The Meaning of Glory
For most people, the pressures and needs of daily life consume a tremendous amount of time each day. People are so busy just living in a modern world, there seems to be little time for much else. One thing which most often suffers in the shuffle is the spiritual life. Throughout the course of the year, our spiritual life becomes a bit flabby, and out of shape. The season of Lent is a reminder to take notice and pay attention that we do not live by bread alone.
A little more than a week and a half ago, our foreheads were adorned with ash symbolizing our fleeting earthly existence and certain earthly death. Typically, right out of the gate, a promise of repentance and renewal filled the mind of the faithful as the journey of Lent began. Figuring out what to give up was relatively easy, the same thing most every year. After all, many of those things given up do little change the quality of life of the faithful. By the act of self-denial, the message of Lent seems now complete. But what ever happened to the “amen” of ours on Ash Wednesday when we acknowledged our vulnerability and the transitory state of our earthly life?
The second week of Lent draws on the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. St. Luke describes it this way, “Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.”
Glory is a divine characteristic and St. Luke doesn’t explain it but rather only describes glory in the context of Jesus praying, whereby his appearance dramatically changed. Little did the disciples realize at the time, their glimpse of glory was much like the viewing of a cover of a book without actually reading what was inside. Later when the book was opened and read, did the message became quite clear to them; glory consists of Christ’s Passion and death, a fulfillment of the Father’s will.
The second reading from St. Paul this week to the Philippians describes the Transfiguration better than most. “For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their ‘shame.’ Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself” (Phil 3:17-4:1).
Enemies of the Cross
Plenty of Christians would recoil at the notion they are enemies of the cross as St. Paul warned the Philippians. For goodness’ sake, the whole Christian belief system is symbolized by the cross. The season of Lent pointedly reminds us there have been times we can be the enemies of the cross by putting too much energy into sustaining our temporal existence. With bank accounts adequate and stomachs full, people glory in the moment, the present desire has been satisfied, and all is well. The glory is artificial in holding to the notion a human being can achieve glory outside of God.
Human experience and wisdom show the world can never have an answer to our ultimate desire. Earthly desires are insatiable, and cry out for more which never seem to be quieted. Without thinking, we satisfy those desires and do not realize it is a case of diminishing returns. All the time and resources given to satisfy the ‘stomach’ is quickly consumed, and yet, our earthly life continues its decline, nothing standing in the way to stop death from occurring. The fake glory is surmising human development and achievement can silence man’s ultimate desire, but it only can lead to shame.
The imposter of glory is a feeling of being satiated at the moment, all is good right now. When the moment ends, and it ends, desire again rises up and demands our attention. For spiritual people, they know human desire can only be satisfied by something other than what the world has to offer, namely Jesus Christ.
Always tucked in the back of our minds should be the declarative phrase, “you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” The suffering and death implied in the phrase should awaken all who yearn for more to realize that true glory cannot happen without accepting our own personal journey to Calvary along with Christ. Artificial glory just won’t do anymore. We have already started by denying some of our earthly desires and by striving to be allies of the cross instead of its enemy.
Lent can help us to transform from earthly citizens to citizens of heaven where true glory resides.