The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus in today's gospel in one of the stranger stories in any of the Gospels. Evidently Jesus had a powerful "religious experience" at some point in his public life, an experience which had a profound effect on him and on the apostles who were with him. As the story of this experience was related among the early Christians it took on a heavy overlay of theological symbolism. In the context of St. Matthew's Gospel it becomes a turning point in Jesus' life, an experience in which he saw that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die while he was there.
Since Jesus was human he was fasted to die just as all of us are fated to die. In his death, however, there would be something more. Since God was present in Jesus in a special way, God would also go down into the valley of death to show us how great was his love for us, to assure us that He would be with us at the time of our own deaths, and how all of us should face death. The manner of Jesus' death was not fated. He could have declined to go to Jerusalem without sin. Yet he came to see that he had to go there and so he did.
Fr. Greeley's Last Book:
Once upon a time a teenager was in a car wreck which totally wrecked the family car and just about totally wrecked her. And it wasnít her fault, though the last thing she thought before she lost consciousness was that her parents would blame her anyway. So she hovered between life and death for almost a week. She couldnít say a word when her mother and father came to visit her. Why are they crying, she wondered. Why arenít they shouting at me because of my reckless driving. Then she understood. They think Iím going to die. Maybe theyíre right. Maybe I am going to die. Thatís kind of geeky. But she was so doped up and so weak she didnít much mind. Sheís going shouted a nurse. The doctors rushed into the room to try to save her. Thatís all right she said, like I donít mind dying, not really. Donít die her mother wailed. Donít die her father wailed. Please donít die her little sister who was like a total brat wailed. She died anyway, floated out of her body, watched from the ceiling for a few moments, said ďforget about itĒ and then drifted off.
The next thing she knew she was facing God. Youíre here a little early, God said. It wasnít my fault, she pleaded, suspecting that God was like a parent. I know THAT, God said.
You like this place? She looked around heaven and said, Yeah, itís totally neat.
Do you want to stay here? Why not! Or do you want to go back and take care of your family for like sixty more years or so.
Why? Your family needs you. Theyíll fall apart without you. Youíre sure I can get back in. Like totally, God goes. She sighed, ďOK, but sometimes my family are nerds. And you never are. Well, sometimes. Because God wanted her to, she went back to her family, go better and took care of them. And they didnít blame her for the accident. I wonít say that they all lived happily ever after, but they lived a lot better than they would have if she had stayed in heaven.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy
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