are times in our lives when we have a mountain-top experience and we can easily
use Peter’s words to describe it. “Lord it is good that we are here.” These
moments are be very special: at our own wedding, or the wedding of someone we
love; a new job that fulfills a dream; getting into the college of our first
choice; retirement after years of hard work and saving.
AND there are everyday experiences when we can also say, “Lord is good that we
are here”: watching our child take his/her first steps; holidays with the whole
family around the table and everyone getting along; having coffee with our best
friend; good seats at the opening of the baseball season; watching a grandchild
perform at a kindergarten play, making the high school soccer team. These are
moments when we feel we are on a mountain top and we can say with Peter, “It is
good that we are here.” And we thank God for these times.
But our lives aren’t always as comfortable as Peter describes. We have
experiences when we can’t say, “It is good that we are here.” In fact, there are
times when we don’t want to be “here”– and would rather be anywhere else: not
sick; not without a job; not struggling with relationships; not failing at
school; not in the process of a divorce; not undergoing chemotherapy; not in the
wrong job. After Mass this past Sunday, a woman asked me to pray for her sister
who just found out she has brain cancer. She said to me, “It is a nightmare!”
(Won’t you join me and pray for that woman’s ailing sister too?) These are
hardly mountain-top experiences - during these times we could hardly say, “It is
good that we are here.” We would prefer to say, “I want out!”
For the ancient peoples, and even in some places today, mountains are special
meeting places with God. “To go up a mountain” was a term used for those seeking
a special relationship with God. That is what happened with Peter, James and
John when they went up the mountain with Jesus. They had a new insight into who
he was and they heard the voice that directed them to listen to Jesus – to
listen to him, not just on the mountain top, but for the rest of their lives.
Listen to what he said about God’s love for us; listen to him when we need
reassurance that we are forgiven; listen to him for how to treat others, even
those we call enemies; listen to him for his concern for the poor and the
What would listening to Jesus mean at this moment of our lives? It’s Lent - and
many of us have chosen to give up some favorite things – candy, movies, alcohol,
special treats – these are good practices. They keep us conscious of God and
help us maintain our priorities. The voice on the mountain said, “Listen to
him.” Which this Lent might mean not only giving up something – but also taking
the money we save - $10, 30, 40 and giving it to a soup kitchen, an outreach
program, a homeless shelter, the parish food pantry, a community organization
that helps children, or the unemployed, etc. This too is a way of following the
voice on the mountaintop and listening to Jesus.
People say that time is money – so we could take our valuable time and use it to
visit someone who is ailing, alone, grieving, or struggling. We could use our
time to make phone calls we have been putting off. Lenten activities like these,
we hope, will last beyond Lent. It is just good advice to listen to Jesus, no
matter what time of year; but with our hectic schedules and the competing and
distracting voices in our world drawing our attention elsewhere, it is sometimes
hard to hear him, to know he is with us and to know what we are to do.
We, like the disciples, periodically need to go to a listening place, our own
private “mountain top.” That could be a lenten discipline for us – to find some
quiet time to listen to Jesus through his Word. We could do that by ourselves,
by setting aside a few minutes each day to read and meditate on the scriptures.
If our parish is offering a Lenten scripture series we might want to attend and,
with other disciples, “listen to Jesus.” We don’t have to travel very far to
find a mountain top to listen to Jesus.
The Abraham and Isaac story is fearsome, isn’t it? We are told that “God put
Abraham to the test.” In Genesis, Abraham and Sarah endure ten trials or tests.
But today’s is the most severe: God orders Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a
holocaust, a sacrifice to God. In Judaism this story is known as “Akedah,” “the
binding” and is a central narrative in Jewish theology, spirituality and
God calls Abraham by name. He responds, “Here I am.” That is a repetitious
exchange throughout the Bible: God calls a person by name for a specific task
and they respond, “Here I am” – then they wait for God to speak. The person’s
response suggests readiness, receptivity and a willingness to follow
instructions. But what a request God makes of Abraham after calling him by name!
When a friend calls our name and asks a favor, do we suspect such a demanding
request will be put upon us, as God puts on Abraham?
To make matters worse – as if to underline the cost of the sacrifice being asked
of him – God emphasizes Abraham’s relationship with his son, “Take your son,
your only one, whom you love....” This story is getting tense! Imagine how a
modern congregation will hear it in the light of crimes in our society and
church against children.
You can’t help but wonder how Abraham, who protested God’s intention to destroy
the innocent with the guilty in Sodom (Gen. 18: 22-33), would ever begin to
respond to this horrendous request to sacrifice his son, “your only son, whom
you love.” The location of the “height,” Moriah, God will point out to Abraham
is unknown. We can see where the story is leading us: later in Chronicles the
Temple mount in Jerusalem is called “Moriah.” God will be worshiped and
sacrifice will be offered in Jerusalem, at Moriah. Of course, still later, the
innocent and much-loved child, Christ, will be crucified in Jerusalem.
Abraham and Sarah have placed all their hopes on the child, who was a sign of
God’s promise that they would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the
heavens and the grains of sand on the beach. People in the congregation, upon
hearing this story, will be confused and even repulsed by the story and wonder
how one can relate in a personal way to this God?
