The key word in our readings today is “glory.” “Glory” appears
again and again, in one form or another, throughout our readings and
prayers. But “glory,” like “grace,” is one of those words that we can
repeat over and over without ever thinking about what it means.
We usually associate “glory” with heaven, as in “glory to God in the
highest,” or with Christ’s Second Coming, when he “will come again in
glory to judge the living and the dead.” But there is also “glory” here and
now. After all, “heaven and earth are filled with his glory.” And
presumably, for the time being, it is this earthly “glory” which is our
greatest concern, since it is nearest to hand.
We encounter “glory” in some unexpected places and situations. We
naturally associate “glory” with triumph, with celebration of victory, but
that isn’t the context in which we find it in our Gospel today. There we
find Jesus saying, “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to your Son
that your Son may give glory to you.” We would expect to find these
words after the Resurrection and before the Ascension. But in fact, we
find them spoken at the Last Supper, in the moments before Christ’s
Passion and death. Clearly, then, “glory” is somehow associated with
suffering and loss. On his way to the right hand of the Father, Jesus
must pass through the Cross.
And so must we. In our second reading, Peter tells us that God’s
spirit of glory will come to rest on us, to the extent that we share in
Christ’s sufferings. It is in suffering for Christ that we glorify his name.
So we come nearer to glory when things are at their worst than when
everything is going our way.
We don’t have to go out and look for trouble. In the course of
things, suffering and loss will come to us. The question is how will we
respond. Will we curse God and die, as Job’s wife advised him to do? Or
will we embrace suffering for Christ’s sake, and rejoice to be allowed to
follow our Savior’s own path to the Father?
If we are to take the latter course, we will need a lot of
strengthening: strengthening that flows from Jesus’ prayer for us. Our
Savior said, “For these I pray — not for the world but for these you have
given me, for they are really yours. . . It is in them that I have been
glorified .” And the fruit of his prayer is the Holy Spirit, our advocate our
comforter, the Spirit of glory, whose coming we will celebrate next week,
Rev. Charles B. Gordon, C.S.C., is co-director of the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture at the University of Portland. He writes and records a regular blog called “Fractio Verbi.”