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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Giving Glory to God in All Things

Let’s face it. Not everything that we do is very exciting and glorious. Some things are downright drudgery and just not fun. It is hard to feel like we are doing anything very worthwhile when we engage in such tasks. And I’m not just talking about things that wear us down physically; what prompts this post is that I’m currently reading page proofs of the third edition of my 1500 page co-authored treatise on employee benefits litigation. (I’m guessing I don’t need to point out that it is not fun.)

Gerard Manley Hopkins said something that is very useful when we are feeling this way. He wrote:

“It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to Communion worthily gives God great glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.”

I’m guessing Hopkins would say that even reading page proofs of an employee benefits treatise can give God glory. It takes some work for me to view it in that way….but I’m trying.