English Mountaineer George Mallory made history not only for his attempts to climb Mt. Everest, but for his three-word answer to the question of why he kept trying.
“Because it’s there.”
In Mallory’s view, this mountain’s very existence gave his life purpose. So it is with faithful people and God. The Great I AM requires a great I WILL when it comes to exploring our relationship with divinity. It entails a lifetime climb called prayer. Our actions during that climb are meant to prepare us for what we’ll find at the summit. In Sunday’s first reading (Is 2:1-5), the prophet Isaiah gives us a bit more to chew on in answering why we climb God’s mountain:
… that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths. For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.
Survival during our lifetime climb out of the shadows into such enlightenment requires taking action. Salvation isn’t reachable for the passive who take comfort from hiding in darkness, as this and Sunday’s other readings make clear. Paul reminds us how important it is to make our journey in the light—which must come from within us (Rom 13:11-14) .
Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
Jesus himself uses the story of Noah as another example of our role in our own salvation (Mt 24:37-44). It’s all about the prep for our ascent. Just as the deliverance of Noah’s family to Mt. Ararat’s dry land required that they build an ark to inspired specifications, Jesus himself dictated the instructions for getting us to our summit meeting with him. Item one is most important:
Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Yes, he’s coming to meet us, but it’s on high and holy ground to which we must first ascend. The time of the meeting only he knows, but because his time zone is always daylight-saving, we must stay alert to how we’ll appear outside the twilight zones we hide in so we’re worthy of his stealing us away from such shady, shelterless places.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Like Mt. Everest was for George Mallory, we must be there for Him!