Solemnity of Christ the King
November 25, 2018
John 18, 33-37
Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “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.”
The Solemnity of Christ the King was instituted only in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. It was a time when kings were dethroned and established political powers were shaken. In this situation the Pope wanted to declare that while all the kings and emperors and rulers lose their power, it doesn’t follow that we will move into a chaotic future. Truth is. Christ was, is and will always remain the King, not only of one nation or of one continent, but as the King of the universe.
Today’s Gospel presents Jesus to us as affirming that he is a king, but that his kingdom does not “belong to this world”. But if Jesus is not a political king, what kind of king is he? His royal throne is the Cross, the instrument of his execution. His kingdom is not “of this world”. What kind of kingdom is it?
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI provided an answer to these questions. He said in his homily: “[Jesus] did not come to rule over peoples and territories, but to set people free from the slavery of sin and to reconcile them with God.”
And Pope Francis said: “The starting point of salvation is not the confession