Glory to God in the Highest

Douglas P. McManaman
Homily: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 23, 2020
Reproduced with Permission

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus' response to the question put to him by the scholar of the law evidently has two parts: the first part having to do with God, the second part having to do with our neighbor. And of course, the 10 commandments exhibit the same structure: the first three have to do with God, and the last seven are commandments bearing upon our neighbor. The Our Father also exhibits the same dual structure. It begins by calling on God as our Father, and then we pray: "May your name be made holy, and may your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". Only after that do we petition for our own needs and the needs of our neighbor: "Give us this day our daily bread, …"

This twofold pattern is summed up in the opening line of the Gloria: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth . In other words, only when the glory of God has become our highest priority will there be peace on earth. When our efforts in this life are entirely directed to His glory first and foremost, only then will there be peace in the world, peace in our nation, peace in our cities, and peace in our homes. Only when we love and glorify what is truly highest will our love for what is lower be properly ordered. There is no other route to peace on earth than the pursuit of His glory, the continual, consistent, and persistent effort to glorify God in the highest. Jesus' entire existence was ordered to that end. As a child, he said to his mother when she lost track of him and found him in the temple: "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father's affairs?" (Lk 2, 49). In the gospel of John, Jesus said that he is seeking the glory of the one who sent him" (Jn 7, 18). He said he came into this world for one purpose, "to glorify your name, Father", and in his final prayer, he says: I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do….I have made your name known" (Jn 17, 4).

The fundamental deception that the world continues to maintain for itself is the belief that it can achieve peace through its own efforts, without having to go by way of another route, through the exaltation of God. Governments believe they can ignore God and His right to be worshipped and achieve civic peace on their own, as though this world has nothing to do with Him, as though this world belongs exclusively to us. And of course, many parents believe they can bring about peace in the family without having to center their home lives around God and the pursuit of his glory. The result is that after centuries of experience, we still do not live in a peaceful world; families are still falling apart, marriage continues to decline, and weapons manufacturers are still flourishing.

What does it mean to give glory to God? One way to explain this is to consider the fourth commandment: Honor your father and mother. The Hebrew word for honor really means "to glorify". We are commanded to glorify our father and mother. Glory means "light", splendor, beauty. To glorify is to shine the light on something worthy of praise, to expose it so that everyone can behold and praise it. To glorify father and mother is to make them look good, and a person makes his/her parents look good by being good themselves. The reason I spent twenty years teaching in Markham is that I was teaching students who made their parents look really good, and parent teacher interview night was always something to look forward to - by their own goodness, students were shining the light on their parents before I even met them. Even a child who has been abused or neglected, who has had bad parents, still honors them to the degree that the child rises above that and becomes a great human being. She may not be able to have a close relationship with those parents, for whatever reason, but by her goodness, by her integrity, her moral and personal achievements, she actually makes her parents look good, honors them, even though they may not deserve it.

For us, to glorify God is to make Him look good. To commit our lives to His glory is to seek out His will and to make the achievement of His will first and foremost in our lives, that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. To glorify God is to become fully the person God intends you to become. A person of great holiness, charity, and wisdom, makes God attractive; a person who lacks holiness, who is lacking in charity and wisdom does not do so but is more intent on making himself look attractive. Instead of bringing hope to this world by glorifying God, such people perpetuate darkness and despair.

The second commandment is like the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself . The fact of the matter is we simply cannot love our neighbor as we love ourselves unless we love God first. If we do not live for the glory of God, we live for our own glory, and our neighbor just becomes a means to our own ends. But the more we pray, the more we enter into the heart of God, and the more deeply we enter into the heart of God, the more we will discover in the depths of that heart, our neighbor, whose very identity is conceived in God eternally, and whom God loves and has brought into being, and who is His image and likeness. When we discover our neighbor in God, we are moved to seek out that neighbor to love as an extended way of loving God. For what am I to bring to God that He does not already have? The answer is nothing. But the human person is the created extension of God. God is extended in His living images, human persons, and it is in my neighbor that I can do God the good that is demanded by my love for Him . And so, a life lived for the glory of God is forever circular. We ascend to him in worship, prayer, devotion, adoration, and we descend to find His living image in our neighbor in order to love God in return, as God deserves to be loved. In loving our neighbor, we ascend once again to God who is in the highest, and we come to know Him more deeply. And that cycle just repeats, becoming a richer experience as time goes on.