Welcome to Lent! If this doesn’t sound like the most appealing of greetings, you’ve come to the right place. In this special Lenten edition of The Word Among Us, our goal is to help make Lent a little more enjoyable. And we want to do this by focusing on this one promise in the Bible: that we can meet the Lord this Lent.
We can have an encounter with his glory. And that encounter can change our lives. As St. Paul wrote, “All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
For the next six weeks, we will be called to the practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We will be invited to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We will be urged to repentance and deeper conversion. Imagine how much more powerful these practices will be if we do them with the goal of seeing Jesus’ glory! Imagine what could happen if every act of penance and self-denial had the power to set us free from sin and draw us closer to the Lord. Well, this We may think that all these practices are hard and burdensome. But Jesus promised that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. He promises us that we don’t have to take on heroic virtue to see his glory. We just have to learn how to come to him. He’ll take care of the rest. So let’s take a look at the glory of the Lord.
The Glory of the Lord in Ancient Israel. In story after story of the Old Testament, God shows himself to his people in an overwhelming display of splendor and magnificence. The story of Moses is one classic example.
Moses had just led the Israelites out of Egypt and brought them into the desert. They were about to begin their long journey to the Promised Land. But God wanted to make it clear to them that they were not journeying alone. So he instructed Moses to build a kind of mobile shrine, a “tent of meeting,” that would house his presence. Inside this tent was an inner shrine called the Holy of Holies, where the ark of the covenant was kept.
The Scriptures tell us that when the Holy of Holies was set up, a “cloud of the Lord” came to rest on the tent of meeting. Whenever the cloud moved, the people broke camp and moved to follow it. Whenever it came to rest, the people set up camp there. And when the inner tabernacle was set up, the glory of the Lord filled it. His presence was so strong that not even Moses could enter it (Exodus 40:34-35).
Generations later, after the Israelites had settled in the land, King Solomon completed the building of his grand Temple to the Lord. He gathered the whole community and had the priests bring the ark of the covenant into the Temple amid great fanfare (1 Kings 8:5-11). Then the glory of the Lord filled the Temple—and again, the presence of God was so intense that the priests could not continue their sacrifices. His glory was overwhelming!
But the Israelites’ history wasn’t just one uninterrupted march from greatness to greatness. Around the beginning of the sixth century before Christ, they had strayed from the Lord so much that God allowed the Babylonian army to conquer their land and send them into exile. Yet in the midst of their suffering, God told them that their captivity would come to an end. He promised that he would lead them home. “Prepare the way of the Lord,” the prophet cried, because “the glory of the Lord” was about to be revealed (Isaiah 40:3, 5)! And so it was. The people were allowed to return home and rebuild their land. And they waited for the promise to be fulfilled.
Jesus: God’s Glory in the Flesh. But the glory of the Lord, when it did come, was like nothing the Israelites had seen before. The glory of the Lord was a person: Jesus of Nazareth.
Rather than a show of splendor and majesty, Jesus revealed God’s glory by healing the wounded and delivering the troubled. He dined with sinners and told the outcasts that God did not condemn them. He did perform miracles, but they were on behalf of the forgotten and marginalized. They were not showy spectacles aimed at the high and mighty. As the prophet had said, “He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him. . . . We held him in no esteem” (Isaiah 53:2, 3).
Still, for those with eyes to see, Jesus displayed the glory of God in unmistakable ways. It was a hidden glory, a glory veiled to those who demanded a never-ending string of signs. But to those who did believe, he showed himself to be nothing less than “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
Finally, in the greatest of ironies, Jesus showed his glory when he allowed himself to be nailed to the cross for us. Jesus spent his whole life bringing his Father glory by doing the work God had sent him to do (John 17:4). Now, in this final act, he showed us the depth of his Father’s love. On the cross, he revealed a glory that was founded in humility. He showed that God loved us so much that he gave up his only Son so that we could have eternal life (3:16). Jesus suffered the humiliation of the cross so that we could be seated with him forever in his glory (Ephesians 2:6). Yes, the cross of Christ is the ultimate display of the glory of the Lord!
A New Temple of the Lord. In the Old Testament, the glory of the Lord filled the Temple in Jerusalem. In the Gospels, Jesus himself lived among us as the glory of the Lord. His body was the “more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation” (Hebrews 9:11). “All the fullness” of God dwelt in him (Colossians 1:19).
But then something remarkable happened at the Last Supper. Jesus promised that he would dwell in us. (John 15:4). He even gave us his own body and blood so that we would always remember that he lives in us. Jesus has made each of us into a temple of his presence. He has made his entire Church into a “temple sacred in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21). He has made it possible for us to be filled with the glory of the Lord—just as the Holy of Holies was and just as Jesus was.
When Solomon saw the glory of God fill the Temple, he was delighted. “I have built you a princely house,” he prayed, “a dwelling where you may abide forever” (1 Kings 8:13). This is our goal as well. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. God lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). So during this season of Lent, we can be like Solomon as we try to make our bodies and our souls into a “princely house” worthy of the Lord. We can become a sanctuary that God is delighted to dwell in. We can receive his glory, and we can manifest it to everyone around us.
This is not an impossible task. As we said above, Jesus assures us that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). He even invites us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (11:28). Yes, your house may have its fair share of blemishes and imperfections. But the foundation is strong because it is founded on Christ. Yes, you may need to do some structural work on your house, but remember that Jesus is no ordinary builder. Always remember that you are a temple not made by human hands but by God himself.
I Can Do All Things. Psychologists tell us that setting high goals and repeating positive, affirming statements are very helpful in energizing us. They tell us that even if we don’t reach these high goals we still end up farther along the path than if we were to set small goals or just live day-to-day.
So go ahead and set some ambitious goals this Lent. Try to go to Mass more often. Decide to pray and ponder Scripture every day, or to increase your daily prayer time. Make it a point to fast from anger or impatience or self-righteousness.
At the same time, tell yourself every morning, “I am a child of God. I am his holy temple, and he lives in me.” Tell yourself, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Tell yourself, “I have been made to see the glory and the majesty and the magnificence of God.”
Brothers and sisters, we were made for God’s glory. This is our greatest inheritance. Let’s receive this gift, which Jesus has generously given to us.