Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Highs & Lows!
We all have them. Do we always know how to handle them? Are we inclined to get carried away with our "highs"; or throw in the towel when it seems everything and everyone, including God, is against us? Today's readings touch on such situations and provide examples for dealing with them.

Genesis -22:1-2, 9, 10-13 15-18: After years of waiting for a son to be born and encouraged by the promise that he would be the father of a great nation, Abraham and Sarah were shattered by God's request to sacrifice the lad they had so longed for. In its ancient origin, the story of the father sacrificing the son was probably aimed at the practice of human sacrifice. In the Old Testament tradition, the story has been adjusted to present an example of Faith; still later, Jewish tradition used it to illustrate not only Abraham's faith, but also the faith of Isaac.

Romans - 8: 31-34: In the New Testament we see this image being extended to Christian teaching - God willingly sacrificing Christ, and Christ willing to be sacrificed. From this application we learn the value that we, as individuals, have in the sight of God. We learn, too, that the trials we experience should be regarded as stepping stones to character building. "With God on our side, who can be against us?"

Gospel - Mark 9:2-10: Both Jesus and the Apostles with Him have a powerful experience on Mt. Tabor. There is the "high" contained in the commendation 'this is my beloved Son; hear him'; but, Jesus now understands that he must go up to Jerusalem to die there. This is the downside of the powerful transfiguration experience.

Point 1: "Climb every mountain"! For years now, that favourite number from "The Sound of Music" has been familiar to us. Mountains are often referred to in the Scriptures as scenes for close encounters between God and His people. Noah - Mt. Ararat; Abraham , Mt. Moriah; Moses, Mount Sinai. And today we read of the Transfiguration experience on Mt. Tabor. This experience was a great "high" for Christ and the Apostles with Him. The commendation of the Father, the presence of the Prophets Moses and Elijah. But, balancing this "high" came the downside of the encounter. From here he must go up to Jerusalem to complete the mission of salvation.

Point 2: Most of us have moments when we see exactly where our lives are going and what we need to do in order to be true to ourselves. And part of that recognition is knowing that the "high" points can only be reached by passing through the valleys. Very few, if any, experience completely plain sailing in life. There are usually troughs to be negotiated. In other words, life is a series of joys alternating with moments of pain and anguish. We have our moments of satisfaction when we say "God is in his heavens; and all is well with the world". But those interludes pass, and the monotony, the heartaches, the routines and the anxieties of life return. Classical examples of this are found in human relationships, particularly marriage and family. Whether there is more joy than heartache in relationships depend on how people learn to control their selfish, defensive, vindictive and impatient tendencies.

Conclusion: It is no different in our relationship with God. Here, too, "highs" and "lows" are present; and for the same reason, namely, our selfishness. It is not easy to say "not my will, but yours be done". No one goes through life without these "highs" and "lows". The big question is - do we have sufficient Faith in Christ's leadership to know that every "low" can be a stepping stone to a greater "high". The Tabor experience brought home to Christ and the Apostles the recognition that the successes so far achieved were only part of the eternal plan of redemption. Yet to come was the "high" of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem to be followed by the disgrace and shame of Calvary. But, when all seemed lost, came the "high" of the Resurrection. And this is the pattern of Christian life. Already we are into the 2nd week of Lent. A good question for us at this time is "how do we deal with the "highs" and "lows" of life. Do we see the "lows" as opportunities to transform the physical, the mundane to our spiritual advantage?

Scriptural reference: "I will lift up my eyes to the hills - from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1-2)