If there has ever been a time that we needed to hear an encouraging word it’s today. Well, this last Sunday of Easter is shouting out the word GLORY! through three wonderful scripture passages that I encourage you to read after you’ve read my reflection. Let’s be attentive to these words of encouragement.
The first scripture, from the Acts of the Apostles, is so simple that its message can be easily overlooked. It’s the conclusion of the account of the ascension. Jesus called the disciples together and instructed them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. He then ascended to the Father. The disciples returned to the upper room in Jerusalem where they “devoted themselves to prayer.” The passage ends by naming the people who were gathered there: the eleven apostles, “together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
This image of the gathering in the upper room represents the Church in prayer, that day and throughout time. The community in Jerusalem was frightened, and at a loss for what to do next. Their patient waiting in prayer was their preparation for the coming glory. In a way, they were doing what we’re doing right now, and it formed them into a true community.
It’s ironic that in this time of quarantine and social distancing we’re closer, perhaps, then we’ve ever been. Concerned for each other’s welfare, we keep each other in mind. We reach out to assist each other with food or an encouraging phone call. It’s interesting how distancing is bringing us together on a deeper level. This spiritual connecting is, perhaps, the most powerful prayer we’ve ever raised. It’s the prayer leading us to glory. It’s the same prayer that prepared the early community for its mission.
The second scripture, taken from Peter’s letter, adds an unexpected twist to our reflection on glory. It speaks of suffering. Yet, the word “glory” is used three times in this tiny, three sentence passage. What does suffering have to do with glory? Here’s what Peter writes.
“Rejoice to the extent that you share in the suffering of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.” This statement doesn’t focus solely on the cross. By not referring to the suffering of Jesus, but instead, the suffering of Christ, Peter is focusing our attention on the Christ who is past, present and future, and who carries the wounds of the crucifixion on his glorified body. His wounds connect with our wounds, and our wounds connect us with his resurrected glory. So much so, that Peter can write: “If you are insulted in the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Concluding his message, Peter writes: “Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.” In a very real way, this reading is meant to encourage us in our struggle and suffering today. The wounded, resurrected Christ is walking with us through this trial. In fact, he’s wrapping us in his cloak of glory.
These thoughts of prayer and suffering bring us to the gospel passage. It’s taken from Jesus’ beautiful prayer at the Last Supper. In this short passage he uses the word “glory” five times!
Drawing near to his passion, he prays to his Father: “Give glory to your Son, so that your Son may glorify you.”
He goes on to pray that the Father “might give eternal life to all those the Father has given him”. His use of the word “eternal” has nothing to do with time – it’s a quality. Eternal life is the very life of the Eternal One – the life the Son shares with the Father.
Jesus continues. “I revealed your name to those you gave me out of this world.” Knowing someone’s name means to possess that person – to become one with that person. Later in the prayer he clearly says, “I pray that they may all be one, Father. May they be in us just as you are in me and I am in you.”
In his prayer at the Last Supper Jesus revealed the true meaning of glory – entering the Divine Light. We would be wrong to think of this as a reward after we die. This glory is offered to us every moment of our lives.
We’re in a time of global trial and suffering. You might ask why God did this to us. That’s an understandable question. But ultimately, who can know the mind of God. Let’s take this moment as an opportunity to reflect on Christ’s promise of glory – the union of all creation with wounded, resurrected Christ. If we link our suffering to his we’ll begin to see the light of glory.
Look all around you. Have you ever seen so many people caring for each other – risking their lives for each other – feeding each other supporting each other. God is a community of three persons. This pandemic is bringing us together in a way we’ve never imagined. We’re forming little, neighborhood communities – national communities and, yes, a global community. We’re learning to work together to heal and renew the world God gave us. Together, let’s take one step at a time always keeping in mind Christ’s promise of glory. “May they all be one, as we Father are one.”