Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary/St Dominic, NOLA
The 5,000 plus men, women, and children that Jesus feeds with a few fish and a few loaves of bread are all thinking the same thing: “Hey, let's make this guy Jesus our king!” Wanting nothing to do with being a worldly king, Jesus heads for the hills to be alone. Given his power to heal disease and injury, multiply fish and bread, and dispense divine wisdom at the drop of a sandal, why does Jesus run when folks start thinking about putting a golden crown on his head? One reason, one very good reason: the Romans had a nasty habit of lopping off the head of anyone who dared lay claim to a crown. Another reason: the Son was not sent by the Father to rule an earthly kingdom. During his forty days in the desert, Jesus was tempted by the Devil to take up the scepter of secular power, and he refused. Why? B/c he knows that his crown will be made of thorns not gold. And his scepter will be the cross. A kingdom of men ruled by a man will flourish only as long as the man in charge manages to stay in charge. The Christ is sent to establish an everlasting kingdom, a kingdom ruled not by rebels, heretics, and false prophets but by the Risen Lord. It is this kingdom that we are vowed to proclaim.
And we find the Apostles doing just that: proclaiming the kingdom of God. They are arrested (again) and brought before the Sanhedrin. Gamaliel persuades the members of the Sanhedrin to release Peter and the other Apostles by reminding them that others had tried to do what the Apostles were doing and had failed. Concerning the Apostle's preaching, he says, “. . .if this endeavor. . .is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them. . .” He mentions the false prophet, Theudas and the militant rebel, Judas the Galilean, both executed by the Romans. Gamaliel knows his business; he adds, “. . .you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” The Apostles are flogged, ordered to cease teaching, and released. Did they learn their lesson? No. Luke tell us, they left “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. . .they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ.” And we should be disappointed if they had. After all, infused with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles could do nothing else but teach and proclaim the Christ and the founding of his Father's everlasting kingdom. With no one arresting us or flogging us (not yet anyway), how much easier is it for us to follow their example?
Despite his obvious power and good will, our Lord runs from the temptation of secular power in order to make it clear that his mission and ministry is all about planting in the sinful soil of this world a divine seed, a seed that will sprout and flourish to produce a harvest of men and women vowed to spreading the Good News of God's freely offered mercy to sinners. To use another metaphor: the Church is an infection in the body of the world, a virus injected into the bloodstream of the Devil's kingdom that replicates and spreads, slowly but inexorably rewriting the DNA of the creation. As followers of Christ, we are the symptoms of this world's Christ-sickness—the holy sneezing, the divine coughing, the righteous fever of a fallen body that can only be cured by dying of Christitis. Both the Church and world loses out every time we fail to proclaim the Father's kingdom, every time we relax in compromise or accommodation, every time we take a beating and slink off to lick our strips. When the world tries to cure itself by killing us, we must remember that the blood of the martyrs seeps into the ground and there the Church flourishes. Bear witness. Bring testimony. Never cease proclaiming the mercy and love of the Risen Lord.______________
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