Lent Day 12 – God on the Mountain

by Bishop Robert Barron

Today at Mass, we hear about the Transfiguration of Jesus, which was of great importance for the early Christians.

The Transfiguration takes place on a mountain, and this right away places it in relation to the Old Testament. Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son on a mountain; Noah’s ark comes to rest on Mt. Ararat; the law is given to Moses on Mt. Sinai; Elijah challenges the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel; Jerusalem is built on the top of Mt. Zion.

Mountains are places of encounter with God.

In the New Testament, Jesus gives the law on a mountain: the Sermon on the Mount. He dies on Mt. Calvary. And, in a climactic moment in his public life, he brings three of his disciples to the top of a mountain—and there he is transfigured before them.

What is especially being stressed here is the manner in which Jesus represents the fulfillment of the Old Testament revelation, economically symbolized by the two figures with whom he converses: Moses, representing the law, and Elijah, representing the prophets.

When a Jew of Jesus’ time would speak of the Scriptures, he would use a shorthand: the Law and the Prophets. So in speaking to Moses and Elijah, in the glory of the Transfiguration, Jesus signals that he brings the law and the prophets to their proper fulfillment.

N.T. Wright, the great contemporary Biblical scholar, says that the Old Testament remained, fundamentally, a story without an ending, a promise without fulfillment…that is, until Jesus came into history.


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  • ber

    I began to wonder today why a mountain what made it the place to be and something struck me what’s different about the mountain is the air is pure they come from the valley of sin to where the air is pure it is also right that the sinless son of God should die where the air is pure untouched by sin he brought two sinfull men with him to give testimony he was also transfigured there in a different way I love this feast not totally sure why it shows the need of peter ect to witness the greatness of Jesus which would later lead them to believe in the son of man and give their lives where as to day bishop Barron is my place in this God sometimes takes me away to a quite place away from my selfishness to give time to others the mountain for me is that place within my soul where I encounter the living God bless you may your life be blessed with daily encounters with the lord thank you ber

    • Mary Hilchey

      I like the connection with pure air.

  • D Blyth

    Through the complexity of the message in sacred Scriptures, there is a single, simple golden thread of truth

  • Patrick Cassidy

    One more thing to add about mountains, which is why they are so appropriately the setting for so many encounters with God. If you look at the shape of a mountain, with the peak at the very top, it is almost pointing up, like where we should focus our attention. A mountaintop would be the highest point on Earth, yet it tells us to keep looking up towards our Heavenly Father.

    Even church steeples are the same way! They point up towards Heaven.

    God bless everybody and have a great day!

    • Elizabeth

      The Japanese prayer temple has a roof that looks like hands praying – It makes reference to the Golden Mean which in my mind represents Christ. When we focus on the face of Christ, we become centered through Our Lord and Savior. We have a Methodist church nearby that has the same kind of roof. – every time I pass this church, it reminds me to look to Jesus.

    • Nancy Rynders

      Good thoughts, Patrick. I love to see a church steeple rising above a city scape – showing the importance of what that church stands for, no matter what denomination.

  • rtclovesmac

    For me, mountain top experiences are physical ways to let us see the big picture by getting us out of that which often clutters our minds, hearts and souls to a place of clarity, peace and wonder…seeing a larger part of God’s creation for our lives to enjoy.

  • concerned citizen

    The mountain can really be a symbol of where God is present, and that is Heaven. To climb up the mountain is difficult. Our journey to heaven is likewise difficult. Climbing up the mountain, we may fall at times because of the rocky road. Likewise in our journey to heaven we likewise fall countless times into temptation. But we stand up again and resume our journey.

    The mountain is also a place of prayer and Jesus would many times go there alone and pray and commune with His Father.

    St. Padre Pio had a vision where He saw Jesus carrying the cross to Mt. Calvary. Behind Him is our Blessed Mother also carrying a cross. And behind her are the Apostles, the Martyrs and then the Saints. They are all carrying their respective crosses. We too should also join them and bring our own cross. Should we fall, we should not worry. Jesus, Our Blessed Mother and the saints will be there to help us stand up again.

    • Nancy Rynders

      Great thoughts – thanks for presenting more for this reflection.

  • Nancy Rynders

    I never realized the significant number of mountain top events from Scripture. I’ve been to Pike’s Peak, and Haleakala on Maui – both magnificent experiences of being “on top of the world”, while acknowledging the wonder of God, who is even higher than that. I may read those Bible stories this week as a point of prayer.

  • concerned citizen

    Jesus was prophesying about His sufferings and eventually His death, the Apostles were beginning to fear, not only that their dreams of liberation will not come true, but that they as followers may also suffer the same fate.

