“God has called us through his own glory.”
(2 Peter 1:3)
The word glory almost defies explanation. Yet we need that word — glory — when we think about receiving and casting a vision for life. Some may be familiar with the lament in Proverbs which says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV).
To this reflection, we might add “where there is no glory, the people perish.” Glory and vision walk hand in hand. Where there is glory, there is a vision for life. And when we have a vision for our lives, we experience glory. Glory is that important.
Granted, often we use the word in our everyday conversations when we glorify an athlete or a favorite movie actor or actress. It is kind of a weird transference. We glorify something in others that we do not possess in ourselves. Sometimes, glorifying others is nothing more than a cover for a deeper, darker side of envy.
On a brighter note, take a moment and look at the painting above by Raphael. The brightness of Christ seemingly leaps from the scene. It depicts the story of the Transfiguration in Luke’s gospel (Luke 9:28-36). In one sense, we are overloaded with almost too much activity as we look at this painting. It can be difficult to focus upon first glance. Let’s take a moment to break it down so that we can get to the root of the glory this painting depicts.
On the top half of the painting, there is Jesus lofted high above with Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets. There are the disciples who cover their eyes because of the brightness and the reality that “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). And, more remarkably there is a word from God who speaks from the cloud, saying “This is my Son, my chosen; listen to him” (Luke 9:35). It is one of those proverbial mountain top experiences to be sure. It is super-charged.
Now, look at what is going on in the lower half of the painting, that is, for those who are not on the mountain or in the light. These are the signs of fear and panic and not of glory that surround the story of a child who is possessed. Both the gospel of Luke and the artist Raphael tell these two stories as intertwined one with the other. What the artist and the Bible are telling us is this is life. Light and darkness. Good and evil.
Yet, both the story and the painting follows the Transfiguration. Jesus and the disciples come down from the mountain and meet with the boy and Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit. “And all were astounded at the greatness of God” (Luke 9:43). That is, glory was again revealed by Jesus who speaks the word of God. And all were astounded and all caught hold of the vision of Jesus, the Son of God.
Seeing glory, recognizing glory, and being astounded by glory reveals the manifestation of God who we witness in his Son, Jesus. A vision that experiences glory is done not only with eyesight, but also with insight. In light of the vision on top of the mountain, Jesus is revealed as the Son of God, and we are called to listen. Listen to Jesus. It means we hear with ears that can hear. We experience his word, implying we take God’s word in through our senses.
The take-away is this … A vision for life begins when we receive glory into our life. Receiving glory means we have in some way encountered the glory of God. Such glory is experienced whether we are on top of the mountain of our life or deep in the darkness and the shadow of the valley of death. Experience is not simply an external event but it is an internal reality. When we experience glory, we take it in. The way we take glory into our life is by listening. We are called through God’s glory making it incumbent upon us to first listen. Listen to Jesus and experience Him by reading, marking and inwardly digesting the Word of God.
Herein lies the glory. And the vision will not be far behind.
For further reflection see, May You Live in Christ: Spiritual Growth Through the Vision of St. Peter.
Image credit: The Transfiguration, c. 1520 (oil on wood) by Raphael (1483-1520). Vatican City. The Bridgeman Art Library.