Just a few days before he was murdered, Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, offered these words of faith and affirmation: “My life has been threatened many times. I have to confess that as a Christian, I don’t believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.” Romero died loving his enemies. “You can tell people, if they succeed in killing me that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully they will realise that they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the people, will go on.” (The Tablet)
Christian belief and faith is hope incarnate – dying Jesus conquers death. There is nothing that can destroy a Christian, because death the ultimate end, leads to only greater fullness of life: indeed death itself is instrumental, sacramental in the Christian spiritual journey: ‘unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’.
Jesus asks us to give up our lives, to hate our lives. These are strong words, strange words – words that make strange the world that we live in. How do we do this, how do we renounce the world? Giving up on our own lives means focusing solely on Christ as Lord; Christ showed himself contemptuous of his own life, he didn’t regard it – he subjected Himself to humiliating mockery, exposure, betrayal and violence – Jesus in this act teaches us what it means to hate our lives, to disregard them for something greater.
To serve Christ means a rapt devotion and obedience to his will in our lives. How do we know that will? We subject our lives to the scrutiny of the cross. In the economy of the divinity, death leads to new life, something that won’t die, lives only for itself; that which dies is born anew, living for others. It may well be worth reflecting on: What might need to die in me so that I am born to new life?
Jesus says: ‘Whoever serves me the Father will honour’: we might be reluctant to talk about reward for good behaviour, but Christ is never reluctant to talk of rewards. The Father will honour us if we’re found serving Jesus Christ his Son. But it is not only honour that Jesus talks of; there is also ,specifically in John’s Gospel, much talk of glory. ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’. Glory comes at the time of greatest need: ‘Now my soul is troubled’ and what should I say ‘Father, save me from this hour?’. No Jesus replies to himself, ‘it is for this very reason that I have come to this hour’ and addressing the Father he says: ‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’
Glory is a very religious concept; it is certainly not the secular equivalent which is fame. Christian glory says something about God which is indescribable; but we will experience it. Glory then is about relationship with; God glorifies himself through Jesus. Unlike fame which is about an individual’s desire for recognition, glory is about others – for Jesus’ glory is that he draws all people to the Father. The Father’s glory is shared and bestowed on others; He doesn’t keep it to Himself: ‘and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’.
David Ford, writes that Jesus’ ‘self-effacing glory shines in order to reveal the glory of God in and for others’ (Self and Salvation). Glory from God has an outward action, it moves to include others, it is made manifest in sacrifice and love; the opposite of ambition and desire for fame. It therefore moves to include us. Christ’s action glorifies the Father and we are caught up to participate in that glory, indeed it was for our sakes that the Father acts in Christ. As St. Paul puts it:
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor 3-8)
Jesus’ glory importantly therefore is made manifest in his suffering on the Cross, in his sacrificial love for us. The glory of God has depth to it in that it is borne of that self-sacrificial love: To see the glory we must behold that suffering face, indeed we look at his face on the Cross – and have to re-imagine glory and the Father through that face.
Christ offers his life so that we might know His father and participate in His glory. He asks us too to offer our lives so that in our actions we might glorify God and in those actions bring others to Christ. We are called to a life of self-offering, a life of sacrifice, a life of outward movement to the ‘other’ whom we as yet do not know.
Archbishop Romero knew that his death would lead to greater life for the Salvadoran people, greater faith and more hope, not less. Christ’s death does the same for us, we live differently, and we are different because our lives are lives of resurrection. Nothing in this world can destroy that –nothing. ‘For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present,nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38)
John 12.20-26 - Glory
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them,
‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.
Jesus says: ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ 3Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 3Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’