ColumnsNaming Grace

On the edge of glory

Israel, expecting its return to Jerusalem, perches on the edge of glory. Mary, awaiting the birth of her baby, labors on the cusp of glory. John the Baptist, proclaiming repentance, preaches on the verge of glory. The church, anticipating the second coming of Jesus, worships at the altar of glory. Israel, Mary, John the Baptist and the church were created for God’s glory. Each person’s call to the edge of glory is to know, and make known, God’s glorious presence in the world.

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Living on the edge of glory requires faith when fulfillment seems far off, hope when all seems dark, and love when falling into the unknown. Baruch, scribe to Jeremiah, laments on behalf of the Hebrew people exiled in Babylon; they longed to sacrifice at the great Temple in Jerusalem — in God’s presence, his glory. Though written 70 years before the return to Jerusalem and 500 years before the birth of the Savior, they clung to the edge of glory — the place of God’s revelation.

As eager as I was to deliver each baby after nine long months of waiting, the moment labor began I cringed and desperately wanted to halt the relentless waves of pain. But going through labor is the only way to the glory of a new life. In faithfulness, living on the edge, going through the struggle, raises us to glory. Thus says the psalmist: “Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.”

The glory of God reflects divine ­beauty, truth and goodness in the world. We are closer to the glory of God each time we pray, serve and live for God. We are on the edge of glory by giving our best at all times for the sake of the Gospel. As St. Irenaeus wrote, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive!”

As parents/grandparents, we name grace — God’s glorious presence — so our children can live fully in Christ, on the edge of glory. We wisely remind them that when tackling a difficult problem, one may be the cusp of a new discovery; when working for justice, on the verge of making lasting peace; when completing a final exam or dissertation, on the edge of a new position of service. If we are open to Christ, the Spirit will work in and through us, especially in challenging situations — all for his glory. As Paul wrote, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Contemporary singer/songwriter Lady Gaga commented on the genesis of her song “Edge of Glory,” written as her grandfather was dying: “I started playing and I said to my Dad, ‘Don’t be sad. He’s [grandfather] on the edge of the most glorious moment in life, when you realize that you won,’ I said, ‘look how much he won at life. He won at love with Grandma, and he’s on the edge of a glorious moment.’”

I am often on the brink of tears as I too witness my dad labor toward the edge of glory. Yet these tears are hope-filled, as I trust when the time comes, Dad will fall into glory — into the arms of our loving Savior. We are on the edge of glory as we await the second coming of our Lord when the entire body of Christ will radiate God’s presence. For now, in this Advent season, each time we come to the altar we receive God’s glorious presence in the Eucharist. Now, that’s good news!

When have you experienced the edge of glory?

How will you lead your children to God’s glory?