    Jesus, who could read their minds, definitely knew what they were thinking. He had to do something, before they started losing faith. And so Jesus brought with Him to the mountain, three of His Apostles, Peter, James and John: Peter, who loved Jesus the most, John whom Jesus loved the most and James the first Apostle to be martyred. They were brought there to pray.

    This scene to me should remind us that whenever we are about to encounter or are presently undergoing trials and tribulations, that we should not panic, that we should not be afraid but that we should take time out, go to a silent place and pray – that God give us the strength to overcome our problems. Usually better to go to a holy place like the Church or the Adoration Chapel. In the Bible, the mountains always serve as a holy place to go to. Moses received the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai. Noah’s ark rested on Mt. Ararat. Jesus preached the Beatitudes from the mount. Jesus died on Mt. Calvary.

    After they reached the mountain, Jesus started to pray. And while He was praying, the Transfiguration took place. In the event of the Transfiguration, three important things happened: First, while Jesus was praying, He transfigured.Second, His Divinity which was hidden under the mantle of His Humanity manifested itself. Third, Jesus did this to give strength to the three Apostles in preparation for His Passion and Death on the Cross.

    In the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus’ Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity is also hidden under the appearance of the Sacred Host.

    But with faith, we know He is there and when we pray with that faith, something also happens to us. We are also transformed because we receive so many graces from Him. Looking at Him while He looks at us, we too receive guidance and strength. We experience more peace, more enlightenment and more confidence that our problems will be solved.

    • Elizabeth

      concerned citizen (of Christ, I will add) The insights you share for our own way of looking with faith so Jesus can guide us, gives us the confidence to look to Jesus in all circumstances for guidance and strength. Thank you.

      • concerned citizen

        thanks Elizabeth. I like that addition to my pseudonym. Your own thoughts and comments also inspire me.

  • concerned citizen

    God the Father spoke during the Transfiguration and said: “This is My Begotten Son, with whom we are well pleased. Listen to Him.”

    This tells us that we should listen to Him when we pray. Many times, we only want Jesus to listen to us, to listen to our prayers, to listen to what we want. Surely, Jesus wants us to share with Him all our cares and concerns. But He can only address them if we listen to Him. We should not be afraid to listen to Him. He is the fountain of Wisdom and He will be guiding us all the way.

  • concerned citizen

    We learn in the Gospel that Peter wanted to set up three tents. He wanted to stay in the mountain and not come down anymore. He wanted to run away from witnessing the Passion and Death of Jesus. Apparently he was not listening to what Jesus had been prophesying. And so God the Father had to remind him and the other two, to listen to Him. That He should suffer and die. And that they too should deny themselves and carry their cross.

    This tells us that when we pray, it does not mean we should run away from our problems. We should not seek escape and hope the problems will solve itself as time passes by. But that we should go out and face our problems head on and do our part. It does not also mean that our sufferings will disappear but that we will have the guidance and strength to overcome them.

  • Thomas Dulan

    Anybody here familiar with N. T. Wright? If so, which one of his books would you most recommend?

  • Penelope

    The Transfiguration tells me so much about my life in God through Jesus Christ.

    When Jesus comes down from the mountain and the people see him, they are ‘overcome with awe’ (Mk 9:15). When I spend time with the Lord he renews me – from the inside out! People see something in us when we spend time with God, His Presence, His Holy Spirit of course! When I spend time with my husband, I feel happy and it shows. How much more when I spend time with Jesus Christ! Our little “temples” cannot contain all that the Lord pours into us. Others will see and get a taste of the blessing of the Lord that is upon us.

    Because I feel called to pray for others for their healing, the Lord also shows me in this Gospel how important it is to spend time with him. When Jesus came down from the mountain, he cured the boy with a demon. Jesus had spent time in prayer & fasting; he shows the disciples, and me, the importance of prayer before ministry.

    Most of all, the Transfiguration reminds me of the Agony in the Garden. Jesus brings THE SAME THREE DISCIPLES with him to the Mount of the Transfiguration as he does to the BASE of the Mount of Olives – to the Garden of Gethsemane. This speaks so much to my heart, I could cry – because the Lord is telling me through these two Gospel accounts, that, just as He is with me in the wonderful mountain-top encounters with him – so too He is with me in the darkest moments of my life.
    Emmanuel, God is truly with us…we are the family God, we are now in communion with God & with each other, for eternity! This is what Jesus Christ has done for us. O how I love the Lord!

    • ber

      Your words are quite beautfull it is always rewarding to hear someone speak in such a loving way about the lord you truly know him and it shows peneplope please pray for me you are blessed

      • Penelope

        Thank you for your encouraging words ber. I love the thoughts you share too… we are leaving for Mass in a few minutes. I’ll pray for your intentions and offer the Mass up for you. I prayed for the discussion group members earlier today…it is such a blessing to be on this Lenten journey together. The Lord is Good.

