Gospel Commentary Mt 5:17-37
The words of God to Abram at the beginning of today’s reading
from Genesis, “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk … to a land that I will
show You” take us to the heart of Lent. It is easy for us to drift from the
Lord, to wander from the path the Lord has given us, even to get lost along the
way. Lent calls on us to halt the drift, begin again and to go to the place God
has for us.
What is sometimes called the “journey of faith” can become
tedious and difficult. It is like going on a long trip to a place that we have
been planning to visit for a long time. As we drive along, enthusiasm begins to
wane as we start to wonder whether we should have ever started the trip.
Then, suddenly, we see a sign or billboard that advertises in
grand and glorious color the place to which we are going and we feel the old
enthusiasm and energy return.
The Transfiguration, recorded in today’s Gospel, was something
like that. Jesus had spoken about his coming death and resurrection. What all
that meant was lost on the Apostles. Then, Peter, James and John are given this
mountaintop experience. Suddenly, they see the Lord exuding light from within,
“unborrowed light” as the magnificent and potent phrase from the familiar hymn
“Tis Good Lord to Be Here” describes it. They see Moses and Elijah speaking
with Jesus. Moses and Elijah represent the Old Testament Law and the Prophets
that Jesus fulfills. Then, as suddenly as it came, it is over.
The memory of that moment of glory, however, would sustain them
for the rest of their discipleship. They received a glimpse of the glory that
would someday be theirs if they continue the journey with Christ. It was a
powerful sign along the way.
We are all given occasional mountaintop experiences. They do not
come very often. They cannot be produced by us. They are not like an “on
demand” cable movie that we can call up whenever we wish. They are a grace — a
flash of insight, a grace from God, an experience of what can be through the
charity of another, the care of another after we receive a difficult diagnosis,
the homily that speaks a message to us that we really need to hear. These are
all wonderful gifts that touch us and give us renewed vigor as we journey with
Christ. They are moments given us to remember. Mountains are majestic but few
people can live there. Most of us live our lives on the plain with the daily
grind of chores and routine. These occasional mountaintop experiences help us
realize that the Lord who is with us on the mountaintop is, again in the words
of the hymn, also with us on the plain.
If we take the call of Lent seriously and leave the place where
we are and begin to travel spiritually to the place God has for us, we will be
given signs along the way to encourage us. But they are only signs that point
the way to a glory that will never end.
We do not have to be content with reading about other people’s
mountaintop experiences. We will have our own. When we are given a sign, a
mountaintop experience from the Lord, we should cherish it, remember it,
reflect on it and thank the Lord for it. It is a promise of what will be for
Fr. Krempa is pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in