In these days of terrorist attacks, both at home and abroad, hardly a day goes by without some new account of a car being driven into a crowded marketplace or a bomb thrown into a restaurant, church or theater.
Fear of the “other” has led to a ban on entry into our country of anyone who is viewed as a potential threat to our safety. Children, who only yesterday played catch in the streets of middle-eastern cities, today cower in fear in bombed out buildings that were once their homes. And wives left behind when husbands go off to defend their way of life are dragged down from the mountaintop where only yesterday they innocently looked forward to seeing their children grow up, marry and have children of their own.
Abram was also living a kind of mountaintop existence, just going about his business, when God told him to leave everything that was familiar behind and go, sight unseen, to a land that God would show him (Gn 12:1-4a). Did Abram feel like his world was falling down around his ears? Was he able to take any mementos with him? Did he ever see his family again?
Peter, James and John had an incredible experience, a mountaintop experience, and they didn’t want to leave. Like Abram and people living in the middle-east, they wanted to stay where they felt safe and happy, but mountaintop experiences are not intended to last. God called them down from the mountaintop just as he had called Abram from his homeland. Life is not lived on the mountaintop. Abram would be asked to sacrifice his only son. Peter, James and John would face persecution and death. And wars would continue to maim and kill.
Where is God in all of this? In government agencies that share information in hopes of wiping out terrorist activity; in volunteer agencies and individuals who provide food and clothing to the displaced. As God accompanied Abram on his journey and Jesus did not leave his disciples to come down from the mountaintop alone, so even now God is present. “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.