Updated: Apr 1, 2021
Mass readings for this day can be found: [HERE]
Four times in our gospel passage today, glory is mentioned: Jesus said, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Later, he asks of his Father, “Father, glorify your Name.” To which, the Father answers, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
But the context of this glory is quite curious. The context of this glory is death. Jesus is prophesying about his suffering and death, and calls that glorious; not a way of achieving a glorious result; but of being glorious itself. What’s going on here?
When we try to imagine glory in a modern sense, it might seem similar to our notion of fame. But that fame which we call glory is typically achieved through conquest over worthy opponents. Think of MMA champions, or elite athletes from the Olympics. Or even local athletes who have made it big by exceeding their peers. Glory is celebrated and admired.
That sentiment lies deep in the human psyche, as if it’s part of our nature. Even our oldest literature speaks of the pursuit of glory like a virtue. Think of the most famous poems in the Ancient Greek world, which both speak of glory and honor. These two poems are, of course, The Illiad and The Odyssey.
In the Illiad, the poet Homer tells the story of the Trojan War. The Achaean armies wage war against the Trojans over the abduction of Queen Helen. Twenty Greek gods and goddesses take sides in the war; and many battles take place over the course of a ten-year siege, ending with Troy’s destruction.
In Homer’s other famous poem, the Odyssey, King Odysseus journeys back to his homeland after the Fall of Troy. Odysseus was the mastermind behind using what has been called, “The Trojan Horse”, through which the Greek army was able to sneak into Troy under the cover of darkness.
But both of these poems end in a surprising way. Despite the many glorious achievements by the many characters throughout both epics, the greatest honor is given to surprising figures.
In the Illiad, the poem does not end with any mention of the politics between Greek gods and goddesses; it doesn’t end glorifying Agamemnon’s victory over Troy; nor does it end glorifying the many victories of Achilles in battle. Rather, the poem ends, honoring Hector, the slain prince of Troy; and his father, Priam, who mourns the death of his first-born and beloved son.
In the Odyssey, even though the premise of the poem is the return of the king to his country, we discover that the real hero is actually Penelope, the wife of Odysseus. 108 men had wanted to marry her in Odysseus’s absence, assuming that he had died during the Trojan War. But Penelope was able to delay her suitors, all the while hoping with faith that her champion would one day return to her.
And return, he did—disguised as a beggar. Even that is quite remarkable. Odysseus didn’t return in glory, but in humility. Penelope eventually recognized her husband, not through his victories over the suitors, but because he knew the secret to the wooden marriage bed he had created for Penelope.
In an ancient culture that valued power, glory, and honor, usually achieved through battle and war, what could possibly move the heart of their greatest poet to glorify a defeated king and a slain prince; and to put on a pedestal a sorrowful woman?
The world would have its answer, 800 years after those poems were written; in the hour when the Son of Man is glorified; in the presence of his own Mother; when the King of Kings mounted his majestic throne, and while wearing the most regal of crowns. As it was in that hour, in this hour, we glorify our king; our slain prince, the first-born beloved Son of the Father, who pardons us with outstretched hands, who reveals to us the secret to the wood of the Cross. And marvel at the dignified beauty of the sorrowful woman, the Virgin Mother who remains faithful forever.
This is what true glory looks like—in a fallen but redeemed world. Wealth, fame, power, worldly victory, and being loved by the world—that is not the way. This is the way: “Whoever loves his life loses it,” says the Lord. “And whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I AM, there also will my servant be.”
This is the place of Christ’s choosing. By the grace of God, we find ourselves in this place, gathered around him. Through the grace of the Mass, may we always claim as our only glory the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.