Like Last Sundayís Gospel, this is a story with a strong theological overlay. However, Jesus surely had an experience of his Father in heaven at some point in his public life in which he perceived that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and like the prophets die for the good news he had come to preach.
The disciples did not understand this experience then. Nor is it clear that we understand it now. Jesus saw that, like all humans, he had to die. He also perceived that his death, like all deaths, would be horrible, though more horrible than most. Nonetheless because he was confident of His Fatherís love for him, we went to Jerusalem bravely because he knew that ultimately God would vindicate the good news with his powerful love. So we must understand that God too will vindicate us eventually and that Jesus will accompany us down into the valley of death.
Lent, in a way, is more about our own deaths and resurrections than it is about Jesus'.
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Once there was a scientist who believed in nothing at all. He enjoyed especially putting down those who had near death experiences (NDE) in which they were revived after they clinically died. It was all brain chemistry, he insisted, an evolutionary adjustment for a species that was conscious of its own mortality. There was no tunnel, no figure in white at the end of it, no choice about whether to stay or come back. It was all an illusion caused by the brain chemicals that were released at the moment of death.
Then he had a heart attack and was clinically dead when they got him to the hospital. However, the doctors revived him and he reported that he had indeed gone through an NDE. It was an illusion, he insisted, caused by brain chemicals. I still do not believe in anything at all except science. When we are dead, we are dead and thatís that. However, he seemed less afraid of death than most of his atheist colleagues. One of them asked him if he was not afraid that he might be wrong.
Promise you wonít quote me?
Well, I figure that if the NDE was all an illusion then I have nothing to lose by saying it was an illusion. On the other hand, if the person in white that the brain chemicals made me imagine is real, well thereís so much love there, I have nothing to lose either because I will be forgiven. So itís a good gamble.
"Oh", said his colleague.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within
me, bless his holy name!
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