Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Har Magiddo
I want to begin by talking about an event that took place when I was a teenager. This was the assassination of the president, John F. Kennedy. Now, I know that history has shown that President Kennedy was not all he was made out to be. He was pretty immoral in his private life. Perhaps some of this flowed into his public life. He also made some decisions as president that history has shown had horrible effects on the future of the country.
But none of that could be known back on November 22, 1963 when I was a sophomore in high school. For me, and for most of the country, John F. Kennedy was a wonderful, dynamic young man whom we all looked to and admired. He told us to “Ask not what our country could do for us, but ask what we could do for our country.” He met with John Glenn after Glenn became the first American to orbit the world in space, and then said that before 1970 an American would walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong did exactly that in 1969. Besides everything else, John F. Kennedy was a Catholic. He was proud of his faith. When during the election he was asked if the Vatican would run the country or he would, Kennedy responded that he would serve as president of the country. The Vatican would not rule the United States. “But, what if the Pope gave you a direct order?” some reporter asked. “Then I would leave the presidency before I would leave my faith.”
I was sold on this man. We all were. And then, suddenly, he was gone. Most people my age can tell you exactly where we were when we first heard the grim news from Dallas. Just like most of us remember exactly where we were when they heard the news of the airplanes striking the twin towers on 9-11. Like on 9-11, when the President was assassinated our nation literally closed shop and went into a long period of mourning. All work stopped. Everyone watched the funeral on TV. Everyone bawled when 4 year old John-John saluted his father’s casket.
I am recalling these incidents this week due to a phrase found at the conclusion of the first reading for this Sunday from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah. The reading tells about the coming of the Messiah. It then says that they shall look on him whom they have thrust through and mourn for him as one mourns for an only son. “On that day,” the reading says, “the mourning in Jerusalem shall be as great as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.”
The mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. What was that about? What happened is that a great young leader, the hope of the Nation of Judah, was killed. It was worse than the assassination of President Kennedy. For years the Kingdom of Judah had suffered the tyranny of the most wicked king in its history, the terrible King Manassah. Manassah was so bad that some of the ancient recorders of history even refused to mention his name. However, when Manassah died, he was succeeded by his eight year old son, Josiah. Josiah grew up to be completely different from his father. He destroyed all the forms of pagan worship that his father had inflicted upon the people. He put an end to the immorality the people were forced to join. Josiah was good. Josiah was kind. Then, in about the year 609 BC disaster struck. Young King Josiah led the army against the invading Egyptians. On the plains of Megiddo near the city of Hadrimmon, Josiah was killed. And the weeping for Josiah was like the weeping for Kennedy.
Overlooking the plains of Megiddo, where Josiah was killed, there is a mountain, Mount Carmel. This mountain is extremely significant, extremely important in the Bible. It was on Mount Carmel that the Prophet Elijah defeated the forces of evil in the battle of the prophets. The Hebrew people believed that a day would come when the forces of good would have the final victory over the forces of evil. A day would come when the forces that gave Elijah victory on Mount Carmel would defeat the forces that destroyed Josiah on the plains of Megiddo. It would be the day when the power of God seen on the mountain, or in Hebrew, Har, would win the final victory of Megiddo. This final battle would be called the battle of Har Megiddo, Armegeddon.
Leading this battle would be the Messiah of God. He is the one who will give the final victory of good over evil.
"Who do people say that I am?" Jesus asked his disciples. "Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah or one of the prophet." "Now, who do you say that I am," Jesus asked again, "You are the Messiah of God," Peter replied. Jesus is not just a famous preacher. He is not one of many famous people who have lived. He is wholly different than Buddha or Mohammed. He is unique. He is the Messiah of God, the Son of God.
Jesus will conquer, but His conquest will come after His suffering and death. All will look upon the One whom the people of the world have thrust through and mourn for Him. Jesus would not be the only one who would die. His disciples will conquer, but first they will have to follow in their Master steps and lose their lives for His kingdom.
We will conquer with Jesus; but first we will have to lose our lives, at least those parts of our lives which would destroy the Life of Christ within us. We have to actively oppose immorality in our country, our families and our lives. This demands real suffering. It means being mocked because we value life over the convenience of abortion. It means being excluded because we are not going to get drunk or take drugs at a party. It means drawing a line so that all our relationships might be wholesome.
We have to have an attitude in life that is thoroughly opposed to the mind set of the world. We have to be more concerned with others than with ourselves. We have to put the needs of the poor and the powerless before our own desires. We have to join the Lord in dying for others.
It is serious business being a Christian. The Second Battle of Megiddo is being waged even as we speak. We are part of the forces of the mountain, the forces of God. The enemy is the egocentricity of the world that has no need of a Redeemer and has therefore rejected the Work of God. The enemy is fierce. But we go to battle with the Messiah of God as our leader. He is winning. And we are winning.
We need to carry on the Battle for Christ. Jesus Christ is calling us to battle. From the top of the mountain, Har, the Lord is calling us to join Him on the plain of Megiddo. Har Megiddo. Armageddon. “Come to Armageddon,” He says. “Come and join the battle of good against evil. Come and fight for the Kingdom of God.”
Do not surrender to evil. Do not give up hope. Do not give up the faith. Do not give up. Remember, it is impossible for the new Josiah to lose. The final victory belongs to the Lord.......and to us.