As I write these words, the presidential primaries are in full swing. Caucus states and primary states, straw polls and exit polls – newspapers, radio and television stations and online news services cover debates between presidential hopefuls while pundits predict who will drop out next.
As the campaigns opened we saw the potential nominees in coffee shops and concert halls, filled with confidence, an air of hope and expectancy surrounding them. We saw each state’s party representatives, proud to be speaking on behalf of their contingencies back home. Barriers of ethnicity and gender seemed to dissolve like fireworks in the night sky. But if you looked more closely you might have noticed one important, if subtle, difference. While first-time voters come with a kind of wide-eyed innocence, trying to take in everything at once, those of us who have participated in previous elections come with a different way of seeing. We know how it feels to back a winning candidate. Some of us may have even run for political office ourselves. We have been to the mountaintop. But unlike those first-time voters, we have also known loss. We have come down from the mountaintop and we know the responsibility it has placed upon us.
Peter, James and John were like those first-time voters. They had not been to the mountaintop before and they wanted to stay there. But Jesus had other plans. Not only were they to return to Jerusalem, but they were not to tell anyone what they had seen because until the journey was complete they could not understand what they had just experienced.
Each Lent we again journey to the mountaintop of Easter. For most of us it is not a new journey. We are well versed in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We have participated in this race before. We have celebrated with the winners. But we have also come down from the mountaintop – felt the pain of Good Friday. Are we willing to accept the responsibility placed on us by what we have seen? Are we changed by what we have experienced? Will this Easter find us any different for having made the journey?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.