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Spirituality of the Readings
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 19, 2019
John Foley, SJ

A Love We Can Understand


We will hear a lot about glory in Sunday’s Gospel. God will be glorified at the last supper and will glorify Jesus, we are told. And will glorify him at once.

Most of us admit that we do not understand what it means to give glory to God. Let us look.

By definition, the word glory means “very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent.” I was at a concert a number of years ago in which the audience gave unrestrained praise and glory to three performers, all of it deserved. We thundered applause and shouted and whistled after every song in a two and a half hour concert.

Isn’t such love the very essence of human life?

At that time the performers were not much past twenty years old, but they had complete musical mastery. Half way through the concert I noticed that I had, without intending to, been smiling the whole time.

When at last they tried to close the concert, the audience threatened to mob them. One of the performers called out, “Everyone deserves this experience! We are going to line up the whole audience and each of you gets to come up here and have everybody go crazy over you!”

Maybe so, but how would we deserve it? Which of us could merit this?

I heard a song called “The Hand Song” that might show the real meaning of glory.*

In it a young boy picks roses for his mother. Trouble is, she has been raising these roses with great care, and he has now broken off the beautiful flowers. As he brings them to her, thorns dig into his hands. She lovingly extracts these, reminders of her roses, …

and she knew it was love.
It was one she could understand.
He was showing his love
and that’s how he hurt his hands.

Some time later, held close on her lap, the boy listened to her read stories from the bible. He saw a picture of Jesus and cried out, Momma, he’s got some scars just like me.

And he knew it was love.
It was one he could understand.
He was showing His love
and that’s how He hurt His hands.

Grown up, the young man is called by Uncle Sam. His “number” is drawn, and he throws himself in front of a friend to shield him from gunfire. He gives his life, a deed he had learned from the roses and from the cross.

And they knew it was love.
It was one they could understand.
He was showing his love,
and that’s how he hurt his hands.

Does the boy/man qualify for the word “glory” in the sense we are using? He had learned what love was and he gave it on the battlefield. It is a small story, with no stadiums of people to give applause. And yet, isn’t such love the very essence of human life? Jesus seems to say so in this Sunday’s Gospel:

I give you a new commandment:
Love one another.
As I have loved you,
so you also should love one another.

This is a love we can understand. Jesus had learned what love is and he gave it without reserve on the cross. It hurt his hands. It took his life. The beauty of the pain and death he incurred for others is quietly filled with glory.

Therefore, can we love each other as he loved us?

We may hurt our hands.

In glory

John Foley, SJ
 * The Hand Song,” by Sean Watkins and David Puckett, Copyright © 2000. From the album Nickel Creek. Congratulations to these men, and on the beautiful words and music.

You are invited to email a note to the author of this reflection:
Fr. John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go