|Solemnity of Christ the King
93:1, 1-2, 5
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
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.