Second Sunday of Lent: Coming Down from the Mountain


BY FR. JAMES MARTIN, S.J. | February 28, 2021
Today’s Readings – Second Sunday of Lent
Reflexión en Español

Jesus asks us to take the fruits of our time with God to others. To come down off the mountain. And to do the hard—and rewarding—work of being an apostle for social justice.” 

On the last day of my first retreat as a Jesuit novice, my spiritual director said, “Time to come down from the mountain!” I had no idea what he was talking about. So I said, “Huh?”


Mount Tabor

Smiling, he reminded me of today’s Gospel passage, the story of the Transfiguration, when Jesus is “transfigured” before three of his closest disciples. (The Greek word used is metemorphōthē: he undergoes a metamorphosis.) It’s a mysterious reading in which Jesus’s identity as the Son of God is again revealed to the disciples. 

In response, the disciples want to stay. “Let us build three tents,” says Peter. Who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t want to remain with Jesus there forever, worshiping him and basking in his (literal) glory? 

Yet this is not what they are called to do. Following Jesus’s lead, they “come down from the mountain.”  They return to the day-to-day work of being a disciple.

Working for justice can be hard. Several years ago, I asked Sister Helen Prejean why it seemed that so many people who work for justice can be, for want of a better word, angry. She said it was because they sometimes found it hard to see discernible “results.” Think of how long Sister Helen worked against the death penalty—decades—before Pope Francis declared it “inadmissible.” Justice work is necessary, but hard.

After a consoling time in prayer, a moving liturgy, a satisfying retreat, an inspiring book, an hour in spiritual conversation, or a walk in the woods in silence with God, we sometimes want to do nothing more than “remain.”  But Jesus asks us to take the fruits of our time with God to others. To come down off the mountain. And to do the hard—and rewarding—work of being an apostle for social justice. 

For Reflection:

  • What “mountaintop” experiences do you find to sustain you in your work for justice?
  • How are you being called to come down from the mountain—taking the fruits of your time with God to others as an apostle for justice?
6 replies
  1. Michael Purkerson
    Michael Purkerson says:

    For years I have had a reoccurring dream where I am following a little stream up a mountain. There’s a clearing at the top and a cross. The last time I had the dream, I felt a hand on my shoulder. He turned me around and said “if you are seeking me, follow where I am flowing out”. There was a shining stream flowing out into all the homes, to families, to the the poor, to the struggling.
    If we are to build tents, let them be for shelter for others.
    Thanks for today’s reflection

  2. Judy Carpenter
    Judy Carpenter says:

    Coming down from the mountain for me this Transfiguration Sunday means preparing to exchange the welcome time I’ve enjoyed to delve into spiritual and biblical matters – for again helping my son and wife shepherd their three children – ages 12-2, about 30 hrs a week. At 75+, I’ve been isolated (and comfortable) for a year while they figured out how to school the kids and work from home. A God-incident: Soon after I took in a virtual Mass, I received my son’s request that I resume driving the older two to their after-school Spring sports practices that will begin in two weeks. The start date happens to be the same day that is the “key” 14th day after I receive my second Covid vaccine. Perfectly timed; good to go. Back from the Retreat and into the routine of nurturing my offspring. It’s not exactly a social justice contribution, but it is a contribution that I’m uniquely positioned to make, perhaps toward a more loving generation.

  3. Judy Carpenter
    Judy Carpenter says:

    An add to my prior post: To undertake this sports transportation project I have to give up two Zoom book clubs (Mark and Joseph) and a
    social justice Zoom group. However, the way this day unfolded, “it” was crystal-clear to me what my next assignment is.

  4. Dr Eileen Quinn Knight
    Dr Eileen Quinn Knight says:

    The “mountaintop” experiences I find that sustains me in my work for justice is the holy sacrifice of the Mass. In proclaiming the Word and in understanding God’s interaction with me I find myself longing for even more of His help through the changing of the Bread and Wine into the body and blood of Christ. My Body and His become as one. My blood and His is poured out to soothe the suffering in the world. As I return from these experiences throughout the Mass, I am fortified with the graces necessary to do the work of the day. I am able to be with and present to all I meet throughout the day to assist them in their work for others and so I see the “mountaintop’ experiences continue to be spread throughout the world.

  5. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Inspiring reflection, thanks. Invitation to come down from the mountain could also mean giving up the top-down approach. Knowledgeable practitioners say, social justice can also be served through the humble bottom-approach.

    • Dr.Cajetan Coelho
      Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

      Knowledgeable practitioners say, social justice can also be served through the humble bottom-up approach.


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