Heaven and Earth Meet

02-26-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Sometimes in our lives we have a critical moment when we discover or come to understand something that gives us dramatic insight or purpose in life. This moment does not happen as often as the cinema or autobiographies portray, but we do indeed at times have this flash of insight or knowledge that profoundly influences our life. The scripture of this weekend shows examples of this: Abraham on Mount Moriah and also Jesus with his disciples on Mount Tabor.

These scriptural passages lead us to two great mountain summits—Mount Moriah for Abraham and Mount Tabor for Jesus. The story of Abraham begins when he uprooted his family and crossed the entire Fertile Crescent to some unknown promised land. As he journeyed, Abraham did lose hope and purpose at times. He and Sarah his wife had been promised that their children would be as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sands of the desert and they still had no children. In fact, it was a very long time before they had the child they were promised: his name was Isaac. And now Abraham was expected to offer up his only son as a sacrifice. Surely this caused Abraham to falter in his faith and purpose. However, there was a happy ending. In the end, Abraham came to comprehend that God asked obedience and even sacrifice, but not human sacrifice. We learn in the story that Abraham’s trust in God was absolute. This story is about God asking for and receiving the fidelity of Abraham.

This first reading was selected to help us to be able to dig into the meaning of the Gospel passage. This story is also set on a mountaintop called Mount Tabor. The closest apostles to Jesus—Peter, James, and John—are allowed to witness the vision of Jesus with Elijah and Moses. These two Old Testament figures symbolize the whole of the Hebrew prophetic and patriarchal tradition. Symbolized in this Gospel passage is that heaven and earth do meet and now the former and new Dispensation meet. Note that the voice of God is heard, and it speaks again of sonship. Recall that on Mount Moriah, God’s words reminded Abraham that Isaac is his son, his only son. In the Gospel, the voice of God announces Jesus as “my beloved Son.”

Naively, Peter wanted this religious experience to go on and on. This was to underline the coming and unknown reality that the apostles are going to need all the inner strength they can summon as this Son, this beloved Son, enters into his passion and death.

The vision that happened on Mount Tabor offered a glimpse of the full life of God attained in the death and resurrection to come. The image on Mount Tabor offers insight into the future life of the risen Lord, who broke all boundaries and exceeded all dreams. We recognize that although God spared the only son of Abraham, the Son of God was not spared.

We can conclude that Jesus loved his life as dearly as we love ours. We can realize that he also recognized God’s will and what was worth dying for. For all of us, it is near impossible to keep the apparent extremes of life and death in balance or proportion. Simply put, we need the vision of the Transfiguration to sustain us and most definitely we need the power of the Resurrection of Jesus to strengthen us.