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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mystagogy for dummies (like me) - Easter 5 - That's the story of, that's the glory of love

The wonderful Father Michael Sparough, S.J., lives and works right down the street from St. Anne's at the Bellarmine Retreat Center in Barrington, and occasionally helps out at my parish. We had him last evening for mass, and were treated to a lovely homily on love, embracing all kinds of stuff from C. S. Lewis to Mother Teresa, a real breath of fresh air. This has nothing to do with my post for today, except that it got me listening to the gospel more intensely, just because of the way he proclaimed it. As always, it's something in the moment, in the lived experience of the liturgy, that makes a day different, and gives us a new window of insight into scripture and the Christian life. And,
in this case, into "what it means to rise from the dead."

One thing Michael brought out in the gospel that really did speak to me was that first phrase: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. The "now" in that sentence is the moment that Judas leaves the room where the "last supper" has taken place. John has only mentioned the supper obliquely, opting instead to call attention to what Jesus did after the supper, that is, he got up from table, and washed the feet of his disciples. It seems to me that "now" harkens back to this action and to the musical overture to John's gospel, the hymn of the Logos, describing the descent of the Word from heaven to "pitch his tent among us." "Now" is the moment of kenosis, when the events of the death of the Lord are set into motion by the departure of Judas. This the moment when both Christ and God are glorified.

Why? Because glory is how scripture describes the visible or sensible manifestation of God's presence. And God, as the New Testament makes clear, is agape, is love. The glory of God is kenosis, is the emptying out of the divine self in love for the other. It becomes clear in the hour of betrayal. And it will be clear to the world, Jesus says, if the disciples will do as he has done, and wash each others' feet. Or, as he puts it more clearly in the gospel today, if they love one another. 

Self-emptying love among human beings is the glory of God. It's as impossibly simple as that. As Luke put it in his "overture" to the gospel story, the glory of God in high heaven is peace among people on earth. This shalom is not achievable except as a manifestation of who God is, that is, as self-emptying love that does not assert its rights, even to life, but surrenders everything for the good of the other.

So, for today at least, in my hearing of the gospel, the glory of God is our love for one another. Glory is agape, and that love is kenosis, the way we serve one another, "pour ourselves out" as God does in Christ and Christ does for us. That is no more achievable for us than not dying is achievable for us. How is it possible to love with agape? How is it possible to rise from the dead? It is only possible through surrender to God's love in us. 

Put as directly as I can say it, to rise from the dead is to have love for one another, to imitate Christ by washing each others' feet, to live and die for the life of the world. I don't know what it means for the future, but I know that that love creates, sustains, and saves the world. My world.