Somebody once asked me what the acronym AMDG was supposed to mean. He said he kept hearing it from a priest whom he idolized. He noticed that whenever he expressed admiration for anything that the priest said or did, he always replied with AMDG while pointing his finger to heaven. He sort of understood by the gesture that the priest was humbly attributing it all to God. But he never cared to ask what exactly AMDG meant.
In the age of Google it would have been easy to find out. Alas, that was about 40 years ago. Back then I happened to have a medallion with that Jesuit emblem on it and read to him the Latin motto written around the letters IHS, the first three Greek letters in the name of Jesus, surrounded by rays of light. The motto reads, AD MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM, which means, “For the greater glory of God.”
It was only then that he finally understood that the priest was actually saying, “Not to me, but to God be the glory.” The founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola, intended this motto to serve as a cornerstone sentiment of the Jesuit religious philosophy.
The Gospel of John (17:1-11a) could have been St. Ignatius’ source of inspiration for this motto.
Remember I told you that for several weeks now, our Gospel readings have been from the Farewell Address or the Goodbye Speech delivered by Jesus at the Last Supper, as narrated by St. John the Evangelist? We are already in chapter 17 and the discourse is about to wind up with a prayer that Jesus says for his disciples, as he prepares to depart from them.
He says, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, SO THAT YOUR SON MAY GLORIFY YOU.” And then he says, “I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.” He is practically saying that it was his whole reason for carrying out his mission: TO GIVE GLORY TO HIS FATHER IN HEAVEN.
I have a feeling that Jesus, in his humanity, felt what Paul himself felt in our first reading when he became aware that he was about to leave his friends behind. One of the most common human tendencies in this world is to become so attached to the people we love, or the people we serve, we find it so difficult to let go when the time comes for us to go or to part from them.
Listen to how John makes Jesus express it, “I pray for them … whom you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine.” Doesn’t that sound very much like that song that we used to sing in elementary school: “The more we get together, the happier are we. And my friends are your friends and your friends are my friends.”
If we are the happier only when we are together, are we to presuppose that we will know nothing but misery when we cannot get together? I think Jesus is consoling himself when he says, “They belonged to you and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”
Every now and then, we need to be reminded of this, especially when we become too attached with our work, our projects, our vision and mission, our goals, our achievements. We tend to forget that it is HIS WORK, NOT OURS, and we are only participating in his mission.
We can get so attached to people and begin to behave as if we own them: “my wife, my husband, my children, my family, my loved ones, my friends….” We don’t realize it is this kind of possessiveness that makes us forget they don’t belong to us; they belong rather to God like we all do.
Perhaps it is what Jesus also meant when the risen Jesus appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias and asked Peter, DO YOU LOVE ME? As soon as he answered YES LORD, I LOVE YOU, the rejoinder was, FEED MY LAMBS, TEND MY SHEEP. He did not say FEED YOUR FLOCK, TEND YOUR SHEEP.
I often say this to our priests when I hear them say, MY PARISHIONERS, MY FLOCK. I say, “No, they are not yours. They belong to the Shepherd. And you are supposed to have no other reason to care or them than FOR LOVE OF THE SHEPHERD, no other reason than FOR THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD.”
Homily of Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan for Tuesday of the 7th Week of Easter, 18 May 2021, John 17:1-11a