Not a very comfortable, or tame God, is it? This is the God who invites us into
a relationship and strengthens us to respond with faith and trust to what is
asked of us. It is very hard to live with questions and to let God be God.
Abraham’s God is not easily contained or tamed by our attempts to reduce God to
a more manageable size. The Genesis text today is uncompromising. What we get is
Abraham – who is unwavering and unquestioning as he sets out to do what God told
him. He doesn’t ask how God will fulfill a covenant, while taking away the very
child who was the sign and future fulfillment of that covenant. One of the
questions put to the community in this story: Is God trustworthy when there is
not concrete evidence to prove it and when any sign of reassurance we thought we
had, is taken away?
You have to admire the boldness of the author who put this story in the
narrative and the biblical editors who placed Genesis, with this story intact,
at the beginning of the Bible. Very early believers are asked if we want to
worship a God of mystery; a God who is outside any little box we might want to
put God into. Previously Abraham had failed at crucial moments to trust God.
Still, God did not give up on him. Now Abraham cant’ fudge – will he trust God
despite the catastrophic demand being placed on him?
The biblical narrative shows that since creation human beings had moved further
and further from God. In the Abraham-Isaac narrative we see that God is forging
a new relationship, a covenant, with humans and Abraham is the model for us all.
We discover in the biblical tale that God is passionate and loving and will not
leave us on our own; no matter how many times we have failed, no matter what
impossible tests we face now or in the future.
The biblical commentators offer us some help in understanding the Abraham-Isaac
story. They suggest it is a repudiation of the Canaanite practice of human
sacrifice. The God of the Israelites will not require such acts of worship, or
proof of dedication. That lesson certainly comes across vividly in the “binding
of Isaac.” The story also touches into the persecution the Chosen People endured
throughout history. Like Abraham, despite what was asked of them, they would
cast themselves into the hands of their God.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
“For the Servant of God,
every place is the right
and every time is the right time.”
—Catherine of Siena
As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them
not to relate what they had seen to anyone until the Son of Man had risen.
Mark 9: 9
Picture this: You have just experienced the most incredible transformation of
your beloved leader on a high mountain and now you are being told to keep it to
yourself. Today, we know of the Resurrection; we no longer need to be silent. We
have roles and responsibilities as members of the Church—a role to remain
faithful, a role to “listen up!” to the teachings of Jesus, and a responsibility
to live our life in a loving covenant with God and neighbor.
Saint Pope John Paul II states in Redemptoris Missio , “The entire people of God
have a role to play as the Church fulfills her mission. In various ways and
through every member according to the gifts. . .the people of God must respond
to the duty to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel (cf.1 Cor 9: 16), in the
awareness that ‘ missionary activity is a matter for all Christians .’” (538).
As lay people we are especially called to transform the world. The Vatican II
document, “Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People,” states that Christian social
action is preeminent as the responsibility of the laity (7). Participating in
missionary activity does not mean that you must go to some far-off country
(although it could mean that for some of you). It does mean that you have to be
willing to go beyond the walls of the church to help in the larger community of
As Pope Francis states, in his exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii
Gaudium ): “Today, missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge
for the Church” and “the missionary task must remain foremost”. What
would happen if we were to take these words seriously? We would realize that
missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity. Along these
lines the Latin American bishops state that we “cannot passively and calmly wait
in our church buildings”;  we need to move “from a pastoral ministry of mere
conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry” . (11/24/13, #15)
The challenge is before us. Every Sunday, we ascend to the mountain top and
descend to our walk in the world. Will you step out in faith and join in
missionary outreach through acts of charity and advocacy for justice?
Say “yes” and contact
(In memory of Betty Mullaney 1/29/2024)
Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed
for persons on the run. “Faith Book” is also brief enough to be posted in
the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus took Peter, James and John
and led them up a high mountain
apart by themselves
Like the disciples, we periodically need to go to a “listening place,” our own
private “mountain top.” This Lent, why not set aside a few minutes each day to
read and meditate on the scriptures? If our parish is offering a Lenten
scripture series we might want to attend and, with other disciples, “listen to
Jesus.” We don’t have to travel very far to find a “mountain top” to listen to
the Good News Jesus has for us.
So we ask ourselves:
Is there so much noise and rush in my life
that I have no time for prayer and reflection?
Have I ever had a “mountain top” experience
when I felt God was close and spoke a word to me?
What effect did that experience have on my
DEATH ROW INMATES
"The death penalty is one of the great moral
issues facing our country, yet most people rarely think about it and very few of
us take the time to delve deeply enough into this issue to be able to make an
informed decision about it."
– Sister Helen Prejean
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each
week I am posting in this space several inmates’ names and locations. I invite
you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know that: we have
not forgotten them; are praying for them and their families; or, whatever
personal encouragement you might like to give them. If the inmate responds, you
might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
John Williams #0599379 (On death row since
M. Gilliard Seaga #1428278 (3/4/2019)
Terrance Campbell #0064125 (3/28/2022)
----Central Prison P.O. 247 Phoenix,
Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for
security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the
above address in Maryland.
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the
Catholic Mobilizing Network:
On this page you can sign “The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death
Penalty.” Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death
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