When we hear the word “glory,” we undoubtedly think about the glory of a cityscape. The glory of a beautiful sunset. The glorious gift of marriage itself.
But, glory has a larger meaning within the scriptural narrative. In the Book of Exodus, we hear about the glory of the Lord descending upon the newly constructed Tabernacle (40:34-38). The glory of the Lord is God’s very presence.
Thus, in the Book of Isaiah, we often encounter “the glory of the Lord” as the promise of a divine personality that will once again dwell among Israel. Although Israel has worshipped other gods, been exiled to Babylon and suffered the effects of the destruction of the Temple and their city alike, “the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard” (Is 58:8).
God’s presence will once again cover Israel as a cloud of glory if only they return to the heart of the Law: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own” (Is 58:7).
Turn back to the Lord, remember the gift of your identity as those who have received infinite love, and offer this love to the world. Jesus takes up this theme of glory in his teaching on salt and light in the Gospel of Matthew. He teaches the crowd that they cannot lose their saltiness, for then they will provide no flavor to the earth. He teaches the crowd that they must become the light of the world, showing forth divine love in every crevice of darkness that they encounter.
They must become the taste of divine glory for the world. For when the world sees the glorious light of the disciples of Jesus, “they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:16).
When the world sees a remnant community, described in the Beatitudes (and last Sunday’s reading) as poor in spirit, as mourners, as the persecuted for the sake of righteousness, all will know the glory of God.
This is the kind of persuasive wisdom that St. Paul speaks about in his letter to the Corinthians. To persuade the world about the truth of the Gospel is not a matter of finding the precise words to explicate the complexities of doctrine (even if this has a necessary place in the Christian life).
Instead, it is to offer the glory of the cross itself: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). We learn to become salt, to become the light of the world, not through our own methods of evangelization but through conforming ourselves to the logic of the cross.
The logic of the cross where power is not grasped.
The logic of the cross where there is no space for one who hoards rather than gives.
This is what we Christians preach to the world on a daily basis, even when we’re in the midst of teaching doctrine.
If we are to remain the salty glory of the Lord, then we must return again and again to the sacrifice of the cross where we receive love itself. Instead, our life in the Church is an encounter with the wounded lover upon the cross, who invites us to take upon ourselves a share in his self-giving love.
The taste of glory is the Eucharist.
And through our eating and our drinking, we become this sacrifice of love for the world.
We become salt.
We become light.
We become love.
Timothy P. O’Malley is the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.