Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
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By SOPHIE DRUFFNER
“When the LORD came down to the top of Mount Sinai,
he summoned Moses to the top of the mountain.”
[Please note: I’m going to go just a little further in the reading today, beyond the confusion of the Israelites at seeing “Mount Sinai wrapped in smoke,” and the fear they must have felt at hearing Moses speak to the thunder, the Voice of the Lord. I’m going to take the part where Moses starts to go up the mountain, totally stressed at the thoughts of leaving his people, knowing that, like children, they’ll probably be up to some mischief without him.]
As we looked at the mountains surrounding Mount LeConte, a huge gray cloud began descending, wrapping around the top of the mountain. Parts of it separated and traveled even lower; the mountain looked as if it was being enveloped in smoke.
Recently, my family and I went on vacation in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. As we were hiking the 5.5 miles up to the tip of Mount LeConte, the sky gradually grew darker and darker. Portions of ground under the canopy of pine trees began to grow nearly black. And as we climbed, I began to think of how prophets used to go to mountains to pray. It seems as if we believe God is somewhere “in the clouds,” we have to go up to the highest point that we can imagine to hear him. We have to climb with our hiking boots sinking into the mud, our hands occasionally brushing the rough leaves of enormous trees, and sit down on a bed of lichen. Paradoxically, as we climb closer to God on the mountain, we sink a little further into the dirt, which he created, and as we reach the top of the mountain, the dirt is on our ankles, our face, our hands.
Muslims believe that all creation is “muslim,” or “in submission to God,” because He created it. In yoga, participants are encouraged to feel as if they are part of nature, as is the case in most meditations. Most Native American religions integrate nature to a great extent. And of course, in Genesis, humankind names the animals and rejoices in the plentiful fruit and nourishment in the Garden of Eden. In many religions, understanding nature can bring us closer to God.
It was amazing how removed from the modern world we were on that mountain. Of course, you could always point out that a little beyond those trees were telephone lines, chain restaurants, and electricity. But as we hiked in groves of dead, white trees which had sunk to an upside-down V-formation, I felt as if I could be there among the dinosaurs, the only person in the world. I wondered if this was how Moses felt, climbing up on that mountain. A little beyond him were the camps of the confused Israelites, looking for someone to take comfort in, perhaps distrusting Moses and looking to idols. But as he climbed up on that mountain, although thoughts of his people may have troubled his head, the further he climbed, the more he became involved in the nature, the more he became closer to God.
So this week, I encourage you to go climb a mountain, if you are near one. Or, if you aren’t, just take a walk in suburbia, or wherever you are. Enjoy how the water drips off of a live oak tree, how the sun shines on a cluster of hydrangeas, how the colors of the flowers are so bright and alive. While you are walking, completely involve yourself in the sights of the nature. Think of the complexity of each leaf, the amazing nature of photosynthesis, how God created each green thing that you see. And at the end of your walk, having just a little closer to God, say “Thank you,” to Him.