The Call of Mount Moriah
by Rev. Stanley J. Krempa
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Today's first reading about Abraham sacrificing his only son — the son of promise, the son who would carry the future of Abraham's descendants to be as numerous as the stars or the sands on the seashore — may strike us as brutal, savage, primitive and shocking. A little background may cause the dark clouds that envelop this reading to dissipate.
We remember that Abraham was called by God to leave his homeland among the Chaldeans and go to a place God has destined for him, what we could call a new world. Abraham obeys God's call and began a physical journey of perhaps a thousand miles. It also was a spiritual journey that would change Abraham forever. He is faithful to God's call despite the apparent impossibility of what God promises.
Abraham walked "by faith and not by sight." The culmination of that journey is Mount Moriah.
A number of years ago, archaeologists did some excavations in the area of the Chaldeans. During those excavations, they came across a gruesome discovery. They came upon evidence that the Chaldeans were involved with child sacrifice. The Chaldeans were not unique in this.
In the light of this discovery, Abraham's climbing Mount Moriah loses some of its puzzlement. God called him up the mountain to teach him, in a very dramatic way, that human sacrifice would never be part of fidelity to the God of life. At the top of Mount Moriah, Abraham finally and completely left behind all the old gods and practices of the Chaldeans. After this event, the cycle of Abraham stories in Genesis comes to an end. There, on Mount Moriah, Abraham is finally and fully free. There he became our father in faith.
During Lent, we are called to abandon the worship of the gods of our culture. We are called to leave behind the promiscuity of our age. We are called to leave behind the commercialism that sees material accumulation as the antidote to spiritual anemia. We are called to leave behind the fixation on political positions that ignore the common good. We are called to look to Mount Calvary as the place of true inner healing rather than the pharmaceutical substitutes that promise release from pain but not from sin.
The call of Mount Moriah demands a great deal from us. It is so much easier to fit in than to stand out. The call of Mount Moriah demands honesty and obedience. The call of Mount Moriah is that we face the truth about ourselves and what we have become. The call of Mount Moriah is not to rely only on rational planning for our future, but to have faith in God and to trust the Gospel. To answer that call requires that we leave behind the cultural drivers that are steering us toward cultural collapse. Then, like Abraham, we will truly be free.
We all would like to dwell on Mount Tabor and absorb the glory of Christ. But we cannot arrive at Mount Tabor unless we first follow the haunting and healing call of Mount Moriah.
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