        • ber

          Indeed he is thank you for your prayers may your time with the lord be blessed my heart goes with you

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    I like this reference to mountain’s The Holy Trinity does seem to repeat the use of different things Mountain’s.40 day’s in the desert 40 day’s after the Resurrection, 40 days of Lent, 3 Hours of Suffering in the Garden, 3 Hours on the Cross,Jesus has 3 favorite Apostles, 3 day’s in the Tomb (actually 36 Hours that stretch over 3 days), 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles. It looks like in this passage that the Jew’s and the Muslim could read this and figure all out it is so simple.

  • William John Meegan

    The TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS is a very Jewish interpretation of the TORAH as being THREE TORAHS: the REVEALED (Moses), the COVERED (Elijah) and the HIDDEN (Christ). Notice how Peter (REVEALED), James (COVERED) and John (HIDDEN) immediately tried to build three temples not as if they were equals; but, similar to how other ancient cultures built different temples to their different gods. Jesus of cause immediately prohibited this temple building.

    Those that attend Holy Catholic Mass should by now understand the sacred pattern that is sacredly imbued into it spiritual missive. The three readings (REVEALED) by the laity (Moses), the sermon (COVERED) by the priest (Elijah) and the Eucharist (HIDDEN = Christ).

    * REVEALED: is the ink on parchment outlining the mythoi of the Old and New Testaments.

    * COVERED: is the symbolic and alphanumeric structure of every indigenous letter (Hebrew and/or Greek) of the sacred scriptures forming words, which coalesces into sacred geometry revealing a higher spiritual message.

    * HIDDEN: is the higher spiritual messages: Christ consciousness envisaged via the REVEALED and COVERED.

    This story of the TRANSFIGURATION OF CHRIST (Jesus) is basically a rehashing of the STORY OF THE TALONS. Those that merely read the bible via the REVEALED ink on parchment are burying there talent (Talons) and refusing; for the reason that, they fear the peer-pressure or pure unadulterated laziness prevent them from going beyond the materialist societal mores.

    • amanda sanchez


      Christians are cannibals because of this
      passage in their sacred Gospels:

      [John 6: 53] Jesus said “Very truly I tell you
      unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life
      in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will
      raise them up on the last day for my flesh is true food and my blood is true
      drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.
      Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father so whoever
      eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven,
      not like that which your ancestors ate and they died. But the one who eats this
      bread will live forever.”

      I guess
      Christian vegetarians don’t get eternal life, bummer.

      We all die. You’re going
      to die ignoring the truth. I’m going to die knowing the truth.

      Why not offer some
      insightful quote from the past indicating that the followers of jesus
      did NOT consume the rotting body of jesus
      . Please do so, because if
      such a quote exists, it is contrary to the ritual performed to this very day,
      just that today its wine and wafers, not human blood and tissue.

      There is another take on
      the matter of the Christian consuming human flesh and its this:

      John lied in John 6: 53, meaning that Jesus never said that and John
      misinterpreted what Jesus said.

      I believe that over
      believing that someone claiming to “fulfill” the law (Torah) who
      insults God and commands his followers to consume a human, which God has never
      suggested and in fact even rebukes the consuming of ANY blood, including

      So the choice is yours
      christians, continue to insult God and Torah, or think what Jesus really said.
      I give Jesus some latitude on this and put the blame of lying squarely on JOHN.

  • Laurie Van Tassel

    Thank you for your commentary. I went to Mass today, to listen to a foreign priest, our newly appointed pastor from India, give a long, dragged out sermon, based on the Gospel. I have a great deal of trouble understanding this priest when he speaks. It was a joy to read what I should have heard!

  • P. Taylor

    One time, years ago, my husband and I had a home in the mountains. I had never seen a snowfall before, being born and raised in Southern California. The first time it snowed I was so overwhelmed by the beauty that I sat and watched it and through out the day I wrote 3 letters to God….one from different places looking out diifferent windows and thanking Our Lord for such beauty and being so grateful to Him that I was able to appreciate the wonders of His world!! God is so good and we are so blessed.

  • Màire Ní Bhroin

    I like the biblical reminder of the mountain ie. to look up to find God, our Higher Power, from Whom our strength comes. It is the key internal, spiritual act that we “people of the book”, all find we do daily, in order to lift ourselves up from our daily stresses.

  • Norma

    It’s something about the mountain that resonates in my mind, and it keeps bringing me back to the smallest of the seeds. It is said if our faith was as big as a mustard seed, we could move mountains.

  • Barbara

    I think today’s reading gives me a taste of what it will be like to see the glory of God. It sounds like it was an awesome experience; breathtaking. I am reminded to stop and be silent especially at Eucharistic Adoration, which for me is a mountaintop experience. Thank you Jesus for giving us transforming moments of your glory.