I mentioned in my last post that I have not written much about the final Wittenberg gathering. I still have stories I want to tell, stories about people I have come to know, fellow members of the Mystical Body of Christ. I want to write about these brothers and sisters and what I have learned from them, which requires some reflection on the topic of glory.
Glory is the glue which holds us together. The Mystical Body of Christ may be wounded, it may continue to suffer in various ways, but at the same time, it shares in the glory of our Lord. Jesus gives us His glory – His power, His beauty, His goodness, His mercy, His holiness – for the sake of our unity. He makes this point clearly, more than once, when he speaks with His Father on the evening of His Passion.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they might be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they might be brought to complete unity. “ John 17:22
This is astounding! And it challenges my thinking. Is it really possible that we can carry the glory of Jesus? That He wants us to?
Glory is hugely important to Jesus, and as He approaches His passion the hope of glory is foremost in His thoughts. Jesus uses the word “glory” or “glorify” seven times in John 17. He prays to the Father to glorify Him, the Son, so that He may in turn glorify the Father. Jesus tells His Father that He wants His friends to be with Him, to see His glory, the glory He had with the Father before the world began. He says that as He has brought the Father glory, the disciples have brought Him glory. And He assures the Father in the hearing of His friends that He has given them the same glory which the Father gave to Him.
I do not often feel glorious. I am more in touch with my broken humanity, my aging body, and my sinful history than I am with my glory. Only recently have I come to acknowledge the fact that I do carry Christ’s glory, not just as a future hope, but as a present reality. Growing up with a strong and right, emphasis on man’s utter dependency on grace, I have sometimes not considered all the gifts inherent in the nature of grace. Glory is one of those gifts which I think we Christians rarely unpack. But Jesus sincerely wants our unity and He says that glory is key to this unity. He must be right, and in the course of our work with Wittenberg 2017 I have come to catch a glimpse of this beautiful truth.
There are saints on this earth who walk in Christ’s glory. Their glory is cloaked, like Jesus’ glory was cloaked on earth, but they know Jesus well. They bear His image. They speak with grace and truth. They love. They are filled with the Holy Spirit. And when these saints meet one another, they share a bond, a close kinship in Christ. We have met several of these saints in the course of our work with Wittenberg 2017- men and women, Jew and Gentile, Catholic and Protestant – all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, all partaking of His glory.
Often we Christians shy away from this word “glory” as it pertains to one another. Aware of our weakness, knowing the temptations of pride and idolatry, afraid that somehow we detract from glorifying Jesus as our one and only Savior, we hesitate to acknowledge glory in the Body. But Jesus does not share this fear. He tells the Father, “They have brought me glory.” He delights in sharing His glory with us. It is for this reason that He came, and the glory which we carry, if we will, brings Him even greater glory.
Shortly before His Passion, Jesus took His three closest friends up a mountain where they were allowed to see, in part, for just a moment, the true glory of their Savior. He was transfigured in their sight. His face glowed, His clothes became radiant. Peter, James and John were sore afraid.
But Jesus did not appear alone. He had other friends with him – Moses and Elijah stood with Jesus wearing their true glory. They glowed like Jesus. They were also an awesome, fearful sight. Peter, James and John were overcome with the beauty and power of the experience. What could they say? “Shall we build three tabernacles on this spot?” Then the voice of the Father thunders, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.”
We understand from this encounter that Jesus is greater than Moses and Elijah. He is the only begotten Son of the Father. But I find it fascinating that when Jesus has the opportunity to pull back the veil just a bit, He chooses to appear with friends. The glory that Moses and Elijah share with their Savior increases Jesus’ joy. I believe that Jesus was not only giving his apostles a vision of His divinity, but also a preview of the Mystical Body of Christ, of the glory they will share in Him.
Jesus wants us to be with Him! He wants us to share in His glory! Because only in glory can we know Him as He truly is. And only in glory will we know and love each other rightly.