Daily Reflection
November 23rd, 2003
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Solemnity of Christ the King
Daniel 7:13-14
Psalm 93:1, 1-2, 5
Revelation 1:5-8
John 18:33-37

So as to be more available to the graces offered during the Liturgy of the Word, we may imagine Jesus’ debating Pilate as does a lawyer argue his or her case before a judge. There is no jury present; this is a rather minor political squabble involving a group of Jewish leaders. 

Jesus stands dressed in a truth which undresses Pilate’s posture of power. He wants to be done with this business so he will look good to the Roman authorities and he will be moved up and out of this backwater deserted political graveyard. We can watch Jesus meet Pilate’s agitation with his own self-possessed calm.

It is the last Sunday of our Liturgical Year. We are invited through these readings to both acknowledge Jesus as “Servant-King” and be moved to desire that we be “servant-souls” with Him. We are those who belong to Him, because we have listened to His voice. We can pray with our desires to know more of His truth and be changed by what we have heard. Free as we might think we are, or want to be, we will be dominated by some thing or some one, so it might as well be for us to be of the kingdom which is not of this world.

The prophet Daniel has been having visions earlier in the chapter from which our First Reading is taken. There have been lions and leopards invading his dreams and winged things all of whom are later interpreted as representing various kings of his times. There will be a beast who will violently dominate in time and destroy all other kings and kingdoms.

What we hear is a further vision of a “son of man” or almost human form being presented to the “Ancient One
and who receives all honor, glory, and his kingship will last forever. The “beast-king” will lose its power to destroy and all peoples will be safe in his kingdom.

The Gospel is a section of the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus. The major item is that Jesus is being accused by the Jewish leaders of replacing Caesar” as “king of the Jews.”  Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, Pilate makes a statement in the form of a question, “Then you are a king?” In a sense, John has Jesus reply to this by saying, “You said it!” Pilate does not belong to Jesus and His kingdom, because he can not listen to His voice.

For John, the “world” is more than a place; it is a spirit, an attitude, and a way of choosing life. Often in the previous chapter when Jesus was giving is farewell talk, Jesus puts His disciples in opposition to this “world” in both senses. He foretells that the “world” will hate them, because it has hated Him. We who belong to Jesus also belong to this world in both senses.

We have listened to His voice and yet we continue listening to the various voices, the confusions of this world’s ways. There is our individual and collective violence. Jesus states that if His kingdom were of this world there would be a fight, but it is not of the violence of this world. There is a spirit within us which would move us to wonder why Jesus just didn’t wipe out Pilate, the Jewish leaders and all the Roman oppressors while He was at it. This spirit of the “world” ebbs and flows within us and at times we might feel freed from its pull. Pilate himself ebbed a bit and did not want to be associated with neither Jesus’ “world-voice” nor the voice of the Jews.

The kingship of Jesus has come, but not totally. The “world” as a place is scarred by the unreverence towards its creator. There is not peace over the earth nor harmony among its inhabitants.

“Generations have trod, have trod, have trod, and all is seared with trade;
bleared, smeared with toil;
and wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell-

g. M. Hopkins, S.J.

The “world” as a place will become the kingdom of Jesus when the “world” within each of us lets go of the fears which give rise to the spirits of greed, violence, and unreverence. Pilate was afraid his Roman superiors would think him a political failure if the Jews created a commotion about this Jesus. The Jewish leaders were afraid of losing their places of power within their community. Fears are so much a part of the “world" within, and our worldly actions decreate Christ’s kingdom. Fear is an appropriate human reality; what we do with them, in faith or flight, will reveal to us how much the “world” is with and within us.

 Jesus stands as King wrapped in the human poverty we share with Him. He faces Pilate’s “world” as He faces our own gently. He continues speaking His “truth” though He is not being heard. He is prepared to mount His throne in a final gesture of His kingship. He hates the “world” so as not to be seduced by its voices; He loves the “world” to offer all love and life from the royal throne of the Cross.

“And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
and though the last lights of the black west went
oh morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs
because the holy ghost over the bent
world broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.”

G. M. Hopkins, S.J.
God’s Grandeur


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