By Megan James
For months leading up to the Youth 2000 summer festival, I'd seen those kind of wild flyers exclaiming Conquerors probably hundreds of times. And, time and time again, I would read the line ‘Do not weep, see the lion of the tribe of Judah…has conquered’ (Rev 5:5). But, to be honest with you, I really struggled to connect with the image and with that piece of scripture; for me it was just a pretty Gryffindor-esque lion, and an epic name for a festival.
However, when Walsingham finally came around, I found that 5 days in a field gave me plenty of time to reflect about what being a conqueror really means to me.
I think I found the idea of being a ‘conqueror’ so hard to relate to because, quite frankly, I don’t always feel that… conquer-y… ? Sometimes I feel downright defeated. To be a conqueror, I thought, meant you really had to have your stuff together; you were winning, you were confident and sure of yourself, and sure of your life; and for me, that’s rarely the case. More often than not, I feel conquered rather than like a conqueror. So I took this to prayer, I lay it all out before the Blessed Sacrament every day of the festival and soon a few things became clear.
The first thing I realised was that to be a conqueror, I must first be prepared to be conquered. To be a conqueror, I must allow Christ to conquer me. As Fr Christopher Joseph CFR said on the first night of Conquerors:
‘who wants to be conquered? Nobody likes being conquered. We don’t set out to be conquered.’
We don’t want to hand over the reins, our life, our desires. Personally, I know that I can be such a control freak and am a massive planner, so surrendering them is always a struggle for me. But, the beauty of God is the paradox that whenever we surrender, it is then that we are truly free. It is when we make ourselves small that God makes us big, that he makes us conquerors.
‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ John 3:30
Sometimes I kid myself and tell myself that I've handed a situation over to God in prayer. Yet, I still feel defeated, and that's because no matter how much I pray for God's will in my life , I am still expecting the results to be in mytime, or on my terms, or in my way. I cling to my expectations of what He can do, and how I want Him to do it.
Yet I realised that to be a conqueror, you can't partially surrender your will. You can't say you trust someone and yet still be holding your fingers crossed behind your back, so to speak. And so often, the ways of the Lion of Judah are pretty wild, and way off of our expectations. Caging him into what we think He can do limits Him and what He, in turn, can do. I learnt that I need to trust in Him, and let Him go free.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’
Isiah 55:8 - 9
God will not just conquer you once and be done with you, that first surrendering of will is a step. No, everyday is a choice; a choice to surrender, a choice to be conquered. But, he will hand us every weapon and every piece of armour for the battles we face.
We are going to fall sometimes, but that’s ok, and it doesn’t make us any less conquerors. Jesus fell three times when He carried his cross. Let that sink in. The ultimate conqueror, the one who was (and is) fully God and fully man needed help to carry His cross too. He too fell down. Even for him, it took immense perseverance, but what a victory. He conquered humiliation, fear, shame, sin, suffering, and above all, He conquered death. And through all of that, He conquered us. Do not weep, He has already conquered everything this world has to throw at us, and He conquered it for us.
‘O death, where is your victory?
O death where is your sting?
But thanks be to god, who gives us victory through our lord Jesus Christ’
1 Corinthians 15:55, 57
Sometimes, it can feel like these struggles that continue to conquer us will go on forever. But, there’s seriously good foundations for our hope. Jesus has already bared it all on the cross for us and won. As Paschal said on the opening night of the festival,
‘Jesus conquered, and it’s through our relationship with him, that we in turn are conquerors.’
There is nothing He cannot conquer for us, but to do so, we have to hand it over to Him; we have to carry our cross to Him and place it at His feet, place it on the altar. And when we place our struggles there before Him, we need to just let go. Because His plan is so much greater than ours; He plans for us to prosper, He plans for us to conquer.
‘No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, no heights, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
Romans 8:37 – 39