HOMILY: God of the Mountaintop, the Valley and the Plain

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord | August 6, 2017
Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click hereSalesian Sermons

PROTIP: You can take a look at the readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.

So I still remember the first time I climbed a real mountain.

I was 18 years old and on a school trip to Europe. And as part of that trip, we had the opportunity to hike in the Austrian Alps.

Now, let’s be real.  This hike nearly killed me.  But I was so determined to reach the top.  And let me tell you it, it was worth it. Because the view literally stole my breath away.

I was speechless.  In awe.  And instinctively I reached for my portable CD player and hit  play.  Now, don’t judge me, but the CD was from Celine Dion. And the track I played was “I Surrender.”

Now you may be questioning my musical tastes.  And sadly some of you may be trying to figure out what a portable CD player is.

But trust me, there was a reason for my instinctive choice.

Because for the first time in my adult life, I truly felt God’s presence on that mountain. And I was willing to surrender.

See, prior to this I had gone through the dark valley of agnosticism and my relationship with God was sketchy at best.  But on that mountain, everything seemed clear.  God was with me.  And surrender seemed the only appropriate response.

Maybe that is why I have always understood the seemingly bizarre request of Peter to stay on that mountain and build some tents.

Because if I could have remained on that mountain where God’s presence was so palpable, I would have.

But just like Peter discovered. We don’t get to stay on mountaintops.  We ultimately have to come back down into a world that is often cloudy and mundane, dark and chaotic.  And my willingness to surrender on that mountain has been much harder in the classroom, in the courtroom, in the hospital room and by the graveside.

Which is why it is Jesus’s response that stuck with me as I reflected on the readings for this weekend.

Because if any one should have wanted to stay on at mountain, it is Jesus. I mean, God literally spoke to him. Reminded him that he was chosen and loved.

Who would want to walk away from that?

And yet he did. He walked away from that mountain and back down into a world of disciples who misunderstood him, religious authority figures who feared and hated him, and crowds that demanded so much from him.

And I believe the reason why is because Jesus understood the true wisdom of the mount of transfiguration.

Which is that the God of the mountaintop is just as clearly the God of the valley and the plain.  The God who reveled in his son on the mount of transfiguration would still be with his son each step of his journey through the desert and would embrace his son as he opened his arms on the cross.

And it is this wisdom that is entrusted to us this day.

Yes, most of us have had mountaintop experiences.  Where God has seemed so close and our hearts were overflowing with love and joy.

The twirl of a wedding dress, the first glance of a new born child, the welcome home banner, the handwritten thank you.

But the reality is, our God is still just as present to us in every other moment of our lives.  And if we are to walk the path of holiness, the path that Christ has trod, we too must learn to encounter God in the mundane.  In the daily tasks entrusted to our care.

In the spilled milk on the kitchen floor, the report deadline, the swim practice, the physical therapy, the doctor visit.

And we too must trust that we too are embraced when we hang upon our own crosses of sin and grief, of shattered dreams and final chapters.

Here we are my friends, on this feast, glimpsing a mountaintop.

But no matter where we stand in this moment.  Our God is here.  And we are still beloved daughters and sons.

May God be praised.

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