Ad majorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God. These words are the motto of the Jesuits, and probably fitting for all Catholics. Everything we do should be done so that God’s glory is spread throughout the earth. While this is a nice slogan, we have to ask: what exactly is God’s glory? The Propers for the Twelth Sunday after Pentecost help us to understand one aspect of God’s glory, namely that of the conversion of sinners.
Every belief system in the world can claim to have followers who adopt its creed. Every belief system in the world can even argue its beliefs are true. If Christianity is just a set of true intellectual beliefs, it is no different from every other belief system in the world. What makes Christianity different? The Postcommunion tells us that the fruits of God’s glory are manifest throughout the earth. Our belief system is not true simply because it checks all the boxes off on the intellectual checklist. Our belief system is also true because it strengthens and cheers the hearts and souls of mankind. Christianity offers you more than a belief system: it offers you new life.
That new life is at the center of the readings. The Epistle talks about how the Gospel brings life to Christians, and this was something the law could never do. The law was a great thing. It was, and is, a useful guide on what to avoid. In addition to telling us what to avoid, the law points us to something greater, but it cannot give us something greater.
Today’s Gospel provides us with something greater, and gives us a hint at what God’s glory is for us. St. Augustine rightly saw in today’s parable an allegory of man’s fallen condition. We are the sinner who falls on the way to Jericho, Christ is the “outsider” (foreign to those dead in their sins) who rescues us, takes us to the inn of the Church, and provides the Church with everything they need to heal the sinner of their wounds and give them new life.
In this we find the evidence of God’s glory. God is not just some passive force in the world. He actively works His will, and history is changed because of it. Whether that history is on the world-altering scale, or the individual, His power is manifested in that He can not only save people from their sins, but giving us something better than anything we could possibly imagine.
According to St. Ambrose, the Church should be a reflection of this mystery. Just as the moon reflects only the light of the sun, so the Church should only reflect the glory of Christ. The Church not only reflects that glory out to the world (in giving sinners the Gospel), but she is a product of that glory. She can offer salvation to the world because she herself has been saved. We can tell the world the Gospel can make you whole only because we were broken before finding it.
With this in mind, we can gain a new understanding into the problems the Church faces today. We’ve gotten away from being a reflection of Christ’s mercy. We are, as Pope Francis has said, a self-referential Church. We no longer reflect God’s glory, but our own. (And our own is quite ugly.) Instead of offering people deliverance from their sins, we seek to make them as comfortable as possible. Rather than making sinners whole, we act like the mission of the Church is to provide a band-aid or pain medication to numb the pain of a broken world. We no longer believe in converting the world because we no longer believe in converting our own hearts. We don’t talk about penance, fasting and mortification of our own sins; because we reason all of that talk will drive people away. We don’t want to preach the Gospel because we don’t want to be divisive. In truth, we don’t want to preach the Gospel or engage in penance because we don’t want a light shining on our own sins.
Though that temptation is strong, it is a temptation we must reject. The Introit tells us that God will run to us to help us when we call upon Him. We need not fear our own sins, because God is greater than them, and His glory is best displayed in eradicating their hold over us. While God runs to us in the Introit, He also wants us to run to Him. The Collect talks about us running “without stumbling” towards the promises He gives us. It is only through running to God that we can call others to seek Him out. We are called to be witnesses of the path we ran. We should let others know about that path, what to expect, where it’s difficult, where God can make it easier, etc. In doing so, it also serves as a reminder to us that we must always keep on that path as well. If we stay on that path, the fruits of God’s glory will be seen on earth.