray for patience.
Give thanks for what is. And wait for what will come next.
All of this, of course, points to more than just being more prayerful during Lent. It directs our minds and our hearts to a different way of living, a different way of seeing.
It asks us to live and see with the eyes of Christ — and in doing that, walk with others in the ways of faith, hope and love.
We are about to be given an opportunity to do just that.
This morning, we celebrate a special rite for a member of our parish family. Colleen Kidda is preparing to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Very soon, she will be confirmed and will receive the Eucharist.
Colleen has already seen her life changed — transfigured! — and will soon see it changed even more. We pray that each of us may serve as models, companions and friends on her journey, revealing God’s love through us.
May we live in such a way, and love in such a way, that Colleen — and everyone we meet — sees in us the face of Christ. We can do no less.
This Lent, may we continue to remember this beautiful truth: the God who gave us his son — and who continues to give him to us through the precious gift of the Eucharist — is full of astonishments.
You don’t need to climb a mountain to discover that. He reveals that to us every day.
May God’s grace help us to see that for ourselves — and leave our world not only enlightened and enriched, but maybe even transfigured.