Reflection on John 8.51-59 (Lent)

Jesus said: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing.

We, like the vast majority of those amongst whom we live, expend a great deal of time in glorifying ourselves. We create a public persona which glosses over our shortcomings and the poor decisions that lie hidden in our earlier lives. We project a level of expertise that is usually far beyond our true level of competence. Sometimes our real stories become totally obscured as we re-invent ourselves as the people we would like to have been. Whether these fictions are intentionally created and perpetuated, or whether they simply evolve as one ‘slight inaccuracy’ grows into a whole series of untruths we, like all those around us, seek to glorify ourselves.

In recent times we have become more aware of the long-term damage that can be done by events that shaped our early lives. Constant derogatory remarks about our intellectual capabilities can leave us feeling stupid and inadequate. A seemingly endless barrage of parental criticism can leave us feeling worthless. The obvious placing of our younger selves at the back of a long queue of other priorities can leave us feeling inadequate, worthless and having nothing of value to offer to the world in which we live. It is in these circumstances that we often find ourselves creating a subconscious new personality, a personality in which we cast ourselves as the hero of the story we live out from day to day. Instead of allowing others to value us for who we really are, we glorify ourselves, and that self-glorification is nothing.

Jesus, the one who was with God at the dawn of time, came to earth to build a new bridge between humanity and God. Even Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, recognised that his human self was nothing unless it was glorified by his heavenly Father. In Jesus we see no pretence, no falsehood. In Jesus we see the Son of God walking amongst us. His preaching and teaching, his ministry of healing and his other miraculous signs caused the crowds to flock around him, to glorify the miracle worker, the worker of the impossible. But, Jesus was neither deceived nor swayed by the glorification of the crowds. For Jesus, the only glorification he sought was that of his Father. Jesus knew that the crowds were fickle. Jesus knew that their hosannas were destined to become cries of: Crucify him!

As we live out our daily lives we are called to walk humbly in this world. We are called to set self to one side and to love and serve in the Lord’s name. We are called to remain true and faithful to our Lord and Saviour, and to do that without pretension or deceit. Let us pray that we might turn our backs on the need for self-glorification and that others may come to glorify God through the simplicity and honesty of our lives, lives lived in the true faith.