Today’s gospel is taken from John 17: 1-11. It is the fifth and final chapter of Jesus’ “Final Discourse” at the Last Supper. In the following chapter Jesus leaves the Upper Room and crosses the Kidron Valley with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane.
It is a prayer to His Father. He begins,
“Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you…I have glorified You on earth by finishing the work that You gave me to do.”
Some of us may associate, consciously or otherwise, divine ‘glory’ with heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, but Jesus doesn’t. He speaks of the ‘work’ that the Father entrusted to Him. The ‘work’ of revealing the Father to his disciples and by extension to all of us: a Father and God of unlimited love, compassion, justice, mercy, reconciliation, inclusiveness, equality. The ‘work’ of living a life completely reflective of and in harmony with who He knew his Father to be, and what this entailed in His relationships with everyone he encountered. The ‘work’ of remaining faithful to His Father and what He knew of His Father when many rejected Him and His message. The ‘work’ of accepting with total trust the “cup” that He asked be removed in the Garden.
And He prays for His followers, then and now,
“I have revealed your name to those whom you took from this world to give me, … for I have given them the teaching you gave to me, and they have indeed accepted it…It is for them that I pray.”
Simply put, Jesus is praying to His Father that each of us will BE the answer to His prayer. Which perhaps should not overly surprise us since He has already, during the same meal 2 chapters prior, called us His “friends”. He is asking us “simply” to share in and do the ‘WORK’ that He did. He has shown us the way. It is clearly within our ability. And He has sent us his Spirit to guide, strengthen, and console us along His way.
How often in the course of any given day does it occur to us that maybe we are surrounded by opportunities to glorify both Jesus and His and our Father by simple ways of walking in Jesus’ footsteps? That is, reflecting “a Father and God of unlimited love, compassion, justice, mercy, reconciliation, inclusiveness, equality.” This is not always easy but rarely, if ever, complicated.
The word ‘glory’, with all its connotations and associations, may well seem and feel ‘out of reach’, something meant for heroes and people somehow ‘larger than life’. But certainly nothing that has to do with us personally.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (Bishop and Martyr, 130-203) said “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.”
Perhaps today’s gospel invites us to re-think our understanding of the meaning of the word ‘glory’. And what it looks like in OUR life.