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Gospel commentary: Glory in the cross

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GOSPEL COMMENTARY JN 13: 31-33A, 34-35

 

During the season of Easter, the church, following ancient tradition, revisits the Lord’s words and deeds, understanding them more deeply now that the Resurrection has completed the picture. Thus, this Sunday’s Gospel places us back at the Last Supper, at the beginning of Christ’s final words to those he loved. 

 

He begins the Last Supper discourses by speaking of two things. He talks about his glory, saying “now is the Son of Man glorified” (Jn 13: 31), and he talks about his love, telling the disciples to “love one another … as I have loved you” (Jn 13: 34).

 

Of course, the first time the apostles heard these words they could not have known what Jesus meant. All they knew was that, with Judas gone, Jesus seemed to open up and turn his mind to the future. This would have made sense to them. In the previous few days, Jesus had silenced his longtime opponents, the Pharisees and the Saducees, and had done so in the Temple itself. We are told “they no longer dared to ask him anything” (Lk 20: 40). In the eyes of the apostles, Jesus had finally won, and this was supposed to be a victorious Passover.

 

When Jesus spoke about his glory, commanding them to love one another, they may have thought this was the moment his triumph would begin. He would be glorified by claiming the throne of Israel, and they would love one another as fellow kings, ruling Israel with him as he promised.

 

This, however, was not to be the case. When Jesus says that he is to be glorified, and will show his love for his disciples, he is talking about the cross. It is on the cross that Jesus is truly glorified, crowned with the crown of David and raised up for all to see. It is also on the cross that Jesus shows us a perfect act of love, a love that receives nothing in return, that holds on to God alone and loves others for his sake. When Jesus speaks to the apostles that night of the Last Supper, he is commanding them to imitate the glory of his crucified love.

 

The apostles were not ready to hear these things. Their hearts were not yet prepared to make that kind of offering, and had the Lord clarified everything at that time, they might have simply run away, as they did when Jesus was arrested. Only after the Resurrection were they ready to understand. Then, seeing the Lord alive again, they understood that the glory and love of the cross did not simply end in death, but passed through it like a conqueror. Only then, they had the hope that makes real Christian love possible. 

 

That is why we read these passages again after Easter. We too are called to find our glory in the cross of Jesus, and to love God and others as he did that day. The hope of the Resurrection reminds us that when we offer ourselves on our own crosses, we are not simply going to our deaths, but are passing through the moment of pain and sacrifice on the way to our true glory.  If we remain close to Jesus, offering our lives with him, we will also share his new life, and, as he promised the apostles, we “will sit on thrones,” ruling peacefully in the kingdom of our Father forever (Lk 22: 30).

 

Fr. Rampino is parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019