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18’th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      “Nobody gets to heaven without a letter of reference from the poor.” I was reminded of this quote as I read and reflected on the Scripture readings this week.

One of my favorite newspaper columnists, David Brooks, recently published a new book entitled The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (Random House, 2019). It is both an autobiographical work and an invitation to live a deeper life of vocation, commitment, faith, and community.

The premise of the book is simple. There are two mountains we can climb in life. The first mountain is the mountain of self-identity, success, and career. The second is the mountain of humanity, morality, and relationship. The first mountain is for ourselves. The second mountain is where we give ourselves away. As Brooks puts it: “If the first mountain is about acquisition, the second mountain is about contribution….On the first mountain you tend to be ambitious, strategic, and independent. On the second mountain you tend to be relational, intimate, and relentless.” You begin to climb the second mountain, perhaps, when you realize that the first mountain of riches, success, and fame is not all that it is cracked up to be. You realize this in a sense of emptiness having once reached the top, or when a personal or family tragedy knocks you off the summit and drags you into the valley. To climb the second mountain is not necessarily to completely reject the first mountain, but the first, you realize, is not where you find real life and real joy.

Loving hiking and backpacking so much, I have often thought that a wonderful image of God is a mountain climbing guide who challenges us, pushes us, persuades us to go beyond what we often feel content within our lives. This image of God goes well with the image of the Christian journey as an adventure, an exciting, mind-expanding, self-expanding journey that leads us places that we never thought we could go, or to places we never even thought existed. It is an image of God that is quite demanding, calling us sometimes to leave what is comfortable behind, but only for our own good and growth, and for the good of others, especially the poor.

God’s Word today, embodied especially in Jesus, is that mountain climbing guide, calling us to the joy, the exhilaration, the thrill of climbing the second mountain, of being enriched by the climb itself, and being amazed at the view from the top.

Gentle peace!   Fr. Larry