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Ascend to the Mountain of God

Ascend to the Mountain of God

Second Sunday of Lent [B]

February 28, 2021

Mark 9:2-11

Mountain is a special place in the Bible. It is a place where God meets His people. In the Old Testament, there are many instances where mountains become a pivotal point of salvation history. After the great flood that cleansed the world, the Ark of Noah landed on Mount Ararat, and there, Noah offered sacrifice to God [see Gen 8:4]. Abraham was asked by God to offer his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. Just right before the sacrifice, the angel of God prevented Abraham and God recognized Abraham’s faith [see Gen 22]. When Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Moses saw a burning bush yet was not consumed, and there, on the mount of Horeb, God called Moses to save Israelites from the Egyptians [see Exo 3]. After the liberation from Egypt, Moses and the Israelites the Law and established a covenant with God on the mount of Sinai [see Exo 24:18].

Jesus’ important life events took place in the Mountains. There is the mountain of temptation, where the devil brought Jesus and offered Him the worldly glories. There is the mountain of prayer, where Jesus spent His solitude with the Father. There is the mountain of teaching, where Jesus taught the most remarkable lessons like Beatitudes and love for enemies. There is a mountain of Transfiguration, where Jesus manifested His divine glory. There is the mountain of the cross, or Golgotha, where Jesus gave His life for our salvation. Lastly, there is the mountain of ascension, where Jesus went back to the heavens and sent His disciples to preach and baptize all the nations.

One distinctive feature in the Mount of Transfiguration is that he invited three disciples: Peter, James, and John. There are many reasons why these three were selected. St. Ambrose of Milan, representing the Fathers of the Church, believed that these three were chosen because of Peter who received the kingdoms’ keys, John, to whom was committed our Lord’s mother, and James who first suffered martyrdom. Meanwhile, St. Thomas Aquinas, a Middle age theologian, argued that James was the first martyr, John was the most beloved, and Peter was the one who loves Jesus most. However, we can also see it in a simple way. These three were disciples who were ready to follow Jesus and climb the high mountain.

Climbing the mountain is a challenging mission. One has to make necessary preparation without being excessive. Climbing requires physical stamina as well as mental toughness. As the climbing progresses, the persons’ authentic characters will be revealed. Facing difficulty, one can be very selfish or selfless. Confronting challenges, one can march with courage or retreat in fear. In a dire situation, one can exhibit decisive leadership or get panicked and lose his way. Peter, James, and John were up for the challenge, and they persevered to see the transfigured Jesus.

Often Jesus calls us to climb a mountain with Him. Sometimes, we climb the mountain of prayer as we need to face many hurdles in our prayer life. Occasionally, we need to climb the mountain of teaching because we are struggling with the Church’s particular teachings. Sometimes, we climb the mountain of Calvary, and we need to carry our cross, and on the top, we find no consolation but the death of the Savior.

Yet, the good news is that Jesus, who invited us to climb the mountain, is also walking with us. As we walk with Jesus, He guides us, strengthens us, and forms us. If we are faithful in mountains of temptations and Calvary, we will participate in His Transfiguration, resurrection, and ascension.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Mendaki Gunung Tuhan

Mendaki Gunung Tuhan

Minggu Kedua Prapaskah [B]

28 Februari 2021

Markus 9: 2-11

Gunung adalah tempat khusus di dalam Kitab Suci. Ini adalah tempat dimana Tuhan bertemu dengan umat-Nya. Dalam Perjanjian Lama, ada banyak contoh di mana gunung menjadi titik penting dalam sejarah keselamatan. Setelah banjir besar yang membersihkan dunia, Bahtera nabi Nuh mendarat di Gunung Ararat dan di sana, Nuh mempersembahkan korban kepada Tuhan [lihat Kejadian 8: 4]. Abraham diminta oleh Tuhan untuk mempersembahkan putranya, Ishak, di Gunung Moria. Tepat sebelum pengorbanan, malaikat Tuhan mencegah Abraham dan Tuhan menerima iman Abraham [lihat Kejadian 22]. Ketika Musa sedang menggembalakan kawanan bapa mertuanya, Musa melihat semak bernyala tapi tidak habis terbakar, dan di sana, di gunung Horeb, Tuhan memanggil Musa untuk menyelamatkan bani Israel dari Mesir [lihat Keluaran 3].

