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akingIt seems beyond human capacity that a world of several billion persons could come together under one ruler. There are so many countervailing factors. Just think about the diversity of languages or food choices, religious beliefs and so much more. That said, I think of efforts being made in spiritual circles to appreciate the values and practices of others that are birthing new hope for finding commonality that will lead at least to peaceful co-existence.

I think of Thomas Merton who, in addition to his correspondence with many spiritual writers and thinkers, traveled 50 years ago to Asia to address a conference of religious leaders on issues of peace. Had his untimely death not ended his brilliant and enthusiastic work, who knows what understanding might have come from it. Even now, Merton scholars continue to plumb the depths of his work, although lacking the essential quality of his person as inspiration.

Benedictine monk, Thomas Keating, tells of his experience as abbot in the Spencer, Massachusetts monastery in the early 1970s when many young people began to knock on the door asking, “Is this the Buddhist place?” Keating directed them to a building not far away on the same road. Finally, he and his colleagues, Fathers William Meninger and Basil Pennington, asked themselves: “What have they got that we haven’t got?” and went to visit the temple. There they found prayer not dissimilar to the monastic practice described by Thomas Merton in his book Contemplative Prayer as “a return to the heart…finding one’s deepest center, awakening the profound depths of our being.” From that beginning was born the Christian movement called Contemplative Outreach which now boasts hundreds of thousands of practitioners the world over.

So this “King of All the Nations” clearly cannot rule in a political sphere but only in the hearts of each person who longs for justice and the peace that comes from loving acceptance of diversity. Will we ever get there? The intimations are present in people like Pope Francis, for example, and the Dalai Lama. It remains for us to find the will to follow. I saved a column I found as the millennium was turning that spoke of possibility in the following words. Let us heed their message today.

“Some may not like the image of king but kingship evokes deep-felt longing. The antiphon points to a world better than any government we have known up till now, an order that recognizes no differences except to exalt the lowliest. And who knows? This millennium might bring that stunning reversal. So we pray: Come, one who draws us beyond our disputes, who silences our complaints in your great good order. Bring us the vital joy of diversity, the secure peace of unity. In you our plea is not contradictory, our hope is not disappointed.”