Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent, 2005
Glory: We hear that a number of times in our gospel today – the glory of God. Jesus keeps talking about how God will be glorified through him.
How is God glorified – or what does it mean to give God glory? The Greek word for glory, doxa, was always associated with light, with splendor, with transcendence. God’s glory doesn’t just hide in some mysterious way here or there, no it shines, his glory has a brilliance and splendor that is uncontainable, a majesty and beauty that is beyond our ability to describe. All we need to think of is the experience that Moses had – he who looked upon God’s glory and was forever changed – his hair as white as the snow.
In the Gospel, Christ tells his disciples, tells all of us that his mission is to glorify God, to manifest this awesome glory of our creator. Yet, if we look at our gospel today, something should strike us. This is not transfiguration Sunday – Jesus is not in dazzling white. There is very little in the way of splendor and glory. A few Greeks show up and wish to see him. We might imagine the soundtrack: a few flies buzz around, some market noise on the street, sounds of people going about their normal lives, disciples talking about the weather.
Jesus speaks about a seed falling to the ground and dying, about his upcoming passion and death.
Today we see a clear preparation, a clear sign given by Christ about the way in which he will glorify God. Increasingly his disciples must have realized that he was not going to ascend a throne of light, that he was not going to call on myriads of heavenly angels in splendid array to launch a new heavenly kingdom on earth, that he was not going to walk over the seas and govern the skies and have authority over all people and nations.
No, Jesus reveals a different plan. A plan in which God will be glorified in and by his people, and particularly by those who are weakest and most downtrodden. This plan was hinted at from the beginning, as we heard in our first reading from Jeremiah:
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.
Jesus will bring God glory as he walks among his people in their humble need, among all of us. And not in some great big rally or show – not in a new powerful kingdom – not in some emotional high or other… But in the secret recesses of our hearts – in the soil of the soul where he plants the baptismal seed of Grace and nurtures it, helping us to know him and follow his example of faithfulness to the will of his heavenly Father. In essence, Christ reveals that God is first and foremost glorified in the human heart that is transformed into his image and likeness. And that is his work, that is the work of his redemption – to bring God’s glory here (the heart). Christ, the seed, the life of God, the glory of God, has died so that he can be planted within our hearts and manifest the glory of God’s life within us.
Jesus is the Glory of the Father. And his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is the refulgence of his Glory, the splendor. That glory is given to us, hidden, covert, within Baptism, in the Eucharist, in the sacraments.
So we must resist the temptation that every Christian disciple has faced from the beginning: to think that God’s glory only dwells up in heaven, and if on earth, somewhere else – that Christ’s life is something foreign, that is meant to save us, to redeem us from the outside.
No – the seed has died, it has fallen into the ground of our humanity - yours and mine – not some generic humanity, for there is no such thing. But your flesh and blood and soul, my flesh and blood and soul. In the Eucharist the Church tells us that we receive what we are and are meant to become what we receive.
And so we must take with the utmost seriousness the reality of the Incarnation: that God has truly come to earth, that he has taken upon our flesh and walks with us so that his Glory is now often manifest even in the most simple and mundane tasks. St. Therese, the little flower, knew this well: that even the simplest of things, united to the love of Christ, are glorified and bring glory to God. That is where his glory shines: in hearts that are made new and are rooted in him through little acts of love.
What are the little areas that we can ask God’s glory to enter. Is there a corner of the home that needs a Christian symbol, a sign, to remind you that where you dwell Christ dwells, to designate a place where you can go to pray and remember who you are and what your life is all about? Are there accommodations that you have made that you know are not in keeping with your Christian dignity, that you know are not appropriate to the life of a walking tabernacle ? Are there moments of the day that you know are squandered in useless entertainment and can instead be given to simple yet profound acts of humble service to our family, friend, and neighbor? The Spirit of Christ, dwelling in you, longs to bring glory to the Father through you, longs to glorify God by your life, by your love, by your faithfulness and courage and discipline in the small tasks of each day.
Christ teaches us: if you are seeking the Glory of God – do not attempt to flee to heaven, do not try to find sanctuaries glistening and pure, nor to some kind of impressive show or rally or emotionally charged event. No – if you want to see God glorified, ask him to help you find conversion and redemption this lent in the trials and joys, sacrifices and hurdles, of everyday life.