Monday, March 18, 2019

How we understand the term ‘glorifying the Lord by your life’ is revealed in the way our lives are lived.

“Glorify the Lord by your lives”. As Catholics, we hear it ever so often in our liturgical prayers, at the Collect at Holy Mass, in the hymns that we sing, and whenever we pray the “Glory Be” prayer, which is something that we as Catholics have learnt to pray from a very young age.  It has been almost drilled into us as Catholics that we should be glorifying the Lord, but as in so many things in life, even something that is correct, proper, and just, can end up merely being something that is passively uttered, leaving its truth at the doors of our lips without it making that necessary entry into the portals of our hearts, and transforming our lives from within.  So what does it really mean to glorify anything?  And far more importantly, what does it mean to glorify God?  What does a glorified life look like?

‘Glory’ is translated from the Greek doxa and the Hebrew kabod.  While the Hebrew has connotations of heaviness or weightiness, it also has ‘deference’ and ‘honour’ behind it as well.  The Greek doxa is a term that denotes the commanding of respect and magnificence.  In the New Testament, particularly in the transfiguration accounts of Jesus, this term becomes something that James, John and Peter get a direct and first-hand encounter of when they personally witness Jesus being glorified.  They are essentially bedazzled when the face and clothing of Jesus on that mountain become radiant and spectacular.  But this glory isn’t so much just something that happens to Jesus as something that emits from Jesus.  Perhaps the fact that Peter utters something as random as wanting to set up three tents in that moment reveals that he was too gob-smacked by the glory of what was manifested before him.  

That God deserves glory and that he is the source and origin of glory because of his divine being is something that goes without saying.  After all, the Creed that we recite each Sunday has us saying that God is ‘light from light’.  There is a lot packed into that phrase consisting of three simple words.  Can we add anything to God’s glory?  Can one add beauty to the essence of beauty itself? To do so would be even more audacious than gilding the proverbial lily.

So how do we understand that our lives ought to be lived such that God is glorified?  This is something that is truly right and just only if we get one thing right – our baptism in Jesus.  At the core of our baptism is that we are now adopted children of God, living not for ourselves alone, but ultimately as members of a people that have a divine inheritance and dignity.  It is for this reason that we apply a high standard of living and loving than just what our own hearts desire.  Indeed, our lives are therefore not about us.  If it is not about us, then what is it about?  It is essentially about God, and giving God the glory that he deserves.

In order to do this and to understand this well, an analogy is not just helpful but necessary.  The analogy I choose to use is that of a magnifying glass or a lens.

A magnifying glass is essentially a lens, and what it does is that it enlarges or magnifies the image whose light passes through the lens, and when this light lands on our eyes, or on a surface, like a screen, it enables us to see the image with greater clarity and greater light.  This is how we ought to see our lives viz-a-viz God and God’s glory, where God is the light of truth, beauty and goodness, and our lives are merely the lens through which this light of God becomes clear to the eyes of our brothers and sisters.  Without a doubt, it has been the result of centuries of theological reflection and discourse that has given us such insights, enriching the way that we live our Christian lives.

But what is much more remarkable is that long before such theological studies and reflection took place, this truth was already prophesied, lived out and proclaimed by none other than Mary, our Blessed Mother.  It is in her Magnificat uttered in her visit to her cousin Elizabeth that saw her intuiting this truth with such conviction where she said that her whole life was to be a magnification of God, where her soul would magnify the Lord.

Mary understood with such clarity that not only was this her mission in life, but the raison d’etre of her existence.  She was only interested in being the spotless magnifying lens that brought light and clarity to the world that looked upon her as mother and the model Christian disciple. Mary’s life was lived so selflessly and with such humility such that she was willing to be transparent and unnoticed, much like the way a magnifying glass or a lens is not noticed in itself, and needs to be transparent. Just look at the way we enter a cinema hall and watch a movie on the screen before us.  It really is the lens of the projector that makes the experience possible, but all the while, hardly anyone is grateful to the lens and what it is doing.  

If we are finding it hard to know what glorifying the Lord by our lives means, it could also reveal another truth – that we are placing far too much importance on ourselves and what we want in life as Christians, than on making God our reason for our lives.  And if we need a model to do this well, Mary is the model par excellence.

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