Experiencing God on the mountain
Have you noticed that the most important events in the Bible happen on a mountain? Abraham sacrifices Isaac on Mount Moriah. Moses talks to God and receives the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. God whispered to Elijah on Mount Horeb. Peter, James, and John witness Jesus’ transfiguration on Mount Tabor. The mountain is an important image in our faith tradition. It is a metaphor for being close to God.
While we may not live near mountains, we can still have mountaintop experiences. We can experience moments of feeling so close to God that it feels we are miles above sea level and very close to the heavens. We may have these mountaintop experiences on a good retreat, after celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion. We may also have these experiences of being close to God in simple ways, such as playing with our children, walking in God’s creation, reading a good story, or making a good meal for our family. God touches us not only through extraordinary events, but also – and I would say most often – in the ordinary events of our lives.
Think about the times when you’ve experienced feelings of peaceful elation. Where were you? What were you doing? Who were you with? What do you remember about the feeling in your heart?
It is wonderful to have mountaintop experiences, to feel God’s presence in a deeply profound way. Yet, they never last. After Abraham experiences God’s mercy in saving Isaac, he had to return to his regular daily living. While Moses was very close to God on Mount Sinai, he had to go down the mountain and face the grumbling Israelites. After Elijah heard God’s whisper on the mountain, God sent him to anoint Hazael and Jehu as kings of Aram and Israel and Elisha as prophet to succeed him. After his transfiguration, Jesus led Peter, James, and John down the mountain to continue their ministry.
After a moving mountaintop experience, we, too, must go down the mountain. After a good retreat or celebrating Reconciliation or receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, we must re-enter our regular lives. Even though we have to return to our regular activities of caring for our families, doing our work, and serving as God calls us to serve, our mountaintop experiences linger in our memories. We remember the feeling of peaceful elation. We remember the touch of God’s hand on our hearts. We remember being filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit. These memories sustain us through our normal daily living and especially through our struggles. These memories, too, help us to be more open to and aware of God’s presence within us and around us all the time.
Take some time this week to reflect on your mountaintop experiences. Give thanks and praise to God for God’s gentle and intimate touch. Let those memories open your heart to notice God’s presence with you in every moment of your life and help you to be more intentional about recognizing God’s presence within you and around you. Allow the memories to spur you to live and work in participation with Jesus the Christ’s mission of love.