Bishop Hying

Where and how has the glory of God been made manifest on your Lenten path?

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on March 17, 2019


      In my living room at the cathedral rectory stands a beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a daily visual reminder of God’s presence, love and mercy in my life. Years ago, a friend rescued this statue from a flea market, had it magnificently restored and gave it to me. Often, it serves as a visual focus for my prayers in the morning. 

      On a Saturday afternoon last November, I was reading in the living room, and, looking up from the book, was amazed to see that a glass object on the window sill had refracted the sunlight streaming into the room into a focused rainbow and it was shining directly on the Sacred Heart. The sight communicated the radiance of God’s glory to me, the pure light of Christ’s mercy.

      This Sunday’s gospel, as always on the Second Sunday of Lent, is the scene of the Transfiguration, when Peter, James and John beheld Jesus transformed in the blinding light of heavenly glory, radiant with the fullness of God. The Church offers us this vision at the beginning of Lent to encourage us in our discipline of prayer and penance, so that we can see our goal, so that we experience a foretaste of the life to come, so that we can visualize Easter.

      The word “glory” is all over the Bible, the Catechism and the Missal for Mass. The glory of God shines in the cloud that overshadows the Ark of the Covenant, shoots forth in flame from the burning bush to Moses. Isaiah has an overwhelming view of God’s glory in the temple, and ultimately, Jesus shows forth the glory of God at the Transfiguration, in the Resurrection and through his Ascension into heaven, all of which begs the question, what is the glory of God? Why do Christians use that word so much?

      The Hebrew word for glory is “kavod,” which can mean heaviness, weight, deference, importance and majesty. One definition of glory is the outward manifestation of God’s being. 

      I like that! The life, light, energy, radiance and peace that lies in the infinite spaces of God’s heart breaks out into time and space. Even though God was invisible throughout the Old Testament, the Jewish people could still see at special moments that effervescence, majesty and power of God through their human senses. 

      This divine balance of God revealing himself at times and remaining mysterious at others, sprinkling abundant hints of his mercy and presence, yet remaining hidden and unknowable, reaches a dramatic tipping point in the advent of Christ among us.

      If glory is the external expression of God’s inner life, then the person of Jesus Christ, as Son of the Father in human form, is the ultimate glory of God! St. John confirms this in the gospel: “And the Word was made flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) 

      Jesus radiates forth the light, joy, peace, majesty, forgiveness and transcendence of God, all comprised and expressed through a human being, like us in all things but sin. In Jesus, God’s glory breaks out into the open. The Kingdom is unleashed in human history.

      In holy pictures, saints are always pictured with halos, auras of light above their heads, which shine forth their goodness and love. Our experience teaches us that this artistic tradition is more than simply symbolic. All of us have probably met someone who simply radiates goodness; their words, actions, facial expressions and even physical presence manifest a lightness of being, a mysterious joy, and a pulsation of life which is instinctively attractive and healing.

      Although I never met either up close, I did have the chance to see both St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta from a bit of distance. Even then, I could sense a luminous quality emanating from their spirit which reached out with energy and animation to an entire crowd of people gathered.

      Radioactive objects emanate energy for centuries no matter how deeply buried or hidden they may be.  I perceive Christ’s Heart similarly. His touch, smile, words, prayer, laughter all created a very human interaction with thousands of people, which also healed, forgave, formed and ultimately saved us all from sin and death. 

      The Scriptural moments of glory within Jesus’ ministry that stand out for me include the miracle at Cana, the raising of Lazarus, the Transfiguration, the foot washing, the institution of the Eucharist and of course, the Resurrection. In John’s Gospel, the most glorious moment lies in the Crucifixion. How strange is that!  No one would have looked at a crucified man, scourged, bloody and dying and perceive anything glorious or majestic. 

      In the theology of St. John, however, Jesus is never more free, effective and glorified, never more than himself, than when he is pouring out his life for us on the cross. The Passion and death of the Lord gives glory a whole new meaning. 

      Perhaps, God’s glory is most manifest to us when we feel no consolation in prayer, and yet we pray anyway. Glory shines in us when we love, forgive and serve others unnoticed, without any gratitude expressed. Divine glory clothes us when we go to Mass and ingest a tiny little piece of what looks like flat bread and take a sip from a chalice. Glory touches us when we dare to serve the poor, love the ungrateful, patiently bear wrongs and give when nothing comes back. 

      The radiant sunlight that shone on my statue of the Sacred Heart last fall reminds me that the glory of Jesus ultimately lies hidden in his humility, that once and a while, like the sun breaking through the clouds, we get glimpses of the eternal life to come, but most of the time, we walk by faith, not by sight.

      The beauty of this obscure glory that I have discovered is all around us, lurking in the most unexpected of places, able to be felt by the heart and perceived by an interior vision, but only if we allow the Lord to heal our sight. 

      Where and how has the glory of God been made manifest on your Lenten path? Where is your Mount Tabor?  What burning bushes, flaming yet unconsumed, grab your attention?


       + Donald J. Hying

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