Take Five for Faith Podcast No. 9 – The Glory of God
Take a Break for Faith Podcast Transcript
Take Five for Faith monthly meditation podcast – The Glory of God.
Welcome to your Take Five for Faith Monthly Meditation. This month our theme is “The Glory of God.” Let’s settle in with a story from a friend:
My dad had a knack for gathering in troubled souls, and my mom had a talent for nurturing them back to health. My parents' charges didn't always stay well, but at least they were offered a moment of sanity in the chaos of their lives.
At Easter I always think of Butchie. She was a beautiful young woman, the daughter of a work friend of Dad's, who had a serious drug habit that she just couldn't seem to kick. She'd worn out her welcome at the home of every friend and relation, so she came knocking on Big John Tuohy's door. Dad said, sure she could come live with us as long as she stayed sober, kept a job, and didn't give my mother any worries. My dad let her know he hoped she'd be going to Mass with us. "Next Sunday is Easter," he told her. "Bonnets are required."
After most of the appropriately and demurely adorned congregation filed into church Easter morning, in traipsed the Tuohy clan. Hushed gasps followed as the congregation beheld Butchie in all her glory: red dress, red stockings, red shoes, and a red straw bonnet with black netting and loads of feathers. She looked like a crimson bird of paradise.
The homespun life didn't hold Butchie's interest for long. But for one brief moment she stood in the glorious light of resurrection. I hope that glory still shines on her.
Let’s move more deeply into our theme with a reflection on what we mean when we speak of “the glory of God.”
The sky awash with color at sunset. A field covered in spring flowers. These exquisite elements of nature's design are instinctive places we might go to catch a glimpse of glory. But there are others: a moment of public honor, receiving an award for services rendered or bravery enacted. The spotlight on artistic ability, intellectual achievement, or scientific invention. Or how about the common miracles of life: being chosen in love. Holding a baby in your arms. Encountering a dream come true at last. These things, too, are glorious.
What we mean by glory has many interpretations. But however we use the word, we rarely mean what Jesus meant when he talked about glory. We don't go looking for it in the shame of a woman who's had five failed marriages and has grown used to being thirsty for something she cannot find. We don't peer into the face of a man born blind who has spent his life as an object of pity. We certainly don't seek glory at the deathbed of a friend, or go to the tombs where the stench of decay is already pungent. Glory, whatever it is, is an experience that exalts and uplifts us. Though we may have trouble defining it precisely, we think we know where to find it, and where not to bother looking.
We often speak of "giving God the glory" as if it's something we possess that God is in need of. Technically, glory is an attribute of God. It is a trait essential to divinity and, if anything, a thing bestowed on creation from the opposite direction. Though we talk of giving glory to God, our intention is to acknowledge the glory that is already a part of God's nature.
Glory is often equated with radiance, and that is not simply a romantic idea. Glory is something God emanates; therefore envisioning glory as a radiant quality, like the brightness Jesus displayed in his Transfiguration, makes sense. The artistic invention of the halo became a way of signifying the holiness of a life that participated in making the greater glory of God known on earth.
This emanation of light was often drawn as a circlet but also took other shapes. A triangular halo was used to indicate God the Father and sometimes the infant Jesus—a reminder that he remained part of the Trinity even through the journey of Incarnation. A square halo over a person's head implied sainthood in the making. A full body halo, as we see in portrayals of Our Lady of Guadalupe, was reserved only for Jesus or the Mother of God. Not every human life could reveal that much glory!
John's gospel shows an acute interest in the demonstration of glory and manages to do it without any haloes. Instead, the first half of the book concentrates on seven signs that reveal the power God is capable of manifesting—and chooses to entrust to Jesus. These signs show divine authority breaking into human history, as water is turned into wine, the sick are made whole, loaves and fish are multiplied, and Jesus walks on the surface of the lake. Jesus turns poverty into abundance and impossibility into reality. But nothing comes close to what he does at the tomb of Lazarus. There death and life meet like actors and exchange roles. There the thick immutable line between the dead and the living becomes strangely permeable. When Lazarus, four days dead, comes shuffling out of his grave, something that was always true has been turned into a lie. And something that was never true becomes possible.
The glory of God had not been revealed in all of human history as it was in this hour. Suddenly we learned something for sure that had until now been consigned to the realm of our hopes. In the reign of God, death and life are fluid matters, wholly under God's power to control. Though death appears final and incontrovertible to us, from God's perspective it is a twinkle in the eye of eternity.
And even then, at the graveside of Lazarus, the real hour of glory had yet to arrive. The restoration of Lazarus was a sideshow compared to the Resurrection to come. In the hour of glory for which Jesus had been born, life would not simply be resuscitated but revealed as part of a new creation that would never suffer or die again. The glory of the Risen One would make him unrecognizable to those who loved him best.
We still have sunsets and lilies in the field. But these quick peeks into the mystery remind us that glory awaits us just below the surface of those forbidding places we avoid: human limitation, want, suffering, and death. Poverty and impossibility are the deepest repositories for the revelation of God, which awaits only our recognition of it.
Let’s continue with a reflection that moves us forward:
Glory is a funny word. We all use it; many of us want it. But what is it, really? How much does it cost, and what good does it do to have it? The Hebrew word for glory means “heaviness.” It refers to the importance of a thing: The heavier it is, the more valuable it is, like a gold bar at Ft. Knox. Could anything be heavier than the authority of a God who can create a world at will? Yet God chooses to take that weighty power and use it to transform death into life.
Media resources tend to shower glory on athletes, celebrities, and winning candidates. This worldly praise and honor doesn’t resemble divine glory very much. God chooses to share a reflection of divine glory with a surprisingly different cast of characters: the meek, the lowly, the little ones. This glory gives the saints their radiant haloes and makes people with loving ways shine when they walk in the room. Pray for more radiant ones to bless our world!
We close this month’s reflection with two scripture passages. The first one comes from Psalm 19, and that is followed by First Corinthians 10:31: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of God’s hands. . . . So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
This concludes our Take Five Monthly Meditation on “The Glory of God.” We hope you have found it of benefit and we welcome your comments and feedback. You can find us at TakeFiveforFaith.com or on Facebook. The music for this month’s podcast is by Lee Rosevere. The Take Five Monthly Meditation is produced by TrueQuest Communications. Thank you for joining us this month and have a blessed day.