From glory to the cross, from high mountain top to the valley, from acceptance to rejection, how often that is the path we must travel. Peter, James, and John had just experienced the transfiguration of Jesus, had seen him conversing with Moses and Elijah and had heard the Father’s voice saying, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Mountain tops are not places to stay.
I remember some years ago, Fr. Jerome Stowell and I hiked to the summit of Mt. Whitney and gazed out over the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Eyes feasted on the grandeur and wildness spread out before us. Our hearts beat faster and a sense of exaltation thrilled us. But then too soon came the moment to tear our eyes away from the glorious view and begin the descent.
Peter, James and John are descending from a high mountain top with Jesus. They are in conversation about the vision they had experienced. Matthew chooses to recount but one question, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus takes the occasion to explain that John the Baptist fulfilled Elijah’s role and was killed. He then prophesized that he would face the same fate, “The Son of Man will also suffer at their hands.” Here we have the mystery of life: that joy and success are often followed by pain and failure. This is our human condition and it is the law of Christian discipleship. No servant is greater than his master. A few days ago I celebrated my 85th birthday. There is much to be thankful for, not the least the wisdom to understand that peace comes when I “listen to him”.
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.