College Chaplain Reflection – November 17, 2016
November 16, 2016
Christ, the Lord of History and Prince of Peace
This Sunday the Church will celebrate the Feast of Christ, the King of the Universe. Amidst the ongoing turmoil of history, we turn again to the One whom we acknowledge as Lord of all. Unlike the rulers of this world though, Jesus did not announce his rule from a lofty throne. Rather, his kingship was revealed on the Cross, where the words -‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’, where written up as a bit of a laugh by his tormentors.
Why is this significant? Because his kingdom is not one of force, but of grace. His Cross was not a victory in the worldly sense, but it was in fact the truest victory ever won, because it was a victory over sin and death and therefore set us free from the shackles that bind us.
Notice the difference here. At their best, a worldly ruler will curtail some of our freedoms and place on us some burdens in exchange for a limited peace. Jesus rules us by lifting our heaviest burdens and granting us true freedom by the grace of his Cross. His reign is over our hearts, and therefore it opens the way for us to true and lasting peace.
In fact, there is no other path. Peace is not merely an absence of conflict, no matter how extended that truce. Neither is it the suppression or control of aggressive forces. True peace is only found in the annihilation of those inner forces that drive us apart. It is only found when each and every person desires the good of the person they are facing. In other words, it is only found when our hearts, and that means my heart, is purified by love. And that can only be achieved by the grace of the Cross. What was Jesus’ prayer as his executioners nailed him to the Cross? -Father, forgive them.- Those words contain a radical depth of meaning that goes beyond that gruesome scene. They are a clear path for us.
When I said Mass for the Year 9 students last week I shared a quote with them. It is worth repeating here. It is from writings of Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jew, who even in the midst of the terror of the Holocaust was able to find that path to peace.
She recalls a conversation with her communist friend, Klaas Smelik (senior): -‘It is the only thing we can do, Klaas, I see no alternative: each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. And remember that every atom of hate we add to this world makes it still more inhospitable.’ And when Klass, -‘dogged old class fighter’ he’s always been, objects, -‘But that- that is nothing but Christianity!’ she replies, -‘Yes, Christianity, and why ever not?’ (Brendan Purcell, -‘where is god in suffering?, pp 83-84).