Transfigured Before Them

The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus in today’s gospel in one of the stranger stories in any of the Gospels. 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.

In the context of St. Matthew’s Gospel it becomes a turning point in Jesus’s 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 fated 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’s 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.

All lives, the great theologian Karl Rahner once said, are unfinished symphonies. Jesus surely had other dreams. Undoubtedly he wanted to persuade his people that God loved them even more than they imagined. Yet he came to see that his work would be during his life time an unfinished symphony and would be finished only long after his return to the Father in Heaven. There is an almost perfect parallel between that part of his story and the one in the film Mr. Holland’s Opus. It is also perhaps the story of all our unfinished symphonies: We don’t always do what we had wanted to do. But often what we do turns out to be even better.

Lent calls us to recognize the glory God offers us now. Such glimpses of glory quicken our journey to Easter-a celebration of renewed life now and the promise of eternal glory.