Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Last Sunday we saw the authority of Jesus in teaching as he said: “You have heard that… But I say to you…” Jesus indeed goes beyond the demands of the old law and offers us a way to both inner peace and a better world.
Today we hear the other two parts of Jesus’ way. They are “offer no resistance to one who is evil” and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:38-44). These two commands perhaps seem unrealistic, something impossible for ordinary people like us to observe. Let us try to understand them.
Jesus quotes the Hebrew Scriptures: “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” In ancient times, tribes and armies usually imposed double revenge in return. That’s the natural tendency of the human heart. It calls for an immediate reaction. But Jesus goes beyond this natural tendency: “But I say to you, offer no resistance to the one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well”( Mt. 5:39). Did Jesus truly mean this? When someone strikes us, if we make no response, then we are to invite our opponent to continue to exploit or abuse us? We need to consider what Jesus himself did when a temple guard struck Jesus before the Sanhedrin? Jesus did not strike back, but he did ask, “Why did you hit me?” (Jn. 18:23).
When someone strikes us, physically or verbally, our automatic response is to strike back. But Jesus shows us a different way: not to respond with violence but rather help the opponent to justify the matter. The question “Why did you strike me?” may help the abuser consider his aggression in a serious and realistic manner.
Moreover, when Jesus says to love our enemies, he uses the Greek word “agape” for love. Agape involves a deliberate act of the will. Love is not simply a feeling. Love is a choice, a decision. We choose to love others because we strive to be like Jesus, our Master. To imitate the sacrificial love of Christ, our love for others should go beyond the human and social standards of love.
Today Jesus calls us to a complete love, a perfect love that includes even our enemies. Certainly we cannot achieve that love on our own power. We need Jesus’ grace.
May God bless us all!
Christ the King Church was founded in 1940 to serve the African-American Catholics in High Point, and has since become a multi-ethnic parish celebrating both the diversity and unity of the Catholic faith and tradition. Then-Bishop Eugene F. McGuinness of Raleigh invited the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement of Graymoor, NY to staff the new mission in High Point in 1940. Father Bernardine Watson served as the first pastor, originally celebrating Mass in a funeral home. Through the generosity and perseverance of Father Watson and several benefactors, a clothing shop was acquired for use by the mission. While Mass continued to be celebrated there during much of 1941, the mission community members also turned their attention to building a new church and rectory on Kivett Drive. The new colonial-style church was dedicated by Bishop McGuinness Dec. 14, 1941.
During the 1940s and into the ’50s, the Christ the King parish community continued to grow. A school building and convent were built in 1949, and in 1950 the Franciscan Handmaids arrived from New York City to staff the school. The African-American communities, both Catholic and non-Catholic, of High Point, Thomasville and Greensboro were served by the new Christ the King School, which opened its doors to 50 students in September 1950. The friars continued their pastorate in High Point for the next several decades, cultivating a faith community that became continually more culturally diverse over time. A stained-glass window behind the church’s choir loft depicts that diversity, with Jesus surrounded by four individuals representing the African, Asian, European and Indian bloodlines that make up much of the parish community today.
Lowering enrollment, financial difficulties and the recalling of the sisters to New York forced Christ the King School to close in 1981. The diocesan office of education converted the school for use as a day care center, which began its operation in August 1981. That same year, Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement arrived at Christ the King Church to conduct the religious education program and other ministerial work, including assisting at the day care center. The center, still located on parish grounds, is now privately operated and continues to serve the area.
Upon the friars’ leaving High Point in 1991, Christ the King Church became a diocesan parish in December of that year. Fathers Martin Madison and John Hoover served the parish until December 1994, when Father Philip Kollithanath, was appointed to Christ the King Church. Assisting in the advancing growth of the Christ the King community have been many commissions and ministries focusing on the spiritual , educational, multicultural and evangelical dimensions of the parish. Parishioners gather to engage in Bible study , to learn English as a Second Language, to put their faith into action in the local community and to celebrate their ethnicity. A Hispanic center and bilingual religious education program provide sharing and learning opportunities for English and Spanish speaking parishioners, and the parish African-American Ministry offers outreach programs benefiting the local region. The Women’s Guild, Altar Guild, 55+ Club and Young & Spirited Group are active in parish and community services, and the evangelization commission provides for the spiritual needs of homebound parishioners through its Visitation Ministry. The community of Christ the King Church looks ahead to expansion and renovation projects that will accommodate the needs of a growing parish. One hundred and sixty-one households currently make up the parish registry.