Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
At first glance the saying of Jesus from Luke’s Gospel today is probably seen by many as rather distressing and difficult: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on earth? No I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). In general, we do want our families to be united and we also believe that Jesus wants the same thing for us. And so to hear him saying that he has not come to bring peace on earth but rather division and that from now on families will be divided three against two, two against three, we find it quite difficult and contradictory.
Surely Jesus has come to unite the human race under the reign of God. He wants all to be saved and to be one. How can we understand the message of Jesus today? Certainly Jesus has come to establish a new world, the Kingdom of God in order to draw all humanity together. However, this is not to be established by force but only by consent.
Entry into the Kingdom of God will only be through our own free will. No one can be forced to accept the Gospel message and indeed there are many who do not accept it and many who are certainly indifferent to the message of the Gospel.
The meaning of today’s Gospel text is that Jesus does not want to bring division and disunity to our families. He indeed desires us to have peace and harmony. But unfortunately people do not accept the message of peace of Jesus, and without a doubt some will reject it entirely and perhaps even violently. The paradox is that the greatest message of peace and unity from Jesus can frequently cause conflict and disunity.
The readings today present us with the challenges to our faith. In the first reading, prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern because he refused to hedge on the faith. He refused to tell the king what the king wanted to hear. He proclaimed the truth that God told him to proclaim, even though it cost him severely. In the second reading, the community to whom the letters of St. Paul to the Hebrews addressed was tempted to give up the faith. It seemed too difficult to them, too demanding. Paul told them to keep their eyes focused on Jesus, and not be so concerned about the present life. They would faithfully accept the cost of discipleship because nothing was worth sacrificing the life of Jesus within us.
Yes, St. Paul insisted: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
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.