For many months, the young man who was getting ready to graduate from college, had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer's showroom. Knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted. On the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study, told him how proud he was of his achievement and handed him a beautifully wrapped gift box. The young man immediately opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man's name embossed in gold. Disappointed, he angrily yelled at his father, "with all your money, you give me a Bible?" and stormed out of the house. He was so bitter that he decided to cut all relations with his dad. Many years passed. One day he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to him. When he arrived at his father's house, a sudden feeling of sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father's important papers and saw the still gift-wrapped Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matthew 7:11, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer's name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words PAID IN FULL.
Just a story. It may be well our story! How many times do we miss God's blessings because we can't see past our own desires? God shows Himself in mysterious ways and we react so violently, so blindly. We fail to see the inner hidden meaning. We rebel, we run away in disgust and in rage, and we miss the treasure. The cross is always a gem wrapped in dirty clumsy paper. We fail to open it and we miss the fortune.
The glory of God
Jesus Christ finds himself in an emergency-crisis point. John 13 tells us of a very important moment in the life of Jesus. He is celebrating his last Seder with his disciples. The Seder was the jubilation meal of the greatest event in Biblical history - the intervention of God in Egypt liberating a bunch of slaves and leading them into the promised land. However during that meal, Judas left the room. Jesus realizes that the end is soon. He can easily envision what is going to happen. Capture. Fake trial. Criminal punishment. Death on a cross. A few hours later he will be telling his disciples "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Mat 26:38). And yet John tells us that : "When Judas was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once."
He knows that death, a terrible scary death is near and He speaks of glory, honor, renown. To glorify someone is to extol, exalt, applaud him! Now He is going to be glorified, he says, and God is going to be glorified in him! He is going to be exalted and God His Father is going to be acclaimed and honored through Him. Not a cry of anguish but a burst of triumph - the hour of His glory has arrived! In five brief clauses He repeats this word "glorify" five times. Odd!
In John 12 we find Jesus reacting the same way. Just after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, some Greeks express their desire to meet Jesus. Philip and Andrew are hyper. 'Finally we made it! Even the foreigners are interested in us!' But Jesus is very smart. Success is the weapon which the evil one uses to cheat us and seduce us. He does not let himself be deceived. His reaction is transparent: "The hour ( = death) has come in which the Son of Man is to be glorified (= resurrection)". He knows that his Father has not sent him into this world to have human success, which is always vain and empty. He has come for another reason: to enter into a very important battle - the battle of His death. But once he acknowledges this, he is in anguish. As a man, he is apprehensive at the thought that they are going to do away with him. "Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But how can I say 'save me from this hour' when it is for this very reason that I have come to this hour? Father, then glorify your name." So in front of the whole crowd, he reacts, rejecting the evil one, and cries out, "Father, glorify your name, don't let me give in". Then a voice comes from heaven, saying, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again".
When has God glorified his name? To glorify God's name means that God has shown his power; that the people have said, 'How fantastic, look how marvelous God is'. He has glorified it in a sign, which signifies what he is about to fulfill in Jesus Christ. God glorified his name by bringing his people out of the land of Egypt, by opening the Red Sea, by leading his people through the desert into the promised land. He has brought them out of slavery, brought them through the death of the sea, of the desert, of the land occupied by powerful nations, and brought them to freedom. He is now going to fulfill the same thing in Jesus Christ.
On the cross we find the supreme battle - on one hand, the absolute evil, the hatred of what-is-good, Satan's full power over the world and on the other hand, a man in perfect goodness, meek and obedient, full of love to the Father at all cost to Himself. Sin apparently triumphs because Jesus Christ is killed. But this was only a ruse, a trick which Jesus Christ uses so that he can enter into the kingdom of darkness and there give the fatal blow to our arch enemy. This is why Saint John Chyrsostom cries out triumphantly : "He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh... Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated... Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see."
The battle continues
And this combat continues. Christian life is a battle in which Jesus Christ fights against the ties which are within us and which keep us imprisoned and enslaved. He is a mighty warrior. The battle is not between us and the evil one. It is not between us and our problems. It is between Him and Satan. We only have to let Him fight.
God glorified Himself when He rescued His people from the slavery in Eygpt. He glorified Himself when He rescued His Son from the pangs of death. He wants again to glorify himself by rescuing us from our death, from our fears, from our suffocating fetters.
Since it is warfare, Jesus Christ uses weapons to fight. The facts which occur in our lives are the ammunition which He uses to destroy our enemy. It may be a sickness, it may be an exam which you flunked, a plan which has gone awry, a remark which a friend made which hurt you terribly. He uses everything and transforms it into a manacle to leash our enemy.
But He is not only a powerful warrior; he is also an artist. He not only weakens constantly our enemy's forays, but He also builds us up into a masterpiece of His love. He wants to make out of us Sons and Daughters of THE King! Through these events which we do not understand, which we may dislike, He is making us Divine!
This is why He says He is glorifying Himself!
This is why Saint Paul says "I boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14). Or when he together with Barnabas, is encouraging the communities in Iconium and Antioch, he exhorts them with these words : "It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14). The Christian attitude towards disagreeable events is not self-pity or complacency or resignation or 'gosh how much I have to suffer to enter into the kingdom of God' but an attitude of joyful serenity. HE is fighting for me! Gosh, that's fantastic! He is freeing me! It hurts ok, but He is building a new nature in me. I know that he will wipe away every tear from my face - and that's terrific!
"I remember one lovely, simple soul who was dying of cancer. I was with her on the Friday and I was convinced that she was not going to be here when I came back on Monday. So I prayed with her and gave her absolution. I even joked and said I gave her absolution for all the things she hadn't time to do! I blessed her with oil and said, 'Now, Annie, pet, your bags are packed and if the Lord comes looking for you at the weekend, away with you! You're all set.' And then I said to her, very seriously, 'Sure you won't be afraid to meet him?' and her answer was instant and from her heart: 'Father, I'm sure He's going to be awful glad to see me.'
Yes, let us give Him the chance to glorify Himself in us!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.