Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 22 November 2009

If you live in Britain then you live in a kingdom, and the signs are discreet, but they are everywhere.  The sign is a crown.  It is there on the mailboxes and postage stamps.  It is to be found in the courts of justice and on the uniforms of the armed services.  There is a crowned head on the coins and notes that we carry in our purses and wallets.  To a casual observer it might speak of hierarchy, a sign of the ruler at the top.  Actually, its significance is much deeper than that.  The role of the monarch is to represent justice, integrity and fairness.  The crown therefore symbolises the welfare and flourishing of the people which it is the sovereign’s duty to promote.  In the United Kingdom the crown represents the common good.  Yes, it is the sovereign’s duty to promote this, but this can only happen if there is widespread recognition of the values which we all share.  In the United States the flag has something of the same power, hence the anger of many when it is dishonoured.  The flag stands for the republic and its values. 
Whether we live in a republic or in a monarchy, there is another kingdom and another sign.  This is the kingdom of Christ and its sign is the cross.  This is a kingdom which can be found in every nation and every society.  The kingdom of Christ is found wherever people recognise Christ as the unique revelation of God among us. They long to live as he would have us live, to do as he would have us do.  There are those who forgive and reconcile because Christ forgave generously and preached reconciliation.  This makes the kingdom a reality.  There are those who seek to help the poor and disadvantaged, because Christ told us to do so and added that he would be found among the poor in every generation.  Here, too, the kingdom becomes a reality.  There are those who seek to open our eyes the loving presence of the Father in our world, and the inspiring presence of the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus did.  In this way, also, the kingdom becomes a reality.  Just as an earthly kingdom unites people and brings them shared values on which they can build together, so too the heavenly kingdom unites people and helps them build.  Sometimes they build visibly, as they create institutions to carry on the faith and the service which it inspires.  Often, however, they build invisibly, as they create in their hearts a loyalty to Christ and his kingdom.
How strange, then, that a recent decision in the courts of the European Union has demanded the removal of crucifixes from Italian classrooms.  This decision will create many ripple effects in other countries.  To take away the sign of the kingdom of Christ is to repudiate its values.  It says that these values have no place in the common realm.  Alas, what you end up with after this is a collection of atomised individuals, cut off from their roots and from one another.  The kingdom of Christ by contrast makes possible a people, who live by the traditions that they share and the values that inspire them.
Fr Terry Tastard is parish priest (pastor) of Holy Trinity, Brook Green, in the Hammersmith area of London.  His new book Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, from religious booksellers and from the publisher.

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