Expanding Through Love
5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

Doug McManaman
Reproduced with Permission

“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once.”

Why does the gospel of John refer to this hour, the hour of Christ’s Passion, his suffering and death on the cross, as the hour of glory? How is Christ’s suffering, his utter humiliation, a moment of glory?

To glorify someone is to reveal him. If God glorifies someone like a saint or a person of great character, he reveals his true identity to the world. How does this moment, the moment of Christ’s suffering, humiliation and death, reveal anything to the world? If anything, it conceals his glory, it conceals his true identity. In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) it is the Transfiguration that reveals or manifests the glory of Christ, not the passion and death.

But for John, it is the passion and death of Christ, the hour of his suffering that reveals his true glory. This is the reason. Christ is the Word (Logos) made flesh. He is the eternal Son of God who joined a human nature and entered into darkness, and made his dwelling among us.

And so Jesus is both divine and human; he has a human nature and a divine nature. When we behold Christ, we behold the Word of the Father, the Son of the Father, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity in the flesh. If Christ is the Word of the Father, it means that everything that the Father can say about Himself has been said (spoken) in the Person of Christ. Remember when Philip said to Jesus: “Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him: ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? To have seen me is to have seen the Father’ (Jn 14, 8-9).

Christ came to reveal the true nature of God the Father. And this moment of suffering and death reveals the very heart of God, the very inner life of God. It reveals the Father’s love. God loves us so much that He is willing to do the impossible, the unthinkable; for it is unthinkable that God should die. God cannot die, because He is not flesh and blood. And it is unthinkable that God would be willing to die, since God is Eternal Life Itself, absolute Joy in Himself, for He is the Supremely Good and Beautiful; Beauty Itself and Goodness Itself.

But God is Love, absolute love, and love desires to give life. And so God becomes flesh, joins a human nature so that He can die. And He chooses the most humiliating death in order to reveal, to manifest, what is in the very depths of His inner life—namely, His utterly incomprehensible and unsurpassable love for you and for me. He dies on the cross, and in doing so, He reveals the glory of His love. There is nothing that He will not suffer for love of you and me. He suffered a horrible death, a totally humiliating death, to show you and me how much we matter to Him.

That is why the saints have such a strong devotion to Christ’s Passion. In it they contemplate the love that is manifest in that moment.

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As a result of this moment, a new law comes into existence. Love one another as I have loved you. Not as we typically love, but as Christ has loved us. For most of our spiritual lives, our love is mixed with a twisted self-love: we love others for what they do for us; they make us feel good in some way or another. The point of the spiritual life is to gradually and continually rise above this inordinate love of self, to learn to love others not for what they do for us, but for their sake and their sake alone. Moreover, it is to learn to love God not for what He does for us, not for His gifts—which is very typical of us—, but to learn to love God for His sake. When we think we love God for His sake alone, He will usually allow something to happen in our lives that will show us that we really have a long way to go, and that’s always a good thing to discover. Then we know we are moving closer to God.

But it is through love that we expand and become larger. And that’s the point of this life, to become larger, to expand. The self expands through knowledge and through love, but especially through love.

When I love someone for what he or she does for me, I only really love myself. The other person is just a means to my own well-being. And it is always unjust to use a person as a means to an end. But if I love another person as I love myself, if I love the other for his sake alone, then I love that person as I love myself—because I love myself for my sake alone. And so he becomes another me. I am no longer one, but two. And if I love a third person for his or her sake, then I love her as another me, another self. I have become three. The more people I love with this kind of selfless love, the larger I become. And, the happier I become. Because when that person is happy, I am happy, because he is another me. When misfortune strikes this person, I feel sorrow, because he is another me. My suffering is now one that is rooted in real love. The more we love, the more joyful we become, but also the more we suffer as a result of witnessing the sufferings of those we love. But it is a suffering full of meaning, and so it is a joyful suffering.

If we choose to love ourselves alone, we spare ourselves this suffering, but we never grow in joy at the joy of others.

Love one another as I have loved you. How did He love us? He gave his entire life for us, he emptied himself of his blood; he suffered to the very end.

The more we expand, the greater will be our capacity to receive God into ourselves, just as the bigger the cup, the more water it can hold. A life lived only for itself, a person who has not loved anyone, only himself, renders himself incapable of receiving the life of God within himself, just as a cup that is sealed with a lid cannot receive any water into itself. The point of our life here is to expand so as to prepare ourselves for eternity, to be filled with the life of God for all eternity.