Heaven Under Siege

Matthew 11: 11-15
Isa 41: 13-20 / Psa 145

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence are taking it by force.
(Matthew 11:12)

Our voices shall not be silenced,
For justice and truth we shall stand;
Peace will overcome violence,
For God’s love to reign in our land.

Jesus said: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; and yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.” (Mt.11:11-15)

Reflection

Why did our Lord regard St. John the Baptist as “the greatest among those born of women?” Jesus conferred this honor on St. John because he was the last prophet of the Old Testament whom the great prophets predicted would prepare the way of the Lord. He was also the first herald in the New Testament to give witness to the anointed Lamb of God. Thus it can be said that John the Baptist bridged the old and the new. He was in fact the first martyr of the violence that Jesus was talking about. But what did our Lord mean when He said the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than St. John the Baptist? Jesus was merely emphasizing the point that the kingdom of heaven is impregnable to all the evil and violence that are trying to take it by force. If King Herod, the greatest tyrant in Israel at that time, was unable to break the spirit and principles of St. John the Baptist, who was the least among God’s soldiers, how could any force from earth or hell ever hope to conquer the kingdom of heaven?

As Jesus had predicted, a long line of evil empires throughout the annals of history, wielding their might and power, would attempt but fail to subdue the kingdom of God here on earth. Ironically, it would be the seekers of peace, the vanguards of truth and justice, with their principle of active non-violence, who would in the end prevail. God became man in our Lord Jesus Christ as the greatest personification of that ideal, and He commissioned His cousin, St. John to presage it. Mankind’s history is replete with many of Christ’s advocates who successfully followed the way of the cross. St. Thomas More, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jose Rizal, Mandela of South Africa are but a few who come to mind. They all clamored and fought for truth, freedom and justice, but never by any means of violence.

The most heinous form of violence perpetrated by evil men long used to wielding power against innocent civilians happened recently here in our island of Mindanao. But their acts of violence has turned the whole world against them, ending their wanton profligacy and reign of terror in their predominantly Muslim region. The blood of those martyrs that they massacred in Maguindanao have not been shed in vain, but has only given testimony to the eventual victory of God’s kingdom against all the violent forces of evil.

Lord God, You have provided us with enough models like St. John the Baptist to counter the myth that the power to change the world belongs to the mighty. Thank You for the wisdom of knowing that it is to the meek and the gentle, the persecuted, the humble of heart, and the peacemakers that Your kingdom belongs. Amen.

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