Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Transfiguration, You and Me

Transfiguration is by definition "a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state."

Father Gordon MacRae, a spiritual adviser, if not director, for many, through the wonders of the internet, a medium that he has never had direct access to, reminds us of transfiguration once again this Lent in his latest posting "A Transfiguration Before Our Very Eyes" over at These Stone Walls.

After the Feast of the Transfiguration last summer, I wrote a post that Father Gordon links today entitled Transfiguration Behind These Stone Walls.  I think my posting of last summer provides an interesting backdrop to the further Transfiguration that is transpiring in the hearts and minds of Father Gordon, Pornchai and prisoner residents of the New Hampshire State Prison for Men.

In it I said:
In fact, we are all called to change our form or appearance, to be conformed to Christ in us.  Where Christ in His Transfiguration was actually changed and it was visibly obvious to the three disciples present, our transfiguration is more like a very slow metamorphosis and as that, might not be as obvious to those around us, as that of Christ was.
When Christ was transfigured in front of his 3 disciples, and Elijah and Moses appeared, this was a special, once in forever, miracle of God's Grace showing favor not just to his Beloved Son, but also to those who witnessed it, and also to all those who have ever read of it in their bible, or heard the story told at Mass.

Father Gordon describes for us a prison style transfiguration, that he has witnessed, in the care that Pornchai Moontri, his room mate and fellow pilgrim, has given to their friend Anthony Begin.

Father Gordon is often the scribe for us, describing life transforming events that occur behind These Stone Walls.  But, imagine the exhilaration that the writers of the Gospels might have felt as they relayed the story of the Transfiguration, or any of the other miracles that occurred in the life of Jesus. It is one thing for us to read a story from the Bible, but it is another matter to witness it, and/or to write it down as told to you by the participants.

Though Father Gordon writes of Pornchai ministering to Anthony, let us not for one moment think that Pornchai and his love for Anthony, and Anthony, who in love has had to receive the ministrations of his friend Pornchai, are operating in isolation, or that Father Gordon is merely a fly on the wall, observing.

Father Gordon has washed both of these men and their feet, figuratively at least, in his prayers and tears, which have flooded the Mercy Seat of Christ.  He is after all, alter christus for them, a Catholic priest, living out his ordination in the place and time in which he finds himself.

In the original Transfiguration story, we are told that Jesus clothes became dazzling white, and that his divinity shone through.  But, we were not there, and so we have to imagine something that is by its nature unimaginable.

But, Our God knows all this.  Who can tell Him anything that he does not know already, and who can counsel Him?

So, he placed his priest Father Gordon in the midst of a transfiguration, a miracle both profound in its scope and exhilarating in its visibility.  However, for you and me, as for those who have read the Gospel Transfiguration story, we must take it on faith.

Those who read These Stone Walls have come to trust Father Gordon and his stories and parables as he relates them to us in his inimitable style.  In fact, his writings and our readings have led us to a deeper faith, and so when we read that there was a transfiguration at the New Hampshire State Prison for Men, we can picture it, and enter into it alongside Anthony and Pornchai.

Anthony has been transfigured into a man who is ready to meet his Lord and Saviour personally, if that is God's will for him at this time.  Pornchai has been transfigured into a man whose love for His Saviour and the Mother of Our Saviour is palpable for us all, even if we do not get to see it first hand. And our Dear Father Gordon bears witness faithfully to all that transpires behind These Stone Walls, and is active both prayerfully and physically in his own journey of holiness and that of his fellow men there.

But, there is more, so much more.  If God so loves Anthony Begin that he would give him 3 months as a respite, still in a prison environment, where his body and soul could be ministered to by men the world has cast aside, and the evidence of the transfiguration is profound, then how could God not love you and me and be prepared to use us as mightily as He has used Pornchai in this story, and Father Gordon?

Maybe Anthony has already entered paradise, or maybe not yet.  But, imagine the celebration when he gets there, and imagine also the treasures that Pornchai and Father Gordon are building for themselves in heaven for having helped teach the caterpillar that is Anthony Begin to fly like a beautiful butterfly into the loving arms of Jesus.

God is not one to honor persons, but He does honor those who commit to doing His will on a daily basis.  Those He can call His own and trust with small things, will receive greater things from Him to use for His Glory and Majesty.

What a marvelous story.  Father Jim Williams, who was my pastor for many years in London Ontario was about 6'4" tall, and so was called Tiny by those who loved him.  But we was anything but tiny and he told us stories in his homilies that engaged us in our faith journey.  He would commence most homilies with the following statement that would immediately grab our attentions.  He would say: "I am going to tell you a story, and it is a true story."

Father Gordon has told us a story once again, and it is a true story.

Thank you Father Gordon, and Pronchai.  Thank you Anthony Begin for being faithful, and may God grant you rest in this world and eternally as it suits His great pleasure for you.


Father Gordon MacRae said...

Michael, this is simply magnificent, but I cannot hep but feel that I am reading about someone else. Thank you so much, and Pornchai and Anthony thank you as well. I will ask that a copy of this be printed and sent to them both in the trust that Anthony will be able to read and digest what you have written. This will bring much consolation to him as it does to us. I join you daily in the Divine Mercy Chaplet during Lent, and I will offer it for you today, and offer for you this day in prison. With blessings, Father Gordon.

Michael Brandon said...

Dear Father Gordon:

Like you I will graciously receive all prayers offered on my behalf.

You and your friends were definitely the focus of my time of Adoration this morning.

God Bless You