Spirituality of the Readings

A Love We Can Understand

Glory. We will hear about it in Sunday’s Gospel. God will be glorified and God will glorify Jesus. And will do it right away.

Fine. But most of us admit we do not understand what it means to give glory to God or to Jesus. Let us look.

The word glory could be defined as: very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by others. I was at a concert by Nickel Creek a number of years ago in which the audience gave wild, unrestrained approbation to the three performers, all of it deserved. We thundered appreciation and shouted and whistled after every song in a two and a half hour concert. The performers were in their twenties at that time, but they had complete musical mastery. Half way through the concert I noticed that I had been smiling the whole time.

At last, when the three tried to end the concert, the audience, in effect, threatened to mob them. One of the performers called out, “Everyone deserves this experience! We are going to line up the whole audience and let each of you come up here, and have everybody go crazy over you!” Was this a kind of “glory”?

But a member of Nickel Creek had written a song that might show a better meaning of glory. It is called “The Hand Song.”* Here is the story it tells.

A young boy tore off some garden roses for his mother. She had been tending these roses with great care, and he, unknowingly, pulled them to pieces. The thorns dug into his hands as he brought his present to her. She extracted these thorny reminders of her roses, lovingly.

And she knew it was love.
It was one she could understand.
He was showing his love
and that’s how he hurt his hands.

Some time later, held close on her lap, the boy listened to stories from the bible. He saw a picture of Jesus and cried out, Momma, he’s got some scars just like me.

And he knew it was love.
It was one he could understand.
He was showing his love
and that’s how he hurt his hands.

Finally grown up, the young man is called by Uncle Sam. His “number” is drawn, and he throws himself in front of a friend to shield him from gunfire. He gave his life, a deed he had learned from the roses and the cross.

And they knew it was love. 
It was one they could understand. 
He was showing his love, 
and that’s how he hurt his hands.

He learned what love was and he gave it on the battlefield. It is a small story, with no stadiums of people to give applause. Did the boy/man earn “glory”?

Yes. Real love is the essence of human life. Jesus says so in this Sunday’s Gospel:

I give you a new commandment:
Love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you also should love one another.

This is a love we can understand. Jesus hurt his hands and his soul on the cross. It took his life. The pain and death he incurred for others is filled with the beauty of quiet glory.

Can we imagine this kind of glory? Even if we hurt our hands?

* The Hand Song, by Sean Watkins and his friend David Puckett, Copyright © 2000. From the album Nickel Creek. Congratulations to these men, and on the beauty of their words and music.

John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson