20 Jan 2019
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
“Glory” is a word we use all the time. “Glory to God in the highest.” “We glorify you; we give you thanks for your great glory.” “Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” “Glory to you, O Lord.” “Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”
We use the word outside of church, too. We talk about the “glory days:” the glory days of the Packers, the glory days of youth, the glory days of the parish. We use the word “glory” a lot, and we have some sense of what it means. It’s something good. It’s something brilliant and full. It’s something full of life; something at the height of greatness.
And we see here in the gospel that Jesus revealed his “glory.” But, you know, there wasn’t any flash of brilliance. There wasn’t any show of majesty or splendor. It just happened that the water became wine—that’s all. And yet, as St. John says, this was a revelation of Jesus’ “glory.”
Another “odd” thing with Saint John is that the high point of his gospel isn’t the resurrection; it’s the crucifixion. That’s the pinnacle; that’s where the glory of God is most revealed to us. And so, our sense of what the word “glory” means can maybe be expanded.
Maybe “glory” is more like: The revelation (or appearance) of something as it is in its true (and complete) form. The revelation (or appearance) of something as it is in its true (and complete) form. You know, when we talk about “growing up” and “maturing,” sometimes we say that we’re “coming into our own;” we’re becoming who and what we were created to be. Or, we might say that somebody is “showing their true colors;” you know, that somebody’s true self is being revealed.
“Glory” isn’t necessarily “brilliance and splendor.” It’s more like: The revelation (or appearance) of something as it is in its true (and complete) form. And Saint John is trying to get us to see God’s glory as “an abundance of giving;” “a super-abundance of giving.” The very fact of that is the “glory of God;” that’s who God is revealed to be; “showing his true colors,” “coming into his own” there on the Cross, there at the wedding in Cana. Good wine in abundance; love in abundance; sacrifice in abundance; life in abundance. The overflowing abundance of God’s giving is his glory. It’s who he is in his true and complete form.
But, you know, that’s who God is. The question is: Who are we? . . . because whoever and whatever we are, that’s the way we give glory back to God. It’s like all of creation. For instance, a tulip is created to be what it is. The sun is created by God to be what it is. The rain and the snow are created to be what they are. And they give glory to God by being fully and completely what they are.
It’s why Jesus says that the flowers in the field give more glory to God than Solomon, in all his splendor. The flowers just are what they are, fully and completely. Solomon, on the other hand, was always in the process of “coming into his own” and maturing. So, we know who God is; we know what his “glory” is: it’s his overabundance of giving. That’s who God is.
So the question still is: Who are we?...because whoever and whatever we are, that’s the way we give glory to God.
For the past twenty years or so, there’s been a lot of talk about Catholic parishes and how they should be more “vibrant.” And that word “vibrant” is taken to mean: lively and active, engaging and attractive, humming with the Spirit, fresh and alive. And there’s nothing especially wrong with that. It’s even something we can aspire toward.
But, at the same time, that word “vibrant”—when it’s applied to the life of the Church—can also be limiting. When I think of the parish (any parish), I’m less interested in it being “vibrant,” and I’m much more interested in it being “glorious.” And that’s simply because we’re called by God to a life of “glory,” not a life of “vibrancy.”
And that sounds a bit like I’m splitting hairs; like the difference between “glorious” and “vibrant” isn’t really all that important. But it is. The life of a “vibrant” parish has already been determined to look a certain way. The music at Mass will be upbeat. The preacher will be entertaining and very animated. Everyone will be involved in some ministry that’s given to them on a list. Everyone will be smiling, raising their hands in praise of God, and they will be on every street corner proclaiming the gospel. Everyone. That’s what a “vibrant” parish looks like. And that isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be limiting.
A “glorious” parish, on the other hand, doesn’t expect the same from everybody. In a “glorious” parish, every person lives up to his or her potential as a child of God—whatever and however that potential looks like. Imagine if every flower in the world were a rose (or whatever your favorite flower is). Well, then we’d never know the glory of the tulip, or the carnation, or the dandelion.
God doesn’t look at, for example, a pigeon and say to it, “Well, you’re okay, but the eagle is better because it can fly higher and it just looks better.” No, God looks at the pigeon and calls it “good;” God looks at the eagle and calls it “good.” God looks at the elegant rose and calls it “good;” he looks at the humble daisy and calls it “good.”
In a “glorious” parish, there’s room for everybody. There’s room for everybody’s potential as a son or daughter of God to bloom as God intended us. A “glorious” parish is like a garden mixed with all sorts of flowers—none trying to squash the other, none trying to give another an inferiority complex, none trying to tear the others down.
A “glorious” parish a community where each person is encouraged and nurtured along the way of self-fulfillment—as a son or daughter of God. That’s the kind of parish I’m interested in; that’s the kind of Church I want to be a part of. Luckily, that’s the kind of community our Lord Jesus founded.
So we know what God’s glory is. God’s glory is the revelation of himself as he is, truly and completely. His glory is his overabundance; revealed at the wedding at Cana, revealed on the Cross, revealed in the Eucharist and countless other ways. That’s God’s glory. Our glory is the revelation of ourselves as we are, truly and completely. And who are we but beloved sons and daughters of God, in whom he delights.
And so we are “glorious” when we’re charitable, when we forgive, when we sit at the feet of God in prayer. We are “glorious” when we follow Jesus and his poking at our conscience, even when it’s hard. We’re “glorious” when we shut up when we’re about to gossip, or when we step away from the computer when temptation comes, or when we approach life with faith and hope, rather than drama and doom. We’re “glorious” when we accept the fact that we need God; that we can’t and shouldn’t “go it alone.”
And that part of our “glory” is really nothing other than our common call to holiness; our common call to be “spitting images” of God. Other than that, our “glory” is whatever gifts and talents and dispositions God has blessed us with.
If you have the gift of, say, critical thinking . . . then use it. If you’re good in math, then do it. If have a talent for advertising . . . then use it. Music, art, athleticism, woodworking, creativity—use those gifts. Some people are good at listening, or praying, or reading . . . the possibilities are endless. The gifts from God are endless. And it doesn’t matter if somebody else thinks they’re worth anything . . . they’re worth something to God and they’re worth something to people who know you.
And they're what we bring here to Mass. God’s true self is revealed to us on the Cross, on the Altar. And our true self is shared with him in the life we live, and in the prayers we make. May we live a life of truth and fullness—a life of glory, and then come here to give our true selves—our glory—to God.