I stumbled over a particularly disturbing passage in St. John’s Gospel the other night (no, I do not go looking for these things). Christ was debating with his Jewish critics and faulting them for their lack of Faith. And then He told them exactly why they lacked faith. Here is what He said:
How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (Jn 5:44)
This is directed to all of us, and even a moment’s reflection enables us to realize how true it is. All around us, the people who persistently refuse to accept God are almost invariably seeking their glory somewhere else. They wish to be thought well of by those who represent the world and what the world has to offer. They have set their hearts on social acceptance, or career success, or wealth, or a good reputation with the right people. They seek the esteem of Those Who Matter. In other words, they are primarily interested in receiving “glory from one another”.
We encounter this spiritual shallowness constantly; though it is dangerous to make particular judgments, the syndrome is seldom hard to spot. How sad, then, that we so often exhibit the same symptoms in ourselves as well! How frequently do we lose our focus on the presence of God, seeking after and worrying over this or that worldly thing or this or that worldly approval. Are we not mightily distracted? Have we not come to rely on such things as signs of personal validation? Even though we may be sincere Christians in our better moods, we still fail to realize how much the pursuit of these vanities actually weakens our faith and lessens its power. Whether through material goods or personal pleasure or social satisfaction, we too are often busy receiving “glory from one another.”
Instead, we ought to be seeking “the glory that comes from the only God.” Perhaps that is something to think about this Christmas. We may hear ourselves saying “Lord, Lord,” but that sweet sound will avail us nothing if we are not determined to seek glory at its Source. We must learn anew to subordinate and refer all human glories to God, so that we might magnify that very glory which He so much desires to share. What so often weakens this effort is our failure to realize how important this is to Faith itself. Yet Our Lord knows it only too well. And so He asks the same question of each one: How else can you believe?
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