The Gate of Heaven

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February 21, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

February 21, 2016
Luke 9:28b-36
Fr. George Smiga

A baby was born by caesarean section. Because his mother was still under the anesthetic, the nurse brought the child to his father who was waiting in the hospital nursery. Immediately upon seeing the boy, the father became concerned. He had rather large ears that were sticking out quite prominently from his head. “Oh this is bad,” said the father. “I can already hear the children at school calling him Dumbo.” The nurse tried to console the man. “You have a healthy son,” she said, “and if necessary there is possible surgery to correct this problem in the future.” “Thanks,” said the father, “but I’m really worried about how my wife is going to react to this. She doesn’t take things as easily as I do.” When the mother was ready, the father gingerly carried the child into her hospital room wrapped in a blanket. He placed the child in her lap. Then he carefully uncovered the child’s head so that she could see her son for the first time. Immediately upon seeing the child’s face, she gasped, looked at her husband, and said, “Oh honey, Look! He has your ears.”

There is what is, and then there is the way we see it. There is reality and then there is our perception of it. The two do not always match. Today’s gospel of the Transfiguration presents an interplay of reality and perception. The disciples on the mountain do not see Jesus in a new way. They see Jesus in a deeper way. They are able to perceive the glory that has always been a part of who Jesus is. The gospel, of course, does not simply tell us things about Jesus, it addresses us. This gospel invites us to see the people in our lives and our world in a deeper way. It invites us to look beyond the surface and to perceive the reality that lies deep within.

As Christians we see that reality from the perspective of faith. We believe that at the heart of every person and every created thing lies the goodness and the glory of God. The great American mystic, Thomas Merton, puts it this way, “The gate of heaven is everywhere. We live in a world that is transparent and the divine shines through it all the time.” What a difference it would make in our life if we would be able to see that deep inner reality, the glory of God that is always around us.

This truth however is too big to be taken in all at once. Like the disciples on the mountain we can only catch a glimpse of God’s glory. But those glimpses are important and we have all had them. Maybe it happens when we are walking in the woods and see the sunlight filter through the trees or when we see the joy in our children’s faces on Christmas morning. Maybe we catch a glimpse as we share a truth with a close friend or stand before a great work of art. In those moments we do not see things differently. We see more deeply the grace of God that is always around us. This is why it is important to keep our hearts open to those moments and to treasure them. For they lead us beyond the surface of things to the true reality that lies deep within them. They are the Gate of Heaven through which we find hope, through which we find peace, through which we find God.

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