By Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
–“Battle Hymn of the Republic,” verse 5, Julia Ward Howe, 1862
When reflecting on the title, “Jesus, King of Glory,” note first that we have grown accustomed to a kind of secular view of glory. My personal opinion is that it is the result of our entertainment culture that has filled our lives with stories of heroes and villains for decades now. The generic story line seems to go something like this: some evil force has entered the world and threatens to destroy it; a flawed but essentially good man is called in to defeat the wickedness and save the world. This may be done by a group of heroes but the good vs. evil dynamic is the same. They are told that the stakes are high, that it will be a life-and-death struggle to the end, that it will be a winner-take-all fight. A battle ensues and the good guys suffer great losses but eventually vanquish the evil force completely and save the world, or society, or their family, etc. We have seen the scenario played over and over again since the early days of movies like Ben Hur up to the more recent dramas like The Hunger Games, and there is a comparable theme in sports competitions too. We shouldn’t expect that the familiar plot will go away any time soon.
What is it about this recurring pattern in movies and culture that never gets old? How is it that such a predictable theme remains eternally popular? The answer lies deep down in the human heart, in something primordial, if you will, in the relationship of God with His world. It has to do with God’s glory.
The good-versus-evil story (with the ultimate victory of the good) tells the story of God’s love for man. Love and freedom go together in His world, and when He created free creatures like angels and men He took the “risk” that they would use that freedom for selfish gains—and they did. Yet, that was not the end of God’s love story. In God’s creation, evil doesn’t have the upper hand permanently and doesn’t win in the end because the same love that created His children would also redeem them through sacrifice, the greatest expression of love.
Because of this, God chose Himself to be the first “Hero” who would come to save His people from the preternatural forces of evil and total destruction. He takes on our flawed human nature and through patience, suffering, heroic deeds, and self-sacrifice, buys back His loved ones from the power of annihilation that has come upon them. In other words, God Himself established the first “template” of the hero movie by His own real-life battle and sacrificial death, and every secular hero, every rescue story that was ever told, is just a repeat of that first dramatic love story that ends in ultimate victory—good conquers evil, and the world will never be the same again.
Glory is what happens when the arms have been laid down, the innocent have been saved, and the victor looks out over the destruction and proclaims that his sacrifice was all worth it. Glory isn’t a good feeling or something that can be bought. It is the result of a battle that has to be won at a great cost.
All “glory” in this world is a tiny reflection of that one unconditional victory. Think of all the heroic figures you have ever read about, or seen on the silver screen, or known in real life, and contemplate one essential truth: Jesus is the “King” of them all, He is the greatest of all heroes, and the unconditional “King of Glory!” In an absolute sense, no one has engaged a greater battle, suffered more, conquered a fiercer foe, or given more for his cause than Jesus. He is the supreme Hero because He is God and His victory shows the total primacy and power of His Love for His children. John’s Gospel He even says that the Father “glorified” Him (Jn 13:31 and 17:3) by sending Him to the cross for us. A moment’s contemplation of this truth should leave us in utter awe of our Divine Savior.
If you are as old as me, you may remember how we used to talk about the Church as “Church Militant” and the “Church Triumphant.” Maybe it’s time to bring those terms back into common use. They really have so much meaning, don’t they? We are the Church Militant fighting our battles here below with the weapons of love and righteousness for the ultimate goal of the salvation of souls. The Church Triumphant consists of those (in heaven) who have already fought the battle, and won, and now share in the Glory of the One who fought the good fight before us.
Maybe this would be a good time for us to remember all those who struggle under great burdens in this world while they try to make their way to heaven. Let us reach out to those who especially fight against the constant temptations of “the world, the flesh, and the devil” in their own personal battles with sin and evil. If they haven’t reached the “glory” stage yet, let us strengthen them by our prayers and give them a certain hope that the battle is won by those who persevere in love and continue to believe that they will see the “King of Glory” one day.
Dearest Jesus, “King of Glory,” and Victor over sin and death, fortify our hearts with Your grace as we fight the earthly battles that accompany us on our way to heaven. Make us know that the Victory has already been won and give us hope to experience the Glory of the saints in eternal happiness. Amen.
[Source: Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Jesus and Mary: In Praise of their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.: Huntington, Indiana, 2012.]