Monday, November 4, 2013

Climbing High

Friendsof Faith:

This week I was asked to pray for friends yearning to climb to the top of a mountain, something they understood would be difficult to achieve, something that would take strength and courage, patience and perseverance.
Someone is waiting for a response to arms held open in love; someone wants healing rather than just feeling better; and someone is seeking true understanding of their purpose in life—more than just acceptance of their being. They all have a desire for a mountain top experience—to reach for God’s perfection, to be completely healed, and to be completely loved.
“Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner." Lk 19: 2-6

Zacchaeus could see the obstacles ahead of him, he understood how small he was, both physically and spiritually, and he knew there were others who would follow the laws and be in a better place to receive Jesus’ attention.
But Zacchaeus made his desire to see Christ his priority. He resolved to do whatever it would take to get a share in Christ’s presence; he went beyond the easy, he climbed above the crowds, he did everything possible just to get a glimpse of Jesus. And in his expectation to receive nothing he received everything.
And there were those around Zacchaeus who grumbled (in jealously) because they thought they had done more to deserve Christ’s attention. They thought that just by doing enough they would get Jesus to “pick them.” And even though they had the opportunity to see Jesus without the obstacles, they didn’t appreciate him as much as Zacchaeus did in his challenges.
Even Jesus and the prophets had to sacrifice on their climbs up to the famous biblical mountain tops: It took Moses 40 days and nights to reach the top of Mt. Horeb to receive the Ten Commandments; Jesus went up the mountain to deliver his most famous sermon; and of course he climbed the ultimate path of sacrifice up Mt. Calvary, carrying the burdens of the cross of OUR sins (not his) in order to save US (not him.)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying … Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” Mt 5: 1-2, 11-1
The reward at the top of these mountains: the face of God, heaven, and unending forgiveness and mercy for mankind—PERFECTION!
Often times, reaching the top seems to take a little longer and be harder work than anticipated, including what I might think are “undue” sacrifices and sufferings.
Jesus told the apostles: You (I/we) will have to suffer insults and persecution to be blessed—to get the ultimate reward in heaven. Climbing high, reaching the top, is, and will be, hard work.
A climb high to the top requires the graces of patience, perseverance, and true selfless love (charity, empathy, compassion and/or service) to achieve the end result. I continuously remind myself to accept both the consequences and the sacrifices required during the climb to reach the mountain top: to look beyond the current obstacle, to enjoy the journey, and for the opportunity to look down and back from each peak when it is reached.
And even in the knowledge of God’s love and desires for me and what is at the ultimate top, I still sometimes find myself hesitate, balk or even stop on the way up. Because the walk, the talk, even the day to day experiences, seem to mean putting behind happiness, pleasures and my own wants and desires. I can remember times when I even tried to pass off my climb (duty) to someone else (“you tell them the truth—I don’t want to be the bad guy”) or have said “why me, why now.”
Heavenly Father, you have promised me a glorious view at the top of the climb. I rejoice at each opportunity for a new peak on the journey. Help me to remain faithful, to have the persistence and the patience to keep going, even when I seem to be in an endless valley or the terrain is rugged and the climb is steep. Thank you for your assurance and the knowledge you have given me of your presence—both at the top and along each step of the way. Amen.
It takes a power beyond ourselves especially during the most difficult of climbs. The terrain is often beyond our control. But the promise of the view at the top is too intriguing, too inviting, to take the chance that it might be missed.
Climb high, there may be valleys, but in order to have a valley, there must be a peak somewhere nearby. And, in the words of the late Zig Ziglar, “And I’ll see you at the top”
Blessings on your climb,

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