“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and who was, and who is to come, the almighty.” Revelation 1:5-8.
On this feast of Christ the King, we come with an attitude of gratitude — as we celebrate the “invisible kingdom of the heart.” John’s gospel, the exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate is among the most dramatic moments in the New Testament. Jesus tells his judge, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And Pilate asks, “So you are a king?”
Such a dialogue prompts us to ask ourselves where do we find our deepest allegiances or loyalties in life? We may respond children, family, country, God? And perhaps more so today we might also ask do we extend ourselves enough to permit these loyalties, cares, concerns to all people?
In this regard, Nelson Mandella once wrote, ” As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Today, I’d like to consider three virtues: courage, dignity and mercy to more fully address how we might extend our deepest loyalties and extend these to others.
Consider the recent headlines and TV news and we may need to “run for cover” amid the fears of a “world at war.” Fears may overtake us whether in Monterey, Paris, Beirut or Bamako, Mali.
We live in a world of genuine and yet sometimes fake or exaggerated fears. Whole industries reinforce our fears of illnesses ( we don’t have), or fears of our car breaking down, or tires that may go flat, or children that are not in the house at precisely 10 PM. There are genuine fears and precautions to be taken such as going to the doctor for an annual check-up, or regular maintains of the automobile, and checking the tires before a long trip. Most of all, at 10 PM, before locking up the house, checking in on the kids.
Nonetheless, life’s greatest challenges require ample courage. Today, Jesus’s courage before Pilate is an extraordinary courage in the face of false judgement. Here Jesus “testifies to the truth,” according to the gospel. After all, Jesus was going to his cross, death and resurrection as an act of love for all humankind. And example of faith, hope, and love whose courage calls for a building this “invisible kingdom of the heart.” The kind of kingdom that is among you, within you and within your grasp.
So we want to hand over a better world to our children and grandchildren. After all we cannot wrap them in Saran Wrap, and there are time when we cannot sugar coat the conflicts around us and in our world.
Getting back to the events in Paris and Mali, this past week, about one-year ago I read a very profound book by Donna Hicks, a teacher at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, entitled “Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict.” While her book is primarily aimed at international or global conflicts, and is based on her work in South Africa, her check list the “Ten Essential Elements of Dignity” can work to heal strained relationships in corporations such as Medical Hospitals, or in families when in crisis.
The list includes: acceptance of identity, inclusion, safety, acknowledgment, recognition, fairness, trust, understanding, independence, accountability. All of these were the essential elements in coming to terms with the history of apartheid in South Africa and it’s long-term need for healing and “restorative justice” at the time of its “Truth & Reconciliation Commission” in 1996.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the chair of the TRC Commission, in the introduction to Donna Hick’s book, writes,
“Dignity only sustains but also energizes and enables. It accomplishes great things. It lifts the fallen and restores the broken. When the recognition of the good in the other is shared, it is the sense of personal dignity given that can bring peace to situations of potential conflict.”
Archbishop Tutu concludes, “God gave each of us inherent worth and value; accept it in yourself, discover and encourage it in others, and peace may be just possible. We all long that this may become a reality in our aching world.”
Pope Francis leaves for Africa on Wednesday of this week for a five-day visit to communities in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic. I would add he is a very courageous man, let’s us keep him in our prayers today. His call for a Jubilee Year of Mercy, beginning on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, sees mercy and forgiveness as the cornerstone of the “new evangelization,” calling each of us to bring healing to a world so much in need.
The theme for this Holy Year comes from Luke 6:36, “Merciful like the Father.”
This past week workers at the Vatican broke down the walls that encase the Holy Doors in the loggia of Saint Peter’s — that have been closed since the last Holy Year in 2000. In a brief ceremony called a “Recognitio” the archpriest of the Vatican basilica received a metal chest containing documents from the last Jubilee the key to the Holy Door to be given to the pope. He’ll need the key. Similar ceremonies takes place in the other major basilicas in Rome, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside-the-Walls.
In Monterey, like dioceses around the United States, Bishop Richard Garcia will bless the doors of our San Carlos Cathedral on Sunday, December 13th at the 10:30 AM Mass. He also authorized the Holy Year doors of Madonna Del Sasso, Salinas and Mission San Luis Obispo. At the Chrism Mass on March 21, those “missionaries of mercy” will be honored for their efforts to bring support to the homeless, visit prison, or help those with special needs. Sister Barbara Long chairs the committee for the diocesan wide efforts, activities and events during this “Year of Mercy.”
In April of 2015 in his announcement of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis in “The Face of Mercy,” explains how the Holy Year was a time for Catholics to contemplate just how merciful God has been to us and to understand how we are called to be merciful to others. Pope Francis states,
“How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman — bringing the goodness and tenderness of God. May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in the world.”
Let all of us resolve this Thanksgiving, as we gather with our loved ones, our closest family and friends that the work of the Kingdom that is accomplished in our own lives may extend to the “yet to come” and the “invisible kingdom of the heart” may reside in the lives of people everywhere.
Watch this most recent video — it’s a father explaining to his young son about the terrorist attacks on their city of Paris.