June 1, 2014 –– 7th Sunday in Easter
Acts 1:12–14 / 1 Peter 4:13–16 / John 17:1–11a
The Glory of the Son of God
Most of my life has been directed at understanding and proclaiming Scripture. The Bible is a deep mine of treasures that a lifetime cannot exhaust. There is good reason that the Church gives prominence to the “Liturgy of the Word.” When we listen to Scripture, we hear the voice of God.
A thoughtful homilist could find enough material in this priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17 to preach weekly for a whole year. I wish I had my “evangelical forty minutes” for this homily! There is a theme of the glory of God that extends from Genesis to Revelation, and it is centered in what Jesus is saying in this prayer.
Jesus, talking to the Father, is aware of the glory that I had with you before the world began.... St Paul says that Jesus lay that glory aside in his Incarnation (in the form of God.... but emptied himself––Phil 2), and yet here Jesus is anticipating not only the restoration of that glory, but the “joy” he had in going to the cross (Heb 12:2 ) was his knowledge that he was opening the door to that glory for us.
It’s my assumption that most of us think of Jesus as we picture him during his earthly ministry with his disciples or maybe on the cross in his passion. Almost never, I would think, do we actually try to imagine Jesus as John describes him––glorified––in the book of Revelation:
I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw.... one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (And then this disciple who was so close to Jesus says) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead (1:13ff).
Having a fuller, more complete vision of Jesus in our minds does a couple of things. First, being aware of Jesus in his glory affects our worship.There is a reason we join with the host of heaven in saying holy, holy holy. When we acclaim our faith and devotion through the Agnus Dei as the Eucharist is elevated, we need to be able to “hear” the assembled multitude around the throne of God saying, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! (Rev 5:12).
This is only augmented by a second amazing facet of Jesus and his glory. When the Word took on human flesh in the Incarnation, there was a fusion of the glory of God with humanity. The Incarnation is forever––Jesus retains his humanity in heaven. And because the glorified Jesus has ascended to heaven, he goes ahead of us and takes us who are in him––in his Body (the Church) ––there with him!
We know––or we should––that as we follow Jesus in this broken world, we share in the sufferings of Christ (as Peter expresses it in his letter). Christians are even encouraged to rejoice in those sufferings because, as we follow Jesus, we are heading to the same place where he has gone. Jesus suffered and was then glorified. We who suffer with Jesus have the promise of being glorified. Remember, we are all called to be saints!
And so Jesus prays in today’s Gospel: I am praying for.... those whom thou hast given me, for they are yours (Father); and everything of mine is yours, and everything of yours is mine, and I am glorified in them. We are destined for glory!
St Paul tells the Romans that Christians are predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son (8:29). That is why our life even now is to be “distinctive”––holy. Because Jesus has gone ahead of us into glory.... because even now the Spirit of Christ is changing those who belong to him into his likeness from one degree of glory to another (2Cor 3:18).... because of the hope we have as Christians––Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27), we are called to live every day with the glory of Jesus as our highest focus.
Hear the Spirit of God speak to this through St Paul: If then you have been raised with Christ, (this is what Jesus is praying about in today’s Gospel) seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (this is the reality of the Ascension and the setting of the book of Revelation). Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (this is what it means to live distinctively for Jesus). Why?! For you have died (this is what baptism means), and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (Col 3:1–4). I say it again: as we follow Jesus we are destined for glory.
This is our hope. The glory of the Son of God is a “big deal.” This is our Faith!