The Glory of God – The Cross

Today’s gospel incident took place in the last days of Jesus’ life. Earlier, the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus triumphantly with palms and branches. His fame as a powerful preacher and wonder-worker had preceded him. Just days before, he made news when he raised to life Lazarus who had been four days in the tomb. The question growing increasingly in the mind of many was: could he be the messiah?

While the ordinary people held Jesus in high esteem and with great expectation, the Jewish leaders were intimidated and were plotting his downfall. Jesus was definitely the man of the hour, the talk of the town and the new celebrity (and controversial, too).

It was in this context that some Greeks came to Philip and asked “to see Jesus.” When they were finally brought to Jesus, they were surprised by his unexpected response. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He then proceeded to indicate the kind of death he would die, pointing to it as the height of his glory when “lifted up from the earth, [he] will draw everyone to [himself].”

The request of the Greeks to see Jesus was made not so much out of curiosity on some rising star, but from a desire to understand him. The word “to see” used by John in this verse connotes seeing beyond appearance and penetrating the mystery of the person. In this context, “to see” means to comprehend the heart of Jesus and to reach the depth of his soul.

Jesus seems to tell the Greeks, do you really want to know me? Look to the cross. There you will know me and why I have come to the world. And there you will see me in glory.

If we are to know Jesus, we must look to the Cross. Outside the cross, one cannot know him. Jesus Christ is no Superstar, nor does he preach a gospel of prosperity.

“Those who seek to know Jesus must look within the Cross where his glory is revealed… Within the image of Jesus crucified is revealed the mystery of the death of the Son as a supreme act of love, the source of life and salvation for humanity of all ages. We have been healed in his wounds.” (Pope Francis)

What does Jesus mean when he talks of his glory? The Hebrew word for glory is kabod. Literally, it means ray or splendor, like the ray of the sun that shines through when trapped by the cloud. Hence when we speak of the glory of God, we mean the manifestation of God’s grandeur, just as the ray is the manifestation of the sun’s brightness.

God is love, and the greatest manifestation of God’s love is the cross. For “no greater love is there than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13)

The cross is the glory of God, the kabod Yahweh. We have heard this affirmation last Sunday when Jesus tells Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)

Using the image of the wheat grain, Jesus invites us to enter into his glory by sharing his cross. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

We see the truth of this parable in nature. Light shines from a candle when it burns its wick and consumes its wax. Salt gives its taste when it dissolves in water. We see it in daily life. Athletes give up gratification to stay fit and able. Parents sacrifice themselves (like our OFW’s) to provide for the family and secure a future for their children.

Taking up our cross with Christ is daunting, no doubt. Fortunately, the first reading offers us courage and assurance. In the past, God made covenant with his people which failed every time. Today, we hear Jeremiah prophesying a new covenant when God will write his law in man’s heart.

This prophecy is fulfilled in Christ. “This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant.” In the old covenant, the law was written on rock, an imposition from outside. In the new covenant, the law, nay the Lawgiver himself, the eternal Word, resides in man’s heart through the Eucharist. With Jesus in us, we can truly say, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” (Ph 4:13)

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