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The Terms of Peace

Fr. Damien

"For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."

Why does Jerusalem not know the time of its visitation? This is important to answer, because someone might say, “How can they be destroyed for not knowing something? How can you be held responsible for what you are ignorant of?”

Why did Jerusalem not know the king had come? There is a clue in the verse just before this, where Jesus says, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!” There is one other place in Luke where the phrase “the things that make for peace” occurs; namely, when Jesus asks, "What king going to encounter another king in war will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks [for] terms of peace." “Terms of peace” is the same phrase translated “things that make for peace.” So the picture we should have in mind as Jesus approaches Jerusalem for the last time is that of a king coming to a rebellious city, a hotbed of resistance against his rightful authority. The king is willing to make peace, but only on his own terms.

When Christ says that Jerusalem does not know these terms of peace, he does not mean he never told them what they were. Jerusalem knew the terms of peace but rejected them. Our Lord says, “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Do they then not know the time of their visitation? As it turns out, they do know it. Jerusalem does know it. They know they have been visited, and they know the peace terms. So the reason Jerusalem is guilty and liable to judgment is not because it has never heard of God’s visitation or his terms of peace, but because the people “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness.” Once again, to use the words of St. Paul: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

Is there a “too late” in dealing with God? He may stretch out his wings to you and beckon you again and again to take refuge in his mercy, but there will come a point when the beckoning ceases, and the sentence is passed, and it is too late. “How often would I have gathered you, but you would not. So your house is forsaken and desolate.”

No one in the Bible warns of hell as often or as vividly as Jesus does. Jesus says to the Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew, "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?" Perhaps one reason the Evangelist recounts the Savior's warning about hell is to motivate people to hope in God and cherish his mercy more intensely. Luke did not record this text just to inform us about Jerusalem’s doom, but more importantly to encourage us that our Lord is always eager and willing to make peace with anyone who will accept the terms of peace he offers. “He wept saying, 'O that today you knew the terms of peace!'" O that today you would approve and accept as the charter of your life our Savior’s terms of peace!

That’s the main message of today’s gospel and of this Sunday’s solemnity of Christ the King: The king has come to his rebel subjects and offered peace terms while the time lasts. The terms of peace are simple: Lay down your arms, especially the weapons of pride and self-righteousness; admit your defeat; accept your full and free pardon (total amnesty through the sacrament of confession); and swear your allegiance to the new king in your life. Through the intercession of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, may we be so humble and docile as to accept Christ our King and his terms of peace.

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