The Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
2015 – Cycle B
Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18: 33b-37
Fear enslaves those who are caught in its snares.
Fear causes us to judge and ostracize other people.
Fear makes us control or force other people to do what we want.
Fear is rooted in basic survival not in a life that flourishes.
Fear is the root of our inaction in the face of injustice.
Fear forces us to defend the self-made castles of our beliefs against threats, perceived or real. Fear is opposed and contrary to hope.
We have seen what fear does to us. The active and silent collaboration of Christian peoples to the Nazi regime and “the final solution”. The lock-down of Brussels. The concentration camps our country built for US citizens of Japanese descent and the treatment of people with German surnames during World War II. US State Governors and Congress blanketing the treatment of Syrian refugees from war, the vast majority of whom are children, women and the elderly, as suspect. Donald Trump calling for all Muslims in our country to be registered.
Fear draws forth the worst of human traits in us. Have you ever acted out of fear? What ugliness raised its dark head from your soul? I expect that is why Jesus said fear is useless [See Luke 8:50; Mark 5:36].
Yet our world is fear filled – and rightly so. And where does the line of prudence fall between fear and hope? I expect we realize killing ISIS leaders and the master-minds of terrorist plots will not bring an end to terrorism in our world. Though you may cut the head off a serpent it does not mean the serpent is dead. There are fellow citizens within our country who sincerely believe in white supremacy and the tenets of Nazism. The civil rights movement, the example and preaching of Martin Luther King, Jr. and World War II did not destroy the ideas. And like the parable of the wheat and the weeds, which concludes with Jesus saying, “Let them grow together until harvest” [Matthew 13:24-30]; we know that evil will be present until Jesus brings to completion God’s reign.
As sobering as that thought is; might we ask ourselves, what are we going to do about it in the meantime?
Ideas are powerful. Consider Platonism, Christianity, democracy, Buddhism, the pursuit of beauty, the scientific method, tribalism and nationalism. Consider what people have been willing to die for throughout history. Ideas are powerful; though not all ideas have the same value and foundation for the common good and dignity of human beings. So I’ve had to ask myself, what is so attractive for young people from around the world that draw them to an Islamic based idea that expresses itself in such barbaric murders of innocent life? What has brought about such fundamentalism in all religious and political ideologies today? Is there a fundamental difference in the creation of an Islamic caliphate and the medieval idea of Christendom? I expect what underlies much of the answer to these questions is fear. For what hope is there for communities that have lost their way, their way of life, their coherence, their hope?*
I would like to reflect more on discovering Christian Hope within our present world. Christian Hope is not about “going to heaven,” of a salvation that is essentially away from this world*. In Jesus saying his kingdom does not belong to this world does not mean his kingdom is not within this world. Christian Hope is for God’s new creation, for a “new heaven and a new earth”*. Consider what we pray every day, “Our Father…your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven”. We pray for God’s reign, for God’s will to be fully realized on earth not in heaven, not in an afterlife.
Christian Hope is a clarion call to participate in living out this kingdom of Jesus which the Preface of today’s Mass will proclaim is first a kingdom of truth. Yet note what Pilate asks, “What is truth”? [John 18:38] Pilate speaks for many in our world that no longer know truth. And truth is not to be equated with right dogma and doctrine. Truth is a person, Jesus of Nazareth and you and I are his body.
The Preface speaks of holiness. Holiness is a response to an invitation from God to first of all accept ourselves as we are. Is this at the heart of why many young people are attracted to ISIS and other forms of notoriety and violence – they haven’t, can’t accept themselves?
The Preface calls for justice. Human justice falls short of God’s justice which raises up in dignity the human being – often where the scales of our Lady Justice are not equal because the poor, the disenfranchised, the refugee, the immigrant, the powerless need greater support.
All of these values as well as love and peace are found in this world. These are the heart of Christianity and Christian Hope which we need not to wait for in some future world but to make present now by how we live so as to point the way for those individuals and societies who are lost and have no hope. In Jesus, God has not abandoned creation so neither should we abandon it.
Last weekend, spontaneously people gathered at the Place de la Republique. The people lite candles and placed flowers at the base of the bronze statue of Marianne, the personification of the French Republic. Simultaneously people also gathered in the heart of Paris; filling and encircling the Cathedral of Notre Dame. At the center of that gathering was an altar presided over by Monseigneur André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris who welcomed believer and non-believer alike. Whether a secular or faith expression, I expect every Parisian gathered at those two sites was afraid. Yet I also expect their fear was defanged of its power simply by the act of gathering; an act of hope. It is that same act that we are engaged in right now.
[*Some phrases and ideas are taken from Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright, HarperOne, 2008]