John and the other apostles had the privilege of living with Jesus for three whole years. It must have been both exciting and enriching to spend every day with him. Don't you wish you could have been there as well? Wouldn't it have been marvelous to see Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead? While we will not have that privilege, we shouldn't think that the apostles saw the glory of the Lord and we cannot.
Perhaps it is more accurate to say that we can see his glory as well—maybe not with our physical eyes but definitely with our spiritual eyes. The Holy Spirit wants to show us his glory and convince us about Jesus' love every bit as much as he convinced John and the other apostles. He wants us to tell the whole world, "we have seen his glory," with just as much joy, conviction, and excitement as those first believers.
Let's make this season of Advent a new beginning. If you've never had a personal experience of Jesus and his glory, don't be afraid to ask for it. And if you have experienced Jesus in a life-changing way, tell him that you want to know him even more deeply. Together, let's all pray, "Show us your glory, Lord! We want to see your face!"
Finding the Glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is not like the glory we find in the world. It's not success oriented. It's not a human glorification. The glory of the Lord is the expression of God's holiness, his power, and his majesty. It is nothing less than the revelation of the immortal, all-powerful God to us mere mortals.
There is also something very mysterious and non-mathematical about the glory of the Lord. It's not something we can conjure up on our own; rather, it comes by the revelation of God. His perfection connects with our imperfection and raises us to heaven. His immortality connects with our mortality and fills us with the hope of eternal life.
So how do we find the glory of the Lord? Sometimes it happens through a dramatic act of God. Think, for instance, of the blinding flash of light that knocked St. Paul to the ground. At other times, it happens as we accept Jesus' invitation to come and see, just as Andrew did (John 1:39). We know that Andrew saw something of Jesus' glory, for the first thing he did after his time with Jesus was to find his brother Peter and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (1:41).
Still others find the glory of the Lord in the normal circumstances of the Christian life—as they pray and ponder and meditate on Jesus; as they seek his wisdom through the Scriptures; or as they receive him in the Eucharist. Finally, others discover the glory of the Lord in the course of their everyday lives: in the mystery of friendship, love, and relationship; in the beauty of the created world; in the sweep of God's action in salvation history.
Jesus Manifests God's Glory. On one hand, the whole of creation—including every little flower, every tiny stream, and every majestic mountain—manifests the glory of the Lord. Similarly, the witness of the saints and even of holy people we know today can manifest the glory of the Lord to us.
Yet on the other hand, the best way to see the glory of the Lord is through a personal encounter with Jesus himself. On that first Christmas night, an angel appeared to some shepherds and told them that he had news of great joy for them: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah" (Luke 2:11). Then, a whole host of angels appeared and sang out, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" (2:14). This vision grabbed the shepherds' attention and drew them to the manger. And when they saw the infant Jesus, they glorified God for what they were told.
Likewise, Jesus met many people during his lifetime. They perceived his glory once they encountered him. The woman at the well (John 4), the leper who returned to thank and praise Jesus (Luke 17:15), the faith-filled centurion (Mark 5:21-43), and even the "good thief" on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) all saw his glory in one way or another. In every instance, these people were deeply moved by Jesus. Their eyes were opened, and they saw who Jesus was.
Brothers and sisters, these stories are not in the gospels simply to tell us about what happened two thousand years ago. They are here also to tell us about what can happen here and now. They are here to tell us what we can experience this Advent if we ask Jesus to open our spiritual eyes and to show us his glory. Perhaps we will see it in the beauty of the natural world or in the love of friends and family. But even beyond these instances, he wants us to encounter him directly, intimately, and personally. All we have to do is seek him, and then we will find him.
Glory Leads to Unity. At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed: "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son . . . . with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed" (John 17:1,5). And God answered this request by raising Jesus from the dead and seating him at his own right hand. A little further in that prayer, Jesus included all of us. He prayed first that God would make us one, just as he and his Father were one (17:21), and second that God would give us the grace to be with Jesus and see his glory (17:24).
Christmas would be a tremendous blessing for the church if we could all "be with Jesus" and "see his glory." This is the heart of Jesus' prayer, and of his deepest desires for all of us. As we ponder the glory of the annunciation and as we marvel at the angel's words to Mary and Joseph, and as we consider the way John the Baptist leapt in the womb when Mary visited with Elizabeth, and when we meditate on the manger scene, things happen inside of us. The Holy Spirit responds to our prayers and to our meditations by opening our eyes, showing us the glory of the Lord, and giving us his grace and peace.
Jesus loves it when we meditate on the mysteries of his incarnation. He loves to exchange our acts of service for his divine blessings. He sings for joy when we repent. He rejoices with us every time we come to receive him at the altar. Yet like any holy family, there is something that the church can do to make his joy more complete.
Jesus wants us to be one. The natural response to having our spiritual eyes opened and seeing the glory of the Lord is unity. Glory leads to unity. Glory moves us to care for others. Glory motivates us to make every effort to keep unity. Glory convinces us that love really can cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Glory asks us to break any dividing walls that exist between families, friends, and even enemies.
Answering the Call of the Lord. Every Christmas, we look forward to family dinners, to building good memories, to cheerful conversations, and to singing Christmas carols. We enjoy getting together with friends and family whom we may see only occasionally. It is amazing how Christmas has such an unparalleled impact on our lives and on so many people in the world.
Christmas can be even more special if we would try to find a few minutes each day to pray and contemplate the love and glory of the Lord. Jesus will respond to our efforts. He will open our eyes and show us his glory—just as he opened John's eyes and just as he opened Haggai's and the Israelites' eyes.
As you pray, remember that God lives in you and that he wants to help you each and every day. He wants to remove every veil that separates us from him so that we might know his glory firsthand. He knows that as these veils are removed, we will be transformed into his likeness and reflect his glory to the whole world in the way we live and act (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).
Finally, as a special Advent exercise, take a look in your heart and see if any walls of division are separating you from someone—especially from a loved one. It may take a while and it may not be easy, but Jesus wants to help you tear down those walls and mend every division. He wants his church to be one body under one Lord. He is Immanuel, God-with-us, and he will do everything in his power to overcome our divisions and bring unity.
We at The Word Among Us want to wish you and your family a blessed and holy Christmas. May the glory of the Lord shine in all our lives and upon all our homes and bring peace to all men and women of good will.