“I have given you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”
The gospel reading takes us back a few days in the story of Jesus that we have been following, back to the hours just before his death. Preparing himself in prayer, Jesus focuses on the word glory. As is common with people who are facing death, Jesus, as he prays, looks back over his life and evaluates his endeavors. He concludes that he had accomplished all that he had been given to do.
If we were to add up his activities, however, we might not be so impressed. He had only three years of ministry. During that time only a few sick people were healed, a few sermons preached, no books were written, and only a handful of disciples were gathered and trained. Not much to show for a life.
In ministry today we are concerned about the length of our resume. The more degrees we have, the more authority is given to us. Our expertise grows relative to the number of articles published and books written. We keep our jobs secure by churning out monthly newsletters that prove our value by recounting the number of activities we generate. I’m sure most of us accomplish more things than Christ ever did. After all, most of us don’t end up on a cross after three years of work. We are able to continue with our significance for years and years.
But if we are doing so much, how come not much is getting done? When we evaluate our endeavors at the end of life, why do so few of us have the sense of our work being finished? Jesus was satisfied that the Father was pleased even though he had not done many things. I believe it is because, as God judges us, He weighs our work; He doesn’t count our activities. And His scale is a measurement of glory. (Remember the focus of Jesus’ prayer?) In fact, glory in part means weight: the weight of God. As we contemplate our stand before God on judgment day, we might imagine a balance scale. On one side are placed those things we did which brought glory to ourselves; on the other side those things which brought glory to God. If our own glory “outweighs” the glory of God, then we are not able to say, as Jesus did, that we have finished the work God gave us to do or that our work was simply to bring glory to the Father. It is not our weight that we are to throw around in life but God’s weight. The measure of our life then is not in the quantity of deeds but in the quality. And the quality is determined by the direction of our heart; that is, who was it that we were seeking to give weight to, to glorify –ourselves or God?
Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:12-14; I Pt. 4: 13-15; Jn. 17: 1-11
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.