Monday, September 13, 2010

Bringing the Mountain to Our Valley

I had the opportunity to write a few bulletin reflections for our parish. I decided to reprint them here. I've included the date and readings for the Sundays for which the originally appeared.

AUGUST 1, 2010 (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23 – Colossians 3:15-,9-11 – Luke 12:13-21)

In today’s first reading we listen to the words of “the preacher” from the book of Ecclesiastes. The author laments that “All things are vanity!” Ecclesiastes is truly a book for our times, on one hand despairing for the apparent meaninglessness of the daily grind. We work and toil for treasures that rust and fade away. The unrighteous prosper from their wicked deeds while the innocent suffer. Our hearts are restless day and night for something more, but we don’t know what that is or how to satisfy this desire. It’s song of living in the valleys of life when we hope for something more than what we can see.

If Ecclesiastes reminds us of the valley, then the Feast of the Transfiguration celebrated later this week calls us up to the mountain top. Jesus brings his closest disciples with him, literally “up the mountain to pray”. While there Jesus is transfigured, his body and clothes become dazzling white and he meets with Moses and Elijah. Peter immediately does what any of us would do; he pleads with Jesus to stay on this mountain top and in this moment of glory. How often, when we have spiritual experiences of feeling close to God, do we wish we could just stay right there holding on to those feelings?

Our spiritual journey will take us across many different terrains. We’ll experience valleys and mountain tops, droughts and showers. We must learn, as St. Paul did, to be “content in every situation”. St. John Vianney, whose feast is celebrated on August 4th, also learned this lesson. He was not the brightest student and struggled mightily with his studies in school. He was assigned to a small rural, out of the way parish. Yet, he learned that he could be as close to Jesus as he wanted in the valleys and on the mountain. It was his simplicity and pure devotion that drew large crowds to wait hours just to go to him for the sacrament of reconciliation.

This is the secret of the saints. They knew they couldn’t stay on the mountain, but they also knew that if they kept the Lord in their hearts they could bring the mountain top down into the valley. Jesus lead Peter, James and John down from the mountain an in the verses that follow today’s Gospel they immediately were drawn into ministry. We too need to rely on the strength we receive when we receive the Lord to bring light into our valleys, to give meaning to the routine of our lives.

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