If I were asked, “Which do you like better, mountains or oceans?” I would be hard-pressed to choose. The ocean is easier; surface dives into the vast silence are for me a spiritual experience and I grew up loving the ocean. Mountain climbing is much more labor intensive but the reward of even climbing one of the easiest Adirondack peaks (my only experience) is a view that can take one’s breath away. I have been lucky enough to see the Alps in Europe and Mount McKinley in Alaska as well as all the mountains in and around Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and Pennsylvania – and the Grand Canyon from 35,00 feet. I have grown to appreciate the majesty and beauty of these giants in a different but equally significant way as the oceans.
In the last verses of this morning’s gospel (MT 17: 19-20), Jesus answers the question of why the disciples were unable to drive a “demon” out of a boy whom he subsequently cured. He reminds all in earshot of his example of a mustard seed saying, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” This is the gospel passage that was the Scripture of the day for my Jubilee celebration (25 years in religious life) 22 years ago. I spent a lot of time thinking about faith before that day, wondering if I believed enough to shift even the small mountain rising out beyond my bedroom window. I spoke of faith and of God’s faithfulness that day and whether, before I die, I will be able someday to actually achieve such a feat.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the inner mountains that were probably the subject of the challenge that Jesus was putting before those listening that day. Having to scale the mountains of inadequacy and imperfection – as well now of aging – can be just as difficult sometimes as physically moving a mountain. I still entertain the latter but spend my time working on the former, hoping that in the end my level of trust in myself and God will find me dancing from one mountain to another, all of which have become my dance partners!