Man Alive, the Glory of God

Man Alive, the Glory of God

Seventh Sunday of Easter. Fr Austin Milner tells us that we ourselves are the glory of God.

Glory is for most of us a nebulous concept. What does it mean? How can God be glorified? What does it mean to give God glory?

Yet in John’s Gospel the notion has a clear meaning: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son.” The hour of Jesus’s glorification is the hour when he is lifted up from the earth to be with the Father on the arms of a Roman cross. The scourging, the crown of thorns, the awful journey to Calvary, this is glory; the terrible agony of the execution, this is his glory. The death, the going down among he dead, the resurrection and the seating at God right hand, all this is what is entailed in that request, “Father glorify you Son.”

And why does he ask for this glory? He asks for it so that he, in turn, may glorify the Father. It was for the glory of the Father that he became man. How does the Son glorify the Father? He does so by accomplishing the work which the Father gave him to do. The Father has given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom he has given him. This is what gives glory to the Father, “that they might have life and have it in all its abundance”(John 10:10).

By his own lifting up to heaven on the arms of the cross and his breathing forth of the Holy Spirit, the Son gives life to all those the Father has given him. He accomplishes the work his Father gave him to do. And as he dies on the cross he is able to cry out “It is accomplished.”

The Son gives glory to his Father by the immense crowd of all those whom he has made truly alive. For the glory of God, as St. Irenaeus has said, is nothing other than human beings who are truly alive.

It is us he is speaking of, we are some of the people the Father has given to the Son so that he may give us life, and that life is already within us through his gift to us of the Holy Spirit. From him we have received the gift of faith, as he says: “The words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me”.

Too seldom, I think, do most of us give thanks to God and to Our Lord for the gift of faith that we have received. Faith is knowledge; we who believe know in truth that Jesus comes from God and that it is God who has sent him. We have been given knowledge of the Father and the Son whom he has sent, and that knowledge, he tells us, is eternal life.

But to know God, in the biblical sense of that term, is not simply an intellectual grasping of his reality: it entails becoming like him and doing what he does. “God’s love”, that is God’s own ability to love, “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5), and so we are able to “keep the word” which the Son has given us: we are able to love one another even as he has loved us. To do that is to be truly alive.

And so we, who have received the gift of faith, and through faith the gift of true life, are Christ’s masterpiece, the work that his Father gave him to do, the work he accomplished by his death and resurrection. The glory that Christ give to the Father is no nebulous thing, it is all of us whom he had made alive through his own glorious death, resurrection, ascension to God’s right hand and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate the great sacrament of this saving event, in which Christ offers to the Father his accomplished work, we must know that along with him it is we ourselves that he is offering, the great crowd of those who through his death and resurrection have been made truly alive, “the whole redeemed city” as St. Augustine call it. And in the words of the same Augustine, “since we are the body of such a head, we must learn to offer ourselves through him.”

Readings: Acts 1:12-14 | 1 Pet 4:13-16 | John 17:1-11

fr Austin Milner spent many years working in the English Province's mission in the Caribbean, and latterly taught Christian Worship, Sacramental Theology and Church History at Blackfriars, Oxford. He died on 29th November 2010. May he rest in peace.