Monday, September 5, 2016

THE MAN IN THE MOUNTAIN


Homily for Sept. 6th, 20146 Luke 6:12-19.

          “Jesus departed to the mountain to pray,” we heard in the gospel, “and he spent the night in prayer to God.” What Jesus was about to do was that important. It required a whole night of waiting on God in prayer.

In biblical times, mountaintops were considered especially close to God. Moses received the Ten Commandments atop Mt. Sinai. The dramatic contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of the false god Baal took place on Mt. Carmel. Our modern expression, “a mountaintop experience,” denotes an experience of God’s nearness. Martin Luther King used the image of a mountain when he declared, shortly before his tragic assassination, to a rising crescendo of assenting shouts from his hearers: “I’m not afraid any more – Yeah.” “I don’t fear any man. – Amen!” “Because I’ve been up to the mountain. – Hallelujah!”

From his disciples Jesus chose twelve. Why twelve? Because God’s people was composed of twelve tribes. Jesus was establishing a new people of God. The twelve men Jesus chose to lead his new people were undistinguished. If they had one common quality it was their ordinariness. About most of them we have only legends. And the lists of names in the different gospels don’t even agree in all cases.

The Lord God called each one of us, when we were still in our mothers’ wombs. “You did not choose me,” he says in John’s gospel. “I chose you” (15:16). The realization that our call, whether as Catholic laypeople, as priests, or members of a religious order for women or men, originates not in our own choice but in God’s is reassuring. The man on the mountain knew what he was about when he assembled that first undistinguished group around himself over two millennia ago. Throughout history his choices betray a remarkable sameness. Success depends not on the capabilities of those chosen, but on the wisdom, power, and faithfulness of him who chooses us. God knows what he is about. It is only in our own minds that the issue is in doubt.