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For Your Weekend: Thorns and Roses

Lisa Brenninkmeyer

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read John 17:111

“Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you…and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them” (John 17:1,10).

One of our dinner-time traditions is to share our thorns and roses from the day. Each person shares a “low” (the thorn) and a “high” (the rose). This is a great way to tip me off to those who need a little extra time and attention that evening. It’s typically the person who says, “I have this thorn…and this one…and this one.” The roses are the glory stories—the moments in the day when things turned out as they should, or even better. 

This week’s gospel reading is all about glory. We don’t use the word “glory” very often. Peter Kreeft observes that while we don’t typically see glory in our art, politics, clothing, language, or music, we do see it in nature and the saints. He writes, “‘Glory’ is not just light, or beauty, or fame, or wonder, or wisdom, or goodness, but a superlative degree, a height, of all these things.”[1]

In the prayer of John 17, Jesus shared three things about glory. 

The Father will glorify Jesus (verse 1).
Jesus will glorify the Father (verse 1).
Jesus will be glorified in us (verse 10).

How does this take place? The Father glorified Jesus when He raised Him from the dead and gave Him “all power in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus glorified the Father by revealing God’s character. “He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is glorified in us when we resemble Him—when we respond to whatever life throws our way in the way that Jesus would have done. This was true of the saints, and it’s true of us when we respond well to the thorns in our lives. But how do we do that? How do we suffer in such a way that God is glorified?

Just after Jesus talked to God about glory in John 17, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where the thorn of dread punctured so deeply that He sweat blood. Picturing Jesus there, notice that He didn’t ignore what He was dealing with. He was face-to-face with His suffering and full of foreboding. Jesus did not just glorify God on the cross; He glorified God in His authentic, raw expression of distress. 

We are told in the second reading that we are to “rejoice in so far as [we] share in Christ’s sufferings, that [we] may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13). Does this mean to be happy about pain? To jump up and down with excitement over the cancer diagnosis? To giggle with joy when an adult child breaks your heart? To placidly smile when your marriage falls apart? No. God is not glorified when we fake fine or ignore our hearts.

God is glorified in our sufferings when they are faced head-on and united to the sufferings of Christ. Be assured Jesus is with us in our sufferings. He does not stand at a distance, observing how we are coping. He became man so that He could crawl right into the midst of what causes us the most pain and be there with us. But He doesn’t just sit. He is at work. Even though we usually can’t see it, He is there with us and is redeeming the very situation that is causing us so much pain. 

Let’s make that personal. He is sharing in your sufferings. He is weeping with you. He is redeeming your story—the very parts of it that make you feel shame, hopelessness, and regret. Those are the parts He is restoring. He is bringing glory into your shame. This is true for the little thorns but also for the things that feel more like a spear to the heart.

When we are pierced by an especially large thorn, everything is heightened. This is certainly true of our pain, but it is also true of the attention that people pay to us. We are on a platform of suffering, and those around us watch to see if Jesus truly makes a difference. Does He?

If we are able to offer our sufferings to Him, to make an act of trust—“Jesus, I trust in You! Take care of everything!”—then God is glorified. That glory is not just attractive, winsome, compelling, and good, “but a superlative degree, a height, of all these things.”[2] 

When we make that act of trust, our sufferings are united to Christ’s, and Jesus, in that very moment, is offering a prayer for it all because our sufferings have become His sufferings. This is a super potent prayer. In the words of Peter Kreeft, “That can’t be proved. But it also can’t be disproven. And it can be believed and lived.”[3]

With you on the journey,

Food for thought or journaling…

Am I allowing my suffering to bring God glory, or am I wasting it?

Dear Lord, I offer You these specific sufferings ___ and place my trust in You. I offer You these specific joys ___ and thank You with a heart full of gratitude. These are the thorns and roses of my life, and I ask that You be glorified by them. Amen.

[1] Peter Kreeft, Food for the Soul: Reflections on the Mass Readings, Cycle A (Park Ridge, IL: Word on Fire, 2022), 380.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Kreeft, 376.

Note: In places where the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord has been transferred to this day, the gospel reading is Matthew 28:16-20.

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