During the American Civil War there was one song that captured the purpose of the struggle between the North and the South: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” also known as “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.”

This popular hymn was the anthem of the North and it put into lyrics the moral purpose of the war between the States as a modern-day struggle for freedom and liberty. The abolitionist movement in the 1850s had made popular a song edited and compiled in 1856 by William Steffe that recalled the death of the great abolitionist John Brown and had the ‘Glory Hallelujah’ refrain. The lyrics for “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” were written in 1861 by Julia Ward Howe, set to the tune written by Steffe.

Howe’s lyrics capture the struggle for freedom and liberty and how, through Jesus Christ and the final judgment, sin and wickedness will be overcome. The fight to end slavery and the fight for racial equality has always found purpose in its struggle by uniting that struggle with God’s plan of salvation and the struggle for new life and freedom that can only be found in the cross.

That struggle finds its meaning in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The cross reveals the glory of God in Jesus’ own suffering and death on the cross. The glory is seen in how God’s plan of salvation comes together: from Noah and the Ark, which becomes a foreshadowing of baptism, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the covenant God makes with them to Moses, who leads Israel through the Exodus from slavery and death in Egypt to freedom and new life across the waters of the Red Sea, which is also a foreshadowing of baptism, to the outpouring of Christ on the cross. The struggle for freedom and liberty finds its fullest expression in the glory of the cross. Jesus’ own words explain that outpouring of God’s glory in the cross, “Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come, Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you.’ “ (John 17: 1-11)

In Jesus’ prayer to the Father, which we hear in today’s gospel, he prays for his disciples, not for the world. “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.” (John 17: 9-10) He prays for the disciples so that they will be able to not only experience the glory of the cross of Jesus, but also accept a share in that same glory by revealing it to others through the example of their own lives.

Prayer is essential for the believer to be able to give glory to the Father in the same way as the Son. Without prayer, the faithful believer cannot give witness to the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The First reading from the Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14 is a short but powerful passage. This powerful passage tells us that following the Ascension of the Lord, the Apostles and Disciples joined the women and Mary in prayer. “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.” (Acts 1:14) 

We are all called to give meaning to our lives by uniting ourselves to the sufferings of Jesus Christ on the cross. These days more than ever in our lives, we are called to give witness to the Glory of God by how well we respond to the sufferings we are all experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic. How should we respond to these current suffering? The second reading from 1 Peter 4:13-16 says, “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may rejoice exultantly.” (1 Peter 4:13) We give glory to God by understanding how we are called to lead others from slavery and death to freedom and new life. By our witnessing to the glory the Son gives to the Father on the cross, “we shall see the good things of the Lord in the Land of the living.” (Psalm 27:1,4,7-8)