Twelfth Sunday: Jesus, the Unique One
Today’s first reading comes from a book of prophecy we seldom hear proclaimed during Sunday Mass, from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah. The reading tells about the coming of the Messiah. It then says that they, the people, shall look on him whom they have pierced 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.” Obviously, the Church sees in this passage, a prophecy of the death of the Lord. The Gospel of John says that the prophet is predicting the moment when the soldier thrust into Jesus’ heart and blood and water poured forth. You remember, "They will look upon him whom they have pierced."
But what was this mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo that Zechariah is speaking about? This is a bit of a longer story. About six hundred years before Jesus the Southern Kingdom, 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 many of the recorders of history of his day even refused to mention his name. However, when Manassah died he was succeeded by his eight year old son, Josiah. As a child, Josiah was raised by the Temple priests. When he reached majority, Josiah was a totally different king than his father had been. He destroyed all the forms of pagan worship that Manassah had inflicted upon the people. He put an end to the immorality the people were expected to participate in. Josiah was good. Josiah was kind.
Then, 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 Hadadrimmon, Josiah was killed. And the entire nation wept for Josiah.
Near Megiddo is the biblically important mountain, Mount Carmel. Remember, it was on Mount Carmel that the Prophet Elijah defeated the forces of evil in the battle of the prophets. The 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, that is, Armageddon.
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 the Son of man is?" Jesus asked his disciples. "Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah or one of the prophet." "But, who do you say that I am," Jesus asks. "You are the Messiah of God," Peter replies. 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. A fantastic explanation of this point is given by Pope John Paul II in his 1994 book Crossing the Threshold of Hope. I want to quote a section of this to you:
If Jesus were a “prophet” like Muhammed, if he were “enlightened” like Buddha, without any doubt he would not be what he is. He is the one mediator between God and humanity.
He is the mediator because he is both God and Man. He holds within Himself the entire, intimate world of divinity. But he is also so human that the entire world of mankind, the entire history of humanity finds in him its expression before God. And not before a distant, unreachable God, but before a God that is in Him, that indeed He is. That is not the focus in any other religion, much less any philosophy.
Christ is unique. Unlike Muhammad, He does more than promulgate principles of religious discipline to which all God’s worshipers must conform.
He is even less similar to Buddha with Buddha’s denial of all that is created. Buddha is right when he does not see the possibility of salvation in creation, but he is wrong when he claims that for that reason he denies that creation has any value for humanity. Christ does not do this. He is the eternal witness to the Love of the Father for his creation from the very beginning. The creator saw Good in creation. He particularly saw it in man made in his image and likeness. The Good was seen in its highest expression in his Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. The Good would be confirmed at the Resurrection, Easter, which is the beginning of a new creation, a rediscovery of all creation in God.
Christ does not resemble Muhammad or Buddha. He is totally original and unique.
Unlike Josiah at the First Battle of Megiddo, Jesus will conquer. But his conquest will come after his suffering and death. First all will look upon the one whom they have thrust through and mourn for him. His disciples will conquer, but first they will have to follow in their Master’s steps and lose their lives for his kingdom.
We will conquer with Jesus but first we have to deny ourselves that which would destroy his life with us. We have to actively oppose immorality in our country, our families and our lives. We have to get rid of the concept that we should close an eye to immorality in the world. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the hole created by the media and politicians that morality is nothing more than an expression of a particular religion and thus should not be applied to the laws of the country. We oppose immorality not just because this is a teaching of the Church, but because the natural law, reason tells us that immorality is wrong and is leading to the total degradation of mankind.
All this demands real suffering. We have to have an attitude which is diametrically opposed to the mind set of the world. We have to be more concerned with others than with ourselves. We have to put our children and our spouses needs before our needs. We have to put the needs of the poor and the powerless before our needs. 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 within us. But we go to battle with the Messiah of God as our leader. More than just with the Lord, we are in the Lord, sons and daughter of Christ. And we are winning.
So when we look at the world with all its difficulties, we don't give up hope. We don't give up faith. There is much beauty and much good in our world. It is impossible for the new Josiah to lose. The final victory belongs to the Lord and to us.