Peristiwa-peristiwa penting dalam hidup Yesus terjadi di Pegunungan. Ada gunung pencobaan, di mana iblis membawa Yesus dan memperlihatkan kemuliaan duniawi kepada-Nya. Ada gunungan doa, di mana Yesus menghabiskan waktu tenang-Nya dengan Bapa. Ada gunung pengajaran, di mana Yesus mengajarkan pelajaran-pelajran agung-Nya seperti Sabda Bahagia dan mengasihi musuh. Ada gunung Transfigurasi, di mana Yesus menunjukkan kemuliaan ilahi-Nya. Ada gunung salib, atau Golgota, tempat Yesus memberikan hidup-Nya untuk keselamatan kita. Terakhir, ada gunung kenaikan, di mana Yesus kembali ke surga dan mengutus murid-murid-Nya untuk mewartakan Injil dan membaptis semua bangsa.

Kembali ke gunung tansfigurasi. Salah satu ciri khas dalam gunung transfigurasi adalah bahwa Yesus mengundang tiga murid-Nya: Petrus, Yakobus dan Yohanes. Ada banyak alasan mengapa ketiganya dipilih. St Ambrosius dari Milan, mewakili para Bapa Gereja, percaya bahwa ketiganya dipilih karena Petrus yang menerima kunci kerajaan, Yohanes, yang menjadi komitmen ibu Tuhan kita, dan Yakobus yang pertama kali mati sebagai martir. Sementara itu, St Thomas Aquinas, seorang teolog Abad Pertengahan, berpendapat bahwa Yakobus adalah martir pertama, Yohanes adalah murid yang paling dikasihi dan Petrus adalah murid yang paling mengasihi Yesus. Namun, kita bisa melihat juga dari cara yang sederhana. Ketiganya adalah murid-murid yang siap mengikuti Yesus dan mampu mendaki gunung yang tinggi.

Mendaki gunung adalah misi yang berat. Seseorang harus membuat persiapan yang matang tanpa berlebihan. Mendaki membutuhkan stamina fisik serta ketangguhan mental. Saat pendakian berlangsung, karakter asli orang tersebut akan terungkap. Menghadapi kesulitan, seseorang bisa menjadi sangat egois, tetapi juga bisa rela berkorban. Menghadapi tantangan, seseorang dapat maju terus dengan keberanian atau mundur dalam ketakutan. Dalam situasi yang mengerikan, seseorang dapat menunjukkan kepemimpinan yang tegas atau menjadi panik dan tersesat. Petrus, Yakobus dan Yohanes siap untuk tantangan itu, dan mereka bertahan untuk melihat Yesus yang berubah rupa.

Sering kali Yesus memanggil kita untuk mendaki gunung bersama-Nya. Terkadang, kita mendaki gunung doa karena kita harus menghadapi banyak rintangan dalam kehidupan doa kita. Terkadang, kita perlu mendaki gunung pengajaran karena kita bergumul dengan ajaran-ajaran tertentu Gereja. Kadang-kadang, kita mendaki gunung Kalvari, dan kita perlu memikul salib kita, dan di puncaknya, kita tidak menemukan penghiburan selain kematian sang Juruselamat.

Namun, kabar baiknya adalah Yesus yang mengundang kita mendaki gunung, juga berjalan bersama kita. Saat kita berjalan dengan Yesus, Dia membimbing kita, menguatkan kita dan membentuk kita. Jika kita setia di gunung godaan dan golgota, kita juga akan ikut serta dalam mendaki gunung transfigurasi, kebangkitan dan kenaikan-Nya.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Empat Puluh Hari di Padang Gurun

Empat Puluh Hari di Padang Gurun

Minggu Pertama Prapaskah [B]

21 Februari 2021

 Markus 1: 12-15

Mengapa Yesus harus tinggal di padang gurun selama 40 hari? Jawabannya tidak sulit. Dia mengulangi apa yang dilakukan orang Israel ketika mereka dibebaskan dari perbudakan Mesir. Orang Israel tinggal selama 40 tahun di padang gurun sebelum mereka memasuki tanah perjanjian. Namun, ada satu hal lagi! Markus memberi kita detail kecil namun penting: di padang gurun, Yesus tinggal bersama binatang-binatang. Kenapa demikian? Jika ada satu orang yang hidup bersama para binatang di dalam kitab suci, dia tidak lain adalah Adam. Yesus bukan hanya Israel baru yang menanggung kondisi keras padang gurun, tetapi juga Adam baru yang menghadapi serangan setan.

