“My Father, if it is possible
Christ, in His Passion,
is Glorified by the Father
by Father Maurice PÉLOQUIN
THE CROSS... THE GLORY OF CHRIST
On the last evening of His life, a few hours before dying, Jesus was among His own for the last meal. Recollecting Himself in a special way, He began speaking out loud and at length to His Father. This long prayer, which Saint John reported for us, is called the “great priestly prayer”. It begins with these words: “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to your Son.” (Jn 17:1) Now, it is the cross that will be the glory of Christ. Saint John tells us precisely that “there was no Spirit as yet, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (Jn 7:39)
Grace had not yet been conferred because Christ had not yet mounted on the cross in order to put an end to the break between God and men, a break caused by sin. In fact, it is the cross which reconciled men with God, which made of the earth a heaven, which reunited men and angels. The cross reversed the power of death, put an end to the devil’s force, freed the earth from error. In short, the cross is the will of the Father, the glory of the Son and the jubilation of the Holy Spirit.
Through His Passion and Resurrection, Jesus gave to all those who welcomed Him in faith, hope and love, the power to become “children of God”, to be begotten by God Himself. When all is said and done, Jesus came so that we might have Life and have it to the full (cf. Jn 10:10). Jesus’ desire and God’s glory were that man be living, that is to say, man in a state of grace, man animated by divine Life.
Thus, since His death and resurrection, Jesus gives this Life abundantly to all those who believe in Him and who obey Him. Because He is divine life itself, eternal life, Jesus shares His own life with us. However, this Life Jesus gives us is begun on this earth, in our day-to-day living. Of course, it will blossom in Heaven in the glory of God after our death.
THE CROSS... THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S LOVE
By reconciling us with God, the cross then abolished the decree of our condemnation and broke the chains of death. The cross is the manifestation of God’s love, of this God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not die...” (Jn 3:16) The cross opened paradise, introducing into it the reconciled criminal and brought back to the Kingdom of heaven the human race doomed to death. Since all those good things came to us and still come to us through the cross, we can understand that therein was really to be found the victory and glorification of Christ.
It is true that Christ never desired a human glory or a ephemeral royalty. He always wanted, instead, that we respond to His love, that we change our behavior and our habits. There you have what gives Him glory and is His joy.
Saint John retained many typical sentences from Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper. Let us consider briefly the tone of His confidences during the last meal with His disciples. First of all, at the same time as He was praying to His Father, Jesus was addressing Himself to His Apostles and to all of us. He prayed out loud, revealing the bottom of His heart. “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to your Son that your Son may give glory to you, inasmuch as you have given him authority over all mankind, that he may bestow eternal life on those you gave him.” (Jn 17:1-2)
Instinctively, we understand that Jesus wishes to speak of His impending passion and death which He predicted many times. He had said, among other things: “My hour has not yet come”, “Father, save me from this hour!” “Now comes the hour when you will be dispersed...” For Jesus, “this hour” encompassed His entire passage to the Father, and therefore at one and the same time, His sufferings, His death, His resurrection, His entry into glory and even, it would seem, the gift of the Holy Spirit to humanity. Jesus’ hour is a sort of great moment that begins in time but that opens out onto eternity, onto glory.
THE HOUR OF JESUS...OUR HOUR...
As He formulated that prayer, Jesus was well aware that death was now inevitable. But, for Him, this death would mark His entry into the new life. So, we can understand the insistence with which He speaks of glory: “Father,... glorify your Son!” The time had come for Jesus to go to His Father, but the time will also come for us as well to pass from this world to the Father, and that is precisely why Christ wishes to give to our existence, and that as of right now, all its density, all its power of love and service.
The life of man in the hereafter, who would have dared speak of it, if Jesus had not made of it the main point of His message? Generally speaking, we are afraid of this passage from one world to the next, for there is the disintegration of our mortal body in order to have access to our glorious body. Thus, we have the impression that death passes like a shadow over the joys life can offer us, and we gladly shy away from thinking about it, as though, if we forget it enough or create enough illusions for ourselves, we might escape this great crossing...
However, for those who follow Jesus Christ, the true Life, that Life which is worthy of God and man, eternal Life begins not after death, but on this side of death, on this earth, and that is the great secret of happiness which the Gospel proclaims to the world. “Eternal life,” Jesus explained, “is this: to know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent.” (Jn 17:3)
GOD’S FRIENDSHIP FOR MAN
For Saint John, as it was for the prophets, to know God did not consist in accumulating abstract ideas, like a code of law in which the heart would never have its part to play. To know God was to enter into an intimate relationship with Him; to know Jesus Christ was to become His companion, His disciple, His confident, day after day.
