Peace ON Earth is preferable to a Piece OF It

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Of all three readings for the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, one sentence commands attention. It stands out from all the sentiments regarding kingship and truth:

“All the peoples of the earth will lament him.”

This comes from Sunday’s second reading from the Book of Revelation (Rv 1:5-8). “Lament” means a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. So why would all on earth lament the second coming of Christ? Not ALL on earth will. All those OF earth will—those for whom earth is their universe. Pontius Pilate was one of those, which is why, as reflected in Sunday’s gospel reading (Jn 18:33b-37), he couldn’t understand how Jesus answered the question he posed before condemning Jesus to earthly death. “Then, you are a king?”

“You say I am a king,” Jesus responded. “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Truth is the foundation of God’s Kingdom—which is why Jesus told Pilate his kingdom was not of this earth. So while we do our time ON earth, how can we be OF God’s kingdom?

The first reading from the Old Testament Book of Daniel (Dn 7:13-14) explains:

His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.

In other words, His truth keeps marching on.

That’s the refrain of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, written by slavery abolitionist Julia Ward Howe. One stanza we don’t always remember is crucial to understanding Christ’s kingship:

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

As time kept marching on after the Civil War era, a new generation decided to change one word in Howe’s hymn. In place of “die,” we now sing “let us live to make men free.”

That makes The Battle Hymn of the Republic a call to action for ALL generations. It calls for the abolition of our slavery to this world. While we are ON this earth, living to free ourselves of our lamentable need for falsehoods will help us march closer to being OF God’s kingdom.

 –Tom Andel

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