Thursday, February 18, 2016

Second Sunday of Lent Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Why Pray on a Mountain?

Most of us have not asked this question: Why did Jesus pray on a mountain? We have not asked because perhaps we did not notice this detail when reading or listening to the Gospel. But this detail is there for all of us to read and ponder upon.

In today's Gospel reading we heard, "Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the mountain to pray." This was not the only time that Jesus prayed on a mountain. It is related by Luke that just before Jesus chose his twelve apostles "he went out to the mountain to pray, spending the night in communion with God" (Luke 6:12). And we are familiar with the fact that Jesus had the habit of praying at night in the Garden of Gethsemani which is on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. This Mount of Olives was a favorite of Jesus. It was here that he wept over Jerusalem because it did not believe in him. It was on this mount that he ascended to heaven. It is on this mount that he will descend when he comes again in bodily form. Jesus loved mountains and he loved to pray on a mountain. Why? We will find out why as we ponder on this sentence from our Gospel reading today.

We recall that in John's Gospel after Jesus fed a crowd of five thousand men (again John explicitly mentions on a mountain) he "realized that they would come and carry him off to make him king, so he fled back to the mountain alone" (6:15).

This was the first and most obvious reason why Jesus prayed on a mountain. He wanted to be alone when he prayed. It was to the mountain that he fled from the people. The Gospel says that he brought along with him Peter, James and John but he did not involve them in his prayer. He prayed alone while the three watched him. It was perhaps to ensure that nobody would disturb him that he brought these three disciples along. They were to guard him so that he would not be disturbed by others when he prayed.

Because Jesus was undisturbed on a mountain he could pray for any length of time before daybreak. This was the second reason. It was to pray for a long period of time that he prayed on a mountain. The time was so long that invariably the disciples would fall asleep as Jesus prayed. Jesus never hurried up in his prayers. He took his time. He was so unlike most of us who wish that a person praying in public would cut his prayer short so that we can go to the main show, as they say.

Some of us may ask this question: Jesus as second person of God was always united to God, was always in fellowship with his Father God. Why then did he go up the mountain to pray to his Father? Could he not pray to God in the plain, in the house where he stayed, in the street when they were walking?

Jesus did pray in the plain, he did pray in a room, he prayed even as he walked but still he wanted to pray on a mountain. Why? The third reason why he did this was to show us an example, to lead us in our prayer.

A mountain is higher than the plain. This is obvious. It is not obvious for us though that prayer should be the priority in all our activities. For most of us it is a decoration in our activities, especially during meetings and seminars. Prayer is like a parenthesis in our life. We pause for a short time in the morning to pray. We pause during meal time to pray. We pause before sleeping to pray. Many of us do not even pause. We just go ahead with our work.

For Jesus prayer was on the top of the mountain. It was on top of his activities. It was his priority. Nothing was to substitute for it. He prayed on a mountain to show us that our prayer life should also be on top of all our activities.

But Jesus does not just show us that our prayer life should be our priority. He leads us to make real this priority in our life. He sent his Spirit to move our hearts and minds to make prayer our number one priority in life.

Now you object. You say, "It was alright for Jesus to make prayer his priority because he had no other work but to preach. But for us this cannot be done because we have work in order to make a living. We have a family to feed, unlike Jesus."

This is where it shows that we have forgotten that we are baptized persons. According to our Catechism of the Catholic Church, numbers 1243, 1265, 1269, we who were baptized have put on Christ, have risen with Christ, are truly children of God because we are partakers of his divine nature, we no  longer belong to ourselves but to him who died and rose for us. We can no longer give the excuse that we are just mere human beings. By the grace of baptism we have become divine like Jesus.

Yes, we have work to do, to feed our family. And we do not abandon this work, because as Paul the Apostle says, If one does not work, let him not eat. But our priority is not our family but God's family. Before talking to the members of our human family we talk to our Father God. He knows what we need. Jesus said that even before we ask anything from God he knows already what we need. After all it is God who ultimately provides the food on our table. We only follow his instruction how to get it for our human family.

This life of Jesus within us, given to us at baptism, if it is real, if it is actualized will move us to make prayer our priority. In what ways? The Spirit of Jesus will lead us. We only follow.

In my case he has led me to pray first before I do any work. Not just pray some our fathers and hail marys but really pray with our Father God, commune with him. He does this in my life, not I doing it for him. When he speaks I pay attention.

Why did Jesus pray on a mountain? To be alone with his and our Father God, to be undisturbed and to show us that prayer is his and our priority.

Let us bow down our heads to pray.

Lord, teach us and lead us to make prayer, real prayer, conversing with our heavenly Father, our priority. Amen.

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