This invisible friendship of God and His Son with each one of us, this impalpable presence, which at certain times appears so unreal to us, are, in the end, much more true, more real and more solid than all the human supports of our happiness. A personal meeting with Jesus the Savior, a growing friendship with the Risen One, that is what we desire and hope for as well for all those entrusted to us. Because the Lord consecrated us in His service, our witness will have the power of our prayer and our love; our relationship with our neighbor will be worth what our acceptance of God is worth.
THE FULNESS OF THE SPIRIT OF LOVE
Precisely this “glory” which Jesus calls upon Himself and which every disciple hopes for is none other than the fulness of the Spirit of Love which Jesus revealed all during His Passion and spread about from the top of the cross. Saint John closes the episode of the Passion with these words: “After that, Jesus realizing that everything was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture, ‘I am thirsty.’ There was a jar there, full of common wine. They stuck a sponge soaked in this wine on some hyssop and raised it to his lips. When Jesus took the wine, he said, ‘Now it is finished.’ Then he bowed his head, and delivered over his spirit.” (Jn 19:28-30). Jesus’ last breath was the prelude to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, He had already declared: “Once I am lifted up from earth, I will draw all men to myself.” (Jn 12:32) Thus, Saint Paul can declare: “This hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:5) Through the Holy Spirit, God wishes to make a success of man for ever; He wants His friendship with him to be everlasting. That is why the Holy Spirit is sent to us.
THE GLORIFICATION OF CHRIST
Admittedly, we have been speaking of the cross as the glorification of Christ, but, it goes without saying that it is the cross borne and accepted with love. For it is not sufferings alone that save us, but the love with which Christ bore the physical, psychic and spiritual sufferings of His Passion, to the point of assuming our death.
In the same way that it is the Passion of love of Jesus that gives meaning and value to His entire life, so is it for each one of us. The merit of our existence is measured by our capacity to persevere in charity even amid sufferings and oppositions.
We must admit that the old man in us is quite incapable of such patience. Spontaneously, it is more fear, rebellion, anger that seethe within us, plunging us in sadness, depression and even despair. That is the reason we must have recourse to the Holy Spirit who can give us the strength to love, not in spite of the trials, but at the very heart of them. When the disciple, emptied of self, has finally become an instrument of the Spirit, he accepts to complete in his flesh what is lacking to Christ’s passion. Thus, Christ is glorified every time we accept to unite our sufferings to His, for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. In His turn, the Father glorifies whoever accepts to join His sufferings to those of the Son, by giving him a share in His own Life.
True enough, we do not become “Christians” by the mere profession of faith that rises from our lips; we become so especially through our identification with Christ. It is by following His teachings and the examples of His life that we will journey increasingly towards Him and that “he will be glorified in us.”
SUFFERING, LIVED POSITIVELY, BECOMES PURIFICATION
The glory of God is also to have had the strength to make use, in a positive manner, of the suffering which He did not create, but which came to us directly from sin and man’s disobedience. God transformed suffering into purification in order to be victorious over the evil resulting from it. He was victorious over evil and suffering by introducing us, lovingly, into eternal life thanks to His mercy.
In Christ’s sacrifice is revealed wonderfully well the Father’s infinite love for the world (cf. Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8).Of course, the capacity to love infinitely by giving oneself unreservedly and without measure is proper to God. With matchless words, Maurice Zundel incessantly tells us of God’s compassion and His complete solidarity with the human being who lives, suffers, is in the throes of death and dies.
“God, in His crucified Son, took on all our human distress. Christ’s cross is precisely that cry uttered before the world, telling men of all times that God is intimately bound in with all men, that He is scourged in our torments, that He sheds His blood in our wounds, that He moans in our solitudes, that He weeps in our tears.” “God’s love for us is similar to a mother’s love. It is a love of identification that takes on the hues of all the states of his delinquent son.” (Jules Bullaird, Incidences d’une théologie libérante)
“If you felt all the force of evil, all the horror, the atrocity of evil, all that is unbearable in the pain of innocent ones, then you are beginning to understand what original sin is! It is the cry of God’s innocence, who protests that He is not the one who causes suffering, that He is not the cause of death, that He is not responsible either for the torment inflicted upon innocent ones, but rather, that He is the first victim of them.
