Saint Edmund, King & Martyr

Here in England we honour the memory of Saint Edmund, who became King of East Anglia in 865.  He was captured by Viking invaders near Norwich, and when he refused to deny his Christian faith, was tied to a tree and shot with arrows.  In the Middle Ages St. Edmund was adopted as a patron of England along with St. Edward the Confessor.  In the famous Wilton Diptych which hangs in the National Gallery, these two saints are shown presenting King Richard II to the Virgin and Child, the occasion of England becoming Mary’s dowry.  Let us ask for Saint Edmund’s continued intercession and protection of our country.

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The gospels record two occasions when Our Lord wept: at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and when he saw the city of Jerusalem.  What moved Our Lord to tears as he gazed upon this city?  Jesus came to Jerusalem as its Messiah and King; he came to offer its people true liberation and a peace that no earthly ruler could give: pardon from sin and reconciliation with God.

Jerusalem derives its name from the Hebrew word for peace, Salem.  But the city was not ready to receive its Prince of Peace.   Instead of an eager, grateful welcome, the people of Jerusalem greeted Jesus and his message with indifference and unbelief.  In a sense, Our Lord was re-living a six-hundred-year-old episode in the city’s history: during the time of the Prophet Jeremiah, when Jerusalem faced ruin and devastation by the Babylonian army.  As Our Lord would do six centuries later, Jeremiah wept over Jerusalem’s abandonment of God and the coming destruction that their infidelity brought upon them. (Jeremiah 14:17-18)

Our Lord’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilled when the Roman army destroyed the city and levelled the Temple in the year 70.  But even in his lament, Our Lord wasn’t without hope: If you had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace (Luke 19:42)

The peace Our Lord offers is more than the absence of conflict and war.  It is liberation from bondage to fear, prejudice, hatred, and resentment.  It is the freedom from sin that comes as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and try to walk in obedience to his will.  This is the only peace that can bring healing, grace, and unity.  Families, parishes, religious communities, and even entire nations can know this peace if only they let go of the obstacles that prevent them from embracing God.

True peace is possible as we allow Our Lord to rule our hearts and minds. His word and his Spirit have the power to pull down every barrier.  When anxieties seem overwhelming, we can turn to Jesus and he will show us how to overcome fear with courage and faith, bitterness with love and forgiveness, and intolerance with kindness and patience.  Things which we, and the people of Jerusalem today, should take to heart.

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