Readings: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
Have you ever wondered if God is a narcissist? This may sound blasphemous and yet it’s worth considering in the light of the numerous scriptural texts that speak of God’s jealousy guarding his divine prerogatives and demanding full credit for virtually everything. So much of God’s anger at the people of Israel’s turning to idols seems to be in response to their attributing to man-made gods what has in fact, been wrought by God himself. Likewise, one of the major problems with human pride seems to be that God objects most strongly to not getting full credit for all that his grace achieves in our hearts and lives.
Today’s reading from Isaiah offers a further example–albeit a less blatant one. The prophet is told: You will be my servant, through whom I show my glory–a seemingly self-centered use of the prophet in the divine quest for glory. And so it is that God seems preoccupied with having his glory and majesty displayed and acknowledged. Indeed, central to this Eucharist we’re celebrating, is praising and glorifying God for his greatness and power. And yet is this really an accurate assessment of the situation and a correct understanding of God’s apparent quest for glory? If we consider the vastness of the universe and its manifold wonders, of what value is the praise emanating from such puny and insignificant creatures living precariously on this tiny speck–called “earth”–within the vast universe?
A refreshing perspective on this question comes from Saint Irenaeus with his assertion that the glory of God is man fully alive. This implies that God’s quest for glory is inseparable from our being fully alive since we can only really give God glory when we are fully alive. This suggests that God’s apparent desire for glory is not self-centered and is actually focused on us and our eternal wellbeing and happiness. Rather than being in some childish competition for honor and recognition, God’s seeking glory from us would seem to describe his desire to have us open our hearts to his love and the inpouring of his glory. For it is only when our hearts are fully open to his love and we are perfectly united with him that we are truly alive–and thereby give him glory.
And as Saint Joh assures us, this union through which we become fully alive is not one in which we are absorbed into God and lose our identities, but actually leads to our sharing his glory–the very glory that God seems so determined to preserve for himself. And so John quotes Christ as saying: I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one. Like those candles we light from the Paschal Candle, God’s glory, when acknowledged enters, fills and irradiates us too so that we glow with his life and a glory that becomes indistinguishable from God’s own glory–so that God’s glory becomes our glory, and our glory is God’s glory.
And so, like love, we can only give glory to God with the glory that we receive through, with and in Christ. Thus even Jesus in his great priestly prayer, recorded in John, prays: Give glory to your Son so that your Son may glorify you. All this strongly suggests that God is in fact not a narcissist! His quest for glory is nothing more than the outpouring of a love seeking the welcoming human heart open to receive his life and glory. And by becoming, thereby, fully alive, we joyously glorify the Father in whom is our perfect fulfillment, eternal peace and our unfading glory.