You will not have my hatred

One of the victims of the Paris attacks was a 35 year old make-up artist called Helene Muyal-Leiris. She was the mother of a 17 month old son, Melvil. In the aftermath her husband Antoine Leiris, posted on Facebook a poignant open letter to the perpetrators of the attack: 

“On Friday night you stole away the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. I do not know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls.

If the God for whom you kill so blindly made us in His image, each bullet in my wife’s body would have been a wound in His heart.

Therefore I will not give you the gift of hating you. You have obviously sought it but responding to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that that has made you what you are.

We are only two, my son and I, but we are more powerful than all the world's armies. Every day of his life this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom. Because you don’t have his hatred either.”

The message is a powerful reminder of where true power lies. True power does not lie in violence and intimidation. True power lies in a refusal to give way to hatred and evil.  

This message is all the more potent on this Feast of Christ the King, for we are reminded that our king is not a king that the world would recognize, with the worldly trappings of splendour: in place of a diadem, a crown of thorns sits on his head; instead of a sceptre he holds a reed; his royal robe is a soldier's cloak draped around him in mockery; his flesh bears the wounds of a whipping; he is an object of ridicule and contempt.

His end is horrible, and the last words he hears before he dies are the taunts of the crowd and the insults of his enemies.Yet power emanates from the cross as he begs his Father to forgive his enemies, and excuses them for their ignorance.

For his enemies, the sentencing and crucifixion of Jesus makes for a very satisfactory conclusion. Their hate-filled hunger  has been satiated. They have got their way. They have destroyed him whose message they could not bear. He made no attempt to defend himself, or to escape from his terrible end.

Our church has many representations of Jesus on the cross, and though we remember his death every time the celebrate the Mass, it is perhaps only on Good Friday and in walking the Stations of the Cross that we really reflect on what he endured for us. Today’s Feast of Christ the King celebrates the triumph of love over hatred.

Our hymns today lead us into celebrating a victorious Christ who has beaten his earthly suffering, such as ‘The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory. A royal diadem adorns his mighty victor’s brow.’ Are we to imagine the risen, ascended Jesus discarding the thorny crown and taking a gold one? Are we to imagine a Jesus who has passed through his physical trials, saying, as it were, 'thank goodness that’s all over, I can go back to being what I was before'? Why would the poor itinerant preacher want an earthly crown?

If we magnify the glory of Jesus is there a risk of becoming like James and John who begged for seats on his right and left in glory? We cannot overlook the mandate of Jesus, that if we would be his disciple we must take up our cross and follow him. Without the hardship there can be no glory.

Standing up to evil, by refusing to give way to hate is hard and costly. But we must try. The force of evil cannot bear a world in harmony. The Paris attacks were part of a simple plan designed to drive a wedge of hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims. The terrorists want our cities to be places where people are too afraid to function, where our normal business and leisure activities will be restricted. This cannot be, it is not our way. When Hitler tried to bomb us into submission, it had the opposite effect.

We are followers of Christ, whose kingdom is not of this world. Like Antoine Leiris and his little son, and like our King, we must not have hatred for anybody.