(An introductory note: in some parts of the church the Ascension is being celebrated this week; in other places it is not. In Australia, from where I am writing, we celebrate the Ascension next week. Therefore the gospel reading for these next two weeks may be reversed depending on what is being celebrated when. I will, as is my want, reflect on the gospel of the feast which I will be celebrating this week: 6th Sunday of Easter.)
Focusing on giving glory to God the Father Jesus’ monologue encompasses two areas: his mission given to him as he understands it and the work he has done in fulfilling it. The prayer strings together the relationship Jesus has with each and spells out how and why the are linked: to give glory to God.
Looking first at the mission of Jesus he realizes that his time has come, his hour. Requesting glory he wants to repay him with glory. This might seem a strange notion; to request something just to return it. One might think of the man with the talent who buried it and returned the same amount to his master. But just as this was not acceptable so too is getting glory from God.
Extending the image of God the Father and we his children, a common occurrence between parents and children when buying gifts is the request of money prior to purchase. We have recently celebrated Mother’s Day and I’m sure my children weren’t the only ones asking for money. And whatever gifts were bought – let’s face it, some are better than others – mothers everywhere are thankful; thankful that they are thought of, thankful that they are acknowledged for the work they do, thankful that they are appreciated. They are, in a sense, glorified.
And talking of mothers, Mary too gives us an example of giving glory to God. Indeed the first line of her great canticle, the Maginifcat, is sometimes translated as “My soul gives glory to God…” It is through her example (as well as her unwavering faith and purity of heart) that directs us closer to God. She does not want glory for herself but any glory she does have is for God alone. We can together rightfully pray, “Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us” (whose feast we celebrate today and who is the Patron of my home, Australia, where she is also known as Our Lady of the Southern Cross).
As Jesus is both human and divine, as God the Son he in his humanity asks God the Father for the glory naturally owing to him in his divinity; a glory that until now has been hidden. Like a child giving glory to their mother, or like Mary giving glory to God, so too the Son wants to glorify the Father; not only wants to glorify him, has glorified him – for he has finished the work he was given to do. He (the Son) has made his name (the Father) known; he has successfully taught those he was given (the disciples) as they have accepted it and have remained faithful.
Interestingly Jesus explicitly states he is not praying for the world but for those who have been given to him. Why is this? At the end of the prayer he makes known his faith in them – the disciples. He has so much faith in them that he knows in them he will be glorified.
There is a distinction that separates glory into its own category. Some strive for glory for themselves – we might think of sports stars, business men, actors, musicians, politicians and the like. The glory they seek (if I may generalize for a moment) is a glory of the world. It is based on themselves and belongs in the world. This is not so for the glory of God, the glory of which Jesus speaks. That glory is based on God, not the world and not themselves. He leaves them in the world as teachers, as believers, as those who glorify him through their example modeling the teachings left to them. It takes conviction, determination and courage to live this way in a world so obsessed with the self. You could say it takes guts. Especially when they are about to witness his death. Is it any wonder Jesus strengthens them through his prayer?
Take courage. Have guts. Be faithful, yes; but live faithfully. Glorify God as the disciples did, as Mary did.