Yesus memasuki padang gurun selama empat puluh hari dan Dia diuji di sana oleh kondisi keras gurun Yudea. Tidak hanya menghadapi tandusnya gurun, tetapi Yesus juga menghadapi iblis itu di sana. Dari sini saja, kita dapat melihat hubungan yang kuat antara bangsa Israel di padang gurun dan Yesus, serta antara Adam dan Yesus. Seperti Israel kuno yang bergumul dengan ego mereka sendiri, Yesus juga menanggung kelemahan manusia. Seperti Adam menghadapi si penggoda, Yesus juga dicobai oleh iblis. Namun terdapat perbedaan yang signifikan.

 Sementara orang Israel menggerutu dan mengeluh, Yesus dengan setia berpuasa dan berdoa. Sementara orang Israel menggerutu untuk mendapatkan makanan, dan Adam memakan buah terlarang, Yesus menolak godaan Setan untuk mengubah batu menjadi roti. Sementara orang Israel kehilangan iman dan menyembah iblis dalam bentuk anak lembu emas, dan Adam ingin menjadi seperti Tuhan, Yesus menolak untuk tunduk kepada iblis meskipun semua kemuliaan duniawi yang ditawarkannya. Sementara orang Israel kehilangan harapan atas tanah perjanjian dan Adam menyalahkan sang wanita, Yesus tetap teguh dan menolak untuk menguji Tuhan. Yesus adalah Israel baru dan Adam baru. Sementara Israel lama goyah dan Adam menyerah pada pencobaan dan godaan, Yesus tampil sebagai pemenang. Yesus mengoreksi dan menyempurnakan Israel lama dan Adam lama.

Kita adalah tubuh Kristus, dan kita adalah bagian dari Israel baru. Saat Yesus memasuki padang gurun, demikianlah kita pergi ke pertempuran rohani kita. Namun, kita hanya bisa menjadi pemenang ketika kita mengandalkan kepada Tuhan dan berpartisipasi di dalam Kristus. Iblis jauh lebih kuat dari kita, dan tanpa Tuhan, kita pasti akan kalah.

Bagaimana kita akan menang melawan pertempuran spiritual ini? Yesus memberi kita tipsnya: puasa-pantang, amal dan doa. Puasa membuat kita lapar namun menyadarkan kita bahwa tidak semua keinginan jasmani kita harus segera dipenuhi. Karya amal mungkin melukai kantong kita, tetapi itu membuka kita pada kebenaran bahwa kita bisa hidup bermakna dengan memberi, bukan menimbun. Doa mungkin terkesan hanya membuang-buang waktu, tetapi doa membawa kita kepada kenyataan paling mendasar bahwa tanpa Tuhan, kita bukan apa-apa. Kita adalah bagian dari Adam baru dan Israel baru, dan hanya di dalam Dia, kita mencapai kemenangan sejati kita.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Forty Days in the Wilderness

Forty Days in the Wilderness

First Sunday of Lent [B]

February 21, 2021

 Mark 1:12-15

Why did Jesus have to stay in the wilderness for 40 days? The answer is not difficult. He was reperforming what the Israelites did when they were liberated from Egypt. The Israelites stayed for 40 years in the wilderness before they entered the promised land. Yet, there is one more thing! Mark gives us a small, however important detail: in the wilderness, Jesus was staying with the beasts. Why so? If there is one man closely connected to the beasts in the scriptures, he is no other than Adam. Jesus is the new Israel who endured the harsh conditions of the desert and the new Adam who faced the onslaught of the devil.

Jesus entered the wilderness for forty days, and He was tested there by the harsh conditions of the Judean desert. Not only facing the barrenness of the desert, but Jesus was also confronting the devil himself. From here alone, we can draw a strong connection between the Israelites in the wilderness and Jesus, as well as Adam and Jesus. Like the old Israel who struggled with their own ego, Jesus was also enduring human weakness. Like Adam was facing the tempter, the devil tempted Jesus. However, there are significant differences.

 While the Israelites murmured and complained, Jesus faithfully fasted and prayed. While the Israelites were grumbling for the food and Adam ate the forbidden fruit, Jesus rejected Satan’s temptation to change stone to bread. While the Israelites were losing faith and worshipping the demon in the form of the golden calf, and Adam wanted to be like God, Jesus refused to bow down to the devil despite all the worldly glory it offered. While the Israelites losing hope in the promised land and Adam blamed the woman, Jesus remained steadfast and refused to test God. Jesus is the new Israel and the new Adam. While the old Israel faltered and Adam succumbed to the trials and temptations, Jesus emerged victorious. Jesus corrected and perfected ancient Israel and old Adam.

We are the body of Christ, and we are part of the new Israel. As Jesus enters the wilderness, so we are going to our spiritual battle. However, we can only become triumphant when we are holding on to God and participating in Christ. The devil is much stronger than us, and without God, we march for sure defeat.

How are we going to win against this spiritual battle? Jesus gives us the answer: fasting-abstinence, almsgiving, and prayer. Fasting makes us hungry, yet it makes us realize that not all our bodily desires need to be fulfilled immediately. Almsgiving may hurt our pockets, but it opens us to the truth that we live meaningfully by giving, not hoarding things. Prayer may be a waste of time, but it offers us the most fundamental reality that we are nothing without God. We are part of the new Adam and the new Israel, and only in Him, we achieve our real victory.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Leprosy

Leprosy

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

February 14, 2021

Mark 1:40-45

Leprosy in the time of Jesus is not only physically and mentally deadly, but also spiritually incapacitating. Leprosy or currently known as the Hansen’s disease is horrifying sickness because it does not kill the person slowly, but it gradually deforms and incapacitates the person. The bacteria cause terrible damage in peripheral nervous to the point that the person is no longer feeling the sensation, especially pain. Without this sensation, the person fails to recognize and avoid bodily injuries. Losing limbs is shared among the victims with advanced stages of leprosy.

Since the sickness was incurable and highly contagious in ancient time, it was a natural reaction for the people to exclude the infected persons from the community. We can imagine the effects of exclusion suffered by the victims. They were cut from the bare necessities, separated from their family and friends, and aware that they will die a horrible death. People could quickly become insane. This awareness that they would not survive outside society pushes the people with leprosy to gather and form their community. Thus, lepers’ colonies were deemed a practical solution to support one another in the face of the bleak reality of life. 

In the Jewish context, skin diseases, especially leprosy, are about biological and mental problems, but it is a religious issue. The Book of Leviticus states that people with certain skin diseases, including leprosy, have to present themselves to the priest and have their bodies examined. The priest may declare that persons as unclean. After the verdict, the persons have to go out from the community, wear rent cloth, and let their hair dishevel. These become visible signs that they are with contagious diseases and unclean. Yet, if a person remains going closer to them, they shall shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” This is to make sure healthy and clean persons will not come nearer. Being declared unclean means the person is not fit for the religious service and cannot enter the holy ground like the temple. Thus, for a Jew who contracted leprosy, he was excluded physically and mentally and religiously. The sickness also cut them from God they serve and worship.

In the Gospel, we see the leper who took the initiative to approach Jesus, thus breaking the most fundamental prohibition to stay away from people and God. The leper’s request was not to be healed, but rather to be ‘clean.’ The deepest desire of this leper is not physical healing, but to worship his God. The real healing comes only when we can approach and worship the true God. Looking at his courage and deepest longing, Jesus was moved by pity and made him clean.

The leper in the Gospel teaches us a lot about the genuine desire for healing. Perhaps, many of us look for God because we wish to be cured of diseases, seek financial success, or free from other problems. Yet, we seldom desire to see God because we want to be healed spiritually, liberated from sins, and be one with Him. The Gospel teaches us that true healing is more than physical health and economic stability, but the union with God.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Photocredit: Claudio Schwartz