Growing up here in South Dakota, I never really knew the mountains. Sure, I saw the Black Hills in 1989- but I was focused on the State Soccer tournament. When novelists would write or musicians sing about their meager existence in the shadow of mountains- I would have no clue what they were talking about. Even when I moved to Denver, the mountains were simply something there- a compass rose to point me west in a strange city. I skied and snow shoed but was not moved. Then, in February of my first year there, we went on a week silent retreat, in the mountains.
On the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park in Boulder County, Colorado, St. Malo Retreat Center sat at the foot of 13,991 ft. Mt. Meeker. Imagine my head as the peak of Mt. Meeker and that St. Malo’s sits right here, at my waist. The shoulders of the mountain frame and shelter St. Malo’s as you look from the road. Your whole time there, inside or outside, you are aware of Mt. Meeker, like a guardian and sentinel, keeping watch on your prayer.
Until I lived at Mt. Meeker for that one week, I never knew the majesty of mountains. I never knew how the mountain could call to my soul. I never knew the ambition that led sherpas of Nepal and Sir Edmund Hillary to climb Mt. Everest. “Why did you climb the mountain?” “Because it was there!” It isn’t logical but it is human, in the depth of our heart.
Today, on Mt. Tabor- Jesus is transformed and transfigured before the eyes of His disciples. Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus and known Jesus. They knew His miracles, His healings, His teachings, and the ways Jesus spoke to the heart. But today is something different. Today they see the glory of Jesus, the true reality of who He is- beyond the miracles, healings, and teachings- they see the one who is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.”
Like myself in the shadow of Mt. Meeker, like Sir Edmund Hillary before Mt. Everest, St. Peter is moved to a response. His heart cries out in the presence of the unveiled glory of Jesus, breaking through the bonds of his normal life. Bursting with glory the human heart needs to respond, the human heart needs to react, the human heart needs to offer it’s very self in return. Peter cries out “Lord, it is good that we are here! If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!”
So what of our hearts here at the foot of this Mass? Do we see the majestic, the beautiful, the otherworldly Christ? If we have not yet met Jesus in such a way, if we have not met Jesus in a way that calls to us in the very depths of our souls, we must act. We must begin to live with Jesus, to talk with Jesus, to listen to Jesus in new ways. We must seek the face Jesus in the Sacraments- in confession and the Sunday Mass. We must ask Jesus to break through the deafness, to shine through the blindness of sin so that we may hear and see and be moved.
I never saw the mountains until I lived in Denver- and even then it took me a week’s immersion in their beauty before I really knew them. Sts. Peter, James, and John never saw the unveiled glory of Christ until Mt. Tabor. If I called my self a mountaineer, if I said I was equal to a Nepalese sherpa, but I never left Aberdeen, you’d say I’m crazy. Let us use this season of Lent, this season of conversion, this season of grace to encounter Jesus Christ in a new way. Shout through my deafness, Lord, shine through my blindness Lord, let me hear and see You, and move my heart to follow You.