Will you Climb the Heights?
A Reflection on the Gospel of Mark 3:13-19
I have heard people say that while visiting the Holy Land; “pay attention to the geography for it too, proclaims the Gospel.” It really does! Last September, in walking through the Jaffa Gate, and then wandering through the tight, crowded, and winding streets of Jerusalem towards the temple Mount, I felt a sense of the excitement of ancient life in Jerusalem. Gazing from the Mount of Olives towards the Temple Mount, I too could feel the sorrow that our Lord must have known as he looked across the Kidron valley at the beautiful Temple that he knew the Romans would soon flatten. I also reflected in awe at the stark white and brown wilderness, especially the Mountain of Temptation, where Jesus was tempted for forty days prior to beginning His formal ministry. I would not have lasted twenty-four hours, let alone forty days! Finally, I think of the staggering height of the Mount of the Transfiguration. To climb all the way up that mountain was no simple feat! The place of the transfiguration towers over the plain of Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley out to the Golan Mountains of Syria. It is a place of great natural beauty! I can only imagine what it was like with our Lord standing there transfigured flanked by Moses and Elijah. No wonder Peter said,
““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.” (Mark 9:5–6 NABRE)
Today in Mark’s Gospel, we should consider the geography. St Mark tells us that,
“Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons…” (Mark 3:13–15 NABRE)
Jesus went up the mountain. He then summoned those whom He wanted to the heights, appointed them as disciples, promised that He will be with them, and then sent them down again to do His work. Jesus calls those whom He “wants” to the very summit of the mountain, a place of privileged revelation. The climb is not always easy, and it is undoubtably full of twists and turns. It is not something that you do in five minutes but is something to be prepared for. The gift of the climb is to glimpse the vistas of heaven. This glimpse should fill all with such joy that they can’t wait to share with the world, what they have seen. The disciples could not have known this in advance, but they must have trusted the Lord, for the twelve answered the summons. May our trust be just as great!
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In the Gospel today, Jesus gives his chosen, those He summoned as Apostles, their commission. They are to “be with him,” and are “sent forth.” They are to be people on a mission. Jesus is both with the disciples on this mission and propels them forth. Being both with and sent by Jesus are not two distinct activities, nor is one consequent on the other. One cannot be contemplative and not also be a soul in action. The mission of Jesus; proclaiming the gospel of God, confronting the power of evil, and healing, is to be the mission of the Twelve and implicitly of all disciples who the Lord summons. This mission must eventually propel us back down the mountain to preach the Gospel and drive away the demons that tempt the world, through sin, away from God, away from love.
The Church is a people chosen, summoned, prepared upon the heights, and sent. Jesus summoned those He wanted. He summons all the Baptized and Confirmed. No exceptions! In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read,
Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be … a holy priesthood.” (CCC 1546)
Filled with the grace of the Sacraments, lifted upon the heights, God is calling His Church. He is summoning us to climb the mountain. Will you respond? Isn’t our parent’s “yes” in our Baptism, our “yes” at Confirmation, and, most especially, our “Amen” before we receive the Eucharist, our “yes” to the summons. For in receiving these Sacraments, the Lord has taken us up the mountain so that we might be sent forth to,
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15–16 NABRE)
St Mark writes that those whom Jesus summoned included, “Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.” (Mark 3:19 NABRE) There may be those who God has given the grace and mission, who through weakness and sin, will betray Him. We must have the fortitude to remain faithful. In the Holy Eucharist, we receive the Grace and the mission. For Christ is with us and in us. In Holy Mass, as you move forward to receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, let your Amen before you receive the Lord be your answer to the summons. Then with every bit of our determination, never wavering faced with temptation, let us go back down the mountain and proclaim the Gospel.
Today, the Lord is summoning you upon the heights to be with him and entrusted you with His message of reconciliation for the entire world. Will you climb the heights, join in His mission of salvation, and remain steadfast?
Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd Ed. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000. Print.
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Mark 16:15 is the tagline on our full logo. The first mission of the Church is to proclaim the gospel. The good news is hope for a world that is consumed by loneliness of materialism.
It’s the good news that there is meaning to it all.
When you walk the same paths as Jesus; you’re given the setting. It becomes an ever more present reality. Jesus is the dawn from on high shall break away the shadows and shine on those who dwell in darkness. Our Lord is the mercy & compassion for the world--and we’re called to proclaim this good news.
I find the Eastern Gate in Jerusalem that was sealed by the Muslims fascinating: as if Jesus is not going to be able to go through it. If He walked through walls after His resurrection, He’ll be able to walk through a sealed Eastern Gate.