Date: Sunday, November 25, 2018
Solemnity of Christ the King
How can Jesus be called a king now when he resists the title during his life? In the Gospel according to St. John, after Jesus feeds the multitude, when the hungry crowd tries to make Jesus king, he flees into the mountains (Jn 6:1-15). They are looking to him to be a political/military leader like King David in order to break the yoke of Roman oppression and to restore national sovereignty. Jesus resists their misconception of what it means to him to be the Messiah – the Anointed One of God. Jesus explains in a lengthy discourse in chapter 6 that his purpose is not to satisfy their physical hunger, nor to achieve security or to accrue wealth but to reveal God’s plan for human salvation. “For God so loved the world that he gave us his Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) When Jesus speaks of giving himself, his body and blood, as bread for the life of the world, many walk away.
At the last supper Jesus acts very strange for a king. He gets up from table, removes his outer garment, takes water, basin and towel, and washes the feet of his disciples. Indeed – earthly kings do not take on the task assigned to lowly servants or slaves. Yet Jesus expects and even commands that we follow his example if we hope be part of his kingdom. In John’s Gospel, the deepest truth is that we must love one another the way God first loves us. During his trial, Pontius Pilate asks Jesus if he is a king. Jesus replies: “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate says to Jesus: “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38-39) Not waiting for an answer Pilate walks away.
Jesus speaks truth to power. The truth we embrace finds expression in words but ultimately truth is a person. We come to know and to listen to the truth at baptism. There is a rite at baptism when the priest or deacon gently traces a cross on the ears and lips of the infant or adult. The signifying gesture is accompanied by an Aramaic word: “ephphetha” meaning: “be opened!” Entry into Christ’s kingdom begins by listening to the truth Jesus embodies and brings to us. “Be open to hear and to proclaim the Word in faith.”