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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ A Trip to the Mountain

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led

them up a high mountain, by themselves. (Matt.17:1)

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to work in a parish that sent a number of high school students and leaders on a service-learning trip to the Dominican Republic. There they worked in an orphanage, a school, a pregnancy clinic and on a housing project. They encountered a new and different culture from our own. It was they reported an amazing experience. They had to leave the Dominican and return to us. But they brought their experience back with them. It was and hopefully will continue to affect how they see things in their own lives and in lives of others for years to come.

Our lives are full of many experiences, many personalities, many challenges and many blessings. Some of these are very attractive, others, we would rather not have. To have a full life, however, we need them all. They affect who we are and what we do in life. Such life-affecting experiences are what we mean when we speak about grace. Grace is the free gift of God’s spirit and love touching our lives. This gift is with us always, but often unnoticed. From time to time though, we will become especially aware of such grace. It touches us in the persons, places and events we encounter. But we need to recognize the ordinary grace that comes our way.

On this 2nd Sunday of Lent, our Gospel comes from Matthew. We hear the story of Jesus taking some of his disciples up a high mountain and there they experience the fullness of God in their presence (Matt.17:1-9). Jesus is transfigured before them and appears with two of the great Old Testament figures, Moses and Elijah. For that brief moment, the disciples have a glimpse of who Jesus is. It moves and affects them deeply. They wanted to remain there in this time of grace.

Remaining on the mountain, in the experience is not possible. The moment passes and they must return down the mountain to continue their journey with all its demands. But they are affected deeply and the grace of the experience, the spirit it offered will change them. From disciples they will become witnesses and will themselves be bearers of the Good News they have encountered in their journey with Jesus. They will bear this grace to others.

What happened to those high school students in the Dominican was a period of obvious grace. They and we may not have called it that at the time. But the people they met there, the experiences they were part of and the young people themselves, all were touches of God’s love and presence for them in a very special way. Such moments are life-affecting. But they are also moments which call us beyond ourselves, for grace, that touch of God is always a call to serve and care and show compassion for others.

We experience such ordinary grace often in our lives – persons, places, challenges, blessings. Perhaps Lent offers us an opportunity to recognize the ordinary grace that touches us everyday. Where does it lead us to sharing God’s love with others?

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