“For precisely, this cry of God’s innocence that already surges from the narration in Genesis which is still quite imperfect, will echo in a much more heartrending fashion in the Garden of the Agony, and on the cross upon which Jesus died. There you have God’s reply to the problem of evil, to the mystery of evil, to the atrociousness of evil. It is the cross where He can be seen as the victim, lacerated, innocent and who protests that He did not want any of it.” (Ta parole comme une source, p. 250) But He was victorious over it by giving it a new axis. In fact, through His love and His power, suffering, which is the consequence of sin, can now become a means of purification and an oblation of love.
Obviously, it is difficult to speak of “glorification” when we see Christ suffering in His whole body, in His spirit and in His soul. Everything in Him makes us think of humiliation, abandonment and fear. But He accepts, for the hour of sufferings and death is for Him the hour of glory, and it is also the hour of the salvation of the whole world. That is how He shows us how great He is in His Love for all sinners.
The glorification of Christ will consist in His detachment from His condition as servant and His being reintegrated as the Son in the Father’s glory. And the result of this glorification is that it bears much fruit and draws all men to Him. In the same way that the fact a grain of wheat dies is not an obstacle but a condition to its bearing fruit, so too the death of the Son of man is not an obstacle to His glorification; it is even due to that very death. It is neither a destruction nor an annihilation of His kingdom; on the contrary, it is the indispensable means of establishing it. For, from this one and only Christ who offers His life to death, there will arise, once He has risen, a multitude of children of God whom no one will be able to count.
DEATH... AN ACT OF LIFE
Father Zundel, this master of spirituality, asks those who accompany sick people at the end of their lives, to help them make of their death, an act of life, that is to say, after the example of Jesus, an act of freedom, of oblation and love; to help them enter into death in a “living” manner, so as to be eternally “alive” after death. Now, God’s great desire is precisely that of giving us eternal Life. This Love, fully fulfilled in the Heart of Jesus who gives of Himself, will be rendered fruitful in the life of Christians. Jesus will cause to bloom in their hearts the dimension of eternity buried in it in the form of a seed given at baptism.
The experience of evil is, in a sense, a help in understanding that Redemption is a story of love which God cannot accomplish alone because it is an act of Love that addresses itself to our love, the entire effectiveness and significance of which necessitate our participation.
The cross bursts forth from the depths of divine tenderness like an appeal being addressed to us, and when we do not respond to it, the real world, the world of beauty, the world of joy cannot exist! Moreover, there is, in all of nature, in all the universe, a certain nature that needs to be respected, a certain order that needs to be understood.
Living beings, and mainly human beings, have more of a living relationship with God. And that is not simply the way poets or learned men see it. We have the proof of it when we hear this wonderful passage of saint Paul to the Romans in which he speaks of creation in the pangs of childbirth. It groans and is in agony as it waits for the revelation of the glory of the sons of God (cf. Rom 8:19-22). The universe is wounded, in a certain way, just as God is a victim, because an evil will, a possessive will set itself up in opposition to God’s love (cf. id.).
In fact, man failed. By refusing God’s project of love, he deceived himself; he became a slave of sin. This first alienation gave birth to a multitude of others. The history of humanity from its origin bears witness to the misfortunes and oppressions hatched in the heart of man as a result of a bad use of freedom.
GOD... A PRESENCE THAT FREES US
In reality, it is by accepting his limitations or his nature of son of God that man achieves his plenary and real fulfillment. Through His glorious cross, Christ gained the salvation of all. He redeemed us from sin which held us hostage to slavery. In Him, we are united with that “truth that sets us free”. (Jn 8:32)
When will we finally understand that Christ redeemed us in order to call us to live off His Life? When will we understand that God is a burning Presence in our very depths, a Presence that frees us and gives us the possibility of achieving the fulness of our being, which is holiness and for which we were created?
Let us end our meditation by recalling, as the Gospel tells us, that at the hour of the Paschal mystery, which is the hour when Jesus glorified the Father and the Father glorified the Son, Jesus gave His Mother to the beloved disciple. Then, as He died, He delivered the spirit, the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 19:25-30). Later, in the Upper Room, after His Resurrection, Jesus breathed upon the disciples and sent them to forgive sins through the power of the Holy Spirit, thus passing on the mercy of God the Father.
Let us adore and thank God, for, through Christ’s Passion, we are called to that unimaginable grace of participating in the glory of heaven where we will be immersed in the immensity of God’s love! And that is what we must remember when we look at the cross: that call to grandeur, union and identification.
For the cross reminds us that God is more of a mother than all the mothers, that He has a heart that passionately loves His children. And what makes the greatness of man is precisely to love “this Heart which, alas, is so little loved.” (Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque)
Father Maurice Péloquin, O.FF.M.