17 January 2016
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
There’s more happening here in the gospel than a magic trick. There’s more going on than Jesus simply turning water into wine. As we heard, he did this to “reveal his glory;” that’s what’s happening. Jesus revealed his “glory.” And that’s great, but what in the world does that mean?
You know, we use the word “glory” all the time. There’s the obvious: “Glory to God in the highest.” “We glorify you; we give you thanks for your great glory.” There’s the Glory Be: “Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” And before the Gospel, we make the Sign of the Cross and say: “Glory to you, O Lord.” And we sing: “Heaven and earth are full of your glory.” Glory, glory, glory! We heard it in the gospel today: Jesus revealed his glory.
Of course, we use it in everyday life, too. You know, we might 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 do 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.
When Jesus turned water into wine at that wedding feast, he revealed his glory. But, you know, there was no flash of brilliance. There was no show of majesty and splendor. It just happened that, sometime when it was being moved, the water became wine. That’s all. And so, maybe our understanding of “glory” is . . . inadequate.
Now, in the Gospel of John—and this is very important—in the Gospel of John, the high point is not the Resurrection. The high point is the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. That’s the pinnacle; that’s where the glory of God is most revealed to us. And so, our definition of “glory” needs to be broadened; because something else is at work there in the crucifixion besides “brilliance and illumination,” “splendor and wonder.”
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—regardless of how it looks to us. At least, that’s what the Gospel of John is (maybe) asking us to consider as a definition of “glory.” Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding banquet as a revelation of his glory. The crucifixion is the high point of the revelation of God’s glory.
St 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. In his letter to the Romans, St Paul says: “The sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared to the glory that is be revealed in us. . . . All of creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God.” There’s something in us that has the potential to be glorious. And that something is what St Paul talks about in his letter to the Corinthians today.
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit; . . . to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” We could easily say the same thing about every aspect of creation. A tulip is created to be what it is. The sun is created 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.
Again, what is “glory?” It’s the revelation (or appearance) of something as it is in its true (and complete) form. If you want to see something glorious, go outside in the Spring and admire a tulip for what it is. Go and admire the sun for what it is, or the moon, or a river. Go and watch how the squirrels gather up nuts before Winter. They just are what they are—fully and completely. And because of that, they’re all glorious.
But, you know, the tulip and the sun and the squirrels—they all have a lifespan. They’re born and they die; it’s part and parcel of what they are. And so, after you admire the blossom of the tulip, come back and admire those brown, dried up stems and leaves that are left behind. When you come upon a dead squirrel, go ahead and see it for what it is—because death is just as much a part of that squirrel’s glory as is its running around, collecting nuts.
“Glory” is about the revelation of the “whole package.” And that’s where our glory is found. You know, we sing: “Glory to God in the highest,” or “Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” or the priest says: “Through him, with him, and in him, O God almighty Father, all glory and honor is yours . . .” But here, we’re not talking about God’s glory; we’re talking about our glory.
“Give God the glory!” What glory? Well, the glory of the human person being fully alive. Whatever gifts and talents God has given each of us, they are (as St Paul says): “Given for some benefit.” And the benefit they’re given for is . . . glory.
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 by being fully and completely who and what we are—male, female, tall, short, skinny, “fluffy,” loud, quiet, whatever . . . by being fully and completely who and what we are, we give glory to God . . . just like that tulip, or the sun or the moon, or that squirrel.
And don’t forget about the “glory of death.” You know, in our humanness, we’re born, we grow up, we learn, we mature, we forget things, we grow older, we die, and we fall into the arms of God and all the angels and saints. All it from—from birth to death to resurrection—all of it (the “whole package”) is who we are . . . it’s all part of the glory we give to God.
And it’s 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.”