This is my homily for 14 February 2010. Feel free to respond with comments. To view the readings, go to http://www.usccb.org/nab and click “February 14” in the calendar.
[__01.] The snowfall has the effect of making all the land and terrain appear the same.
But, not all mountains are created equal, are they?
This is the news right now from the Winter Olympics.
If all mountains were created equal, then all the trails at Whistler in British Columbia would have fresh white powder instead of snow that has been trucked in and kept cold artificially with dry ice.
But, the mountains of B.C. do not have enough snow. The Colorado Rockies have snow; Vermont has snow. I’m also told that B.C. experiences heavier snowfall in March. Oops.
Anybody got a calendar?
[__02.] Not all mountains are created equal.
The same is true from the base of the mountain from the ski lodge at the bottom of the mountain.
[__03.] The variation in terrain is not so visible to the eye. Sure, we can see some trails are wider or narrower. Some skiers come down very fast, some slower.
At the bottom of the hill, turning my eyes upward, I can hardly distinguish the actual incline, the difference between a double-black diamond ♦ ♦ expert trail and a green-circle ● easy trail (for me). The snow makes them look the same.
It’s only when we reach the top of the mountain and look down that we realize how different the terrain is, how different each challenge is going to be in our lives.
In this way, some of the terrain can strike terror in the heart of the novice skier. Maybe you’ve been there. I’m still there.
[__04.] The mountain is a theme and setting in the Gospel today. Jesus, with his disciples, comes down from the mountain to “stand on level ground.”
Jesus does not speak to us on high with a public address system or megaphone.
Rather, Jesus speaks to us by walking among us. He speaks to us by experiencing what we do. And, by knowing the everyday experience here on earth, the everyday experience of poverty, hunger, sadness, persecution.
We may, at times, find ourselves without the money or contentment or popularity we desire. This is poverty, hunger, sadness, persecution.
Each of these conditions calls us to trust God’s grace. It also means trusting in the goodness inside of ourselves – and the goodness in others – even when we fall and crash coming downhill.
For example, it is challenge to put others first, to sacrifice. This can lead to falling.
[__05.] It also lead to being buried, buried in the snow and also reflecting on the idea that the Christian life is always a dying and rising again, being buried and rising again.
This is true for a child at baptism; it is also true for any of us when we confess our sins and receive forgiveness and absolution.
We are buried with Christ and we die and rise to new life with him.
So, it is Good News to be buried. For the past week, we also might have thought that being buried with snow was Good News. Such burying closes the school and, it would seem, gives us a little holiday.
Nonetheless, burying is Good News. But, it is even better news when we rise up and are able – with God’s help to travel across the snow (or things) that had previously buried us or beaten us down.
[__06.] This means, at times, coming down from our own mountains of fear and pride.
Coming down the mountain is a difficult balancing act. In the Olympics, the skiers have to practice long and hard to descend the mountain at such high speeds.
And, we need practice too, the balancing act of:
*** letting go (letting go of our children – for parents).
*** letting go (letting go in a relationship where we may want the other person to bend to my will).
*** letting go (letting go by asking God’s forgiveness for my faults)
This means every day – often - balance and teamwork – also, compromise and commitment. And, we may wonder – at times – why did this look much easier from the bottom of the hill?
While this may not be easy, this also takes us to new heights and to new joys that we did not see back on the ground. We will reach new vistas with a new perspective on what is important.
The snow makes everything appear to be same; every mountain appears the same.
We not being called to ski or climb mountains in general but very specific mountains. No two skiers or climbers will lose their footing in exactly the same place. Also, no 2 families are exactly alike. Each family – and couple – will call out to God in unique ways and at unique times.
And, with God’s help, we can reach the bottom, and reach our destination here on earth where the visibility is still pretty good to see the unique challenges of our lives.