A Reflection on Luke 23:35-43, Solemnity of Christ the King, Year C
Promoting the “Peace of Christ” was one of the reasons why the Feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925. There were growing unrests then in Europe following the rise of totalitarian regimes after the First World War. How this peace may be attained is illustrated to us by the Lord in the Gospel Reading and elsewhere in the gospels. He employs what we call today as an active nonviolent resistance against injustices. Three points are worth noting in this regard.
Firstly, Jesus resolutely fights for justice throughout his ministry which is essentially characterized by care for the poor and liberation of the oppressed (cf. Lk 4:18). His preaching of the Kingdom of God gains significant following among the marginalized sectors that the Roman rulers and their Jewish collaborators got rid of him via crucifixion.
Secondly, he never resorts to violence in his fight against injustices. His guiding principle in his work for justice is that of unconditional love—a love that is extended to anyone, including one’s enemies (cf. Lk 6:27). So strong is his commitment to love and nonviolence that no amount of ridicules from the Roman leaders and soldiers leads him to save himself and fight back. He is so sure of the nature of his mission that he opts not to save himself if only to assert the necessity of nonviolent resistance in fighting for justice.
Thirdly, he forgives and prays for his executioners (cf. Lk 23:34) despite the excruciating pain they have inflicted on him. Likewise forgiven is a repentant criminal who gets crucified along with him.
Jesus’ threefold strategy in the promotion of peace gets encapsulated in Pope John Paul II’s message for the 2002 World Day of Peace: “No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.” The lasting peace envisioned by the Lord is the fruit of justice that must be gained through active nonviolent struggles against unjust structures and corrupt powers-that-be. These struggles have to be nonviolent. The reason is that intentionally withholding the urge to retaliate helps put an end to the cycle of violence, which in itself is unjust. Indispensable likewise in the achievement of lasting peace is forgiveness. Forgiveness frees those who have borne the brunt of injustices from hatred and the destructive desire to take revenge.
The Lord’s strategy has inspired a number of revolutionary movements. The nonviolent resistance employed by Mahatma Gandhi in India in the early part of the twentieth century and the struggle for civil rights for black Americans led by Martin Luther King Jr. are two of the classic cases. Not to be overlooked likewise is the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution in the Philippines which freed the country from the dark decades of Marcos dictatorship.
We may have relative peace in our present social location, but there remain growing unrests and wars in many places in the world. The increasing number of refugees from war-torn countries in our midst indicates that world peace leaves much to be desired. Our world remains threatened by the prospect of a full-scale nuclear war despite the fear of mutual destruction among the nuclear armed nations. For this reason, we need to promote more than ever the reign of peace advocated by Jesus—a peace that can only be achieved through an active nonviolent pursuit for justice and a readiness for forgiveness.