Glory

Today’s Gospel from John is the end of Jesus’ Priestly Prayer that concludes the Last Supper. As I was reading this morning’s passage, and thinking back to the Gospels for the last two days (the two earlier segments of Jesus’ prayer), I was struck by how many times Jesus uses the word “glory.” Today, Jesus speaks to his Father of “the glory you gave me.”

I think “glory” is a word we misunderstand. The dictionary defines glory (when used as a noun) as high renown or honor or as magnificence and great beauty. As a verb, it defines glory as taking great pride or pleasure in.

In religious terms, I think most people think we glorify God by looking upward, raising up our arms, and crying out how much we glorify and praise God. We sing “Glory and praise to our God,” as though that act alone is sufficient to give glory.

But it is clear from how Jesus speaks of glory in this prayer, that that is not what he has in mind. Benedictine Sister Maria Boulding writes in The Coming of God:

At the Last Supper the glory of God is shown to be simply love: the Father’s love for the Son and the Son’s love for the Father in their common Spirit; the Father’s love for the world…manifested in the gift of the Son; the Son’s humble, serviceable love expressed in washing the disciples’ feet and laying down his life for them; and the answering, participating love which binds the disciples to Jesus and to one another. This is “glory.”…

Through Jesus’ human unselfishness and loving unto-the-end God’s glory is manifested, because glory is divine unselfishness, self-sharing love.

We glorify God, not by shouting our Hosannas and our hymns of glory, but by being the love of Jesus. In the opening lines of the priestly prayer, Jesus tells God, “I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.” Through the model of Jesus and the power of the Spirit at work in us, we glorify God by doing the work Jesus gave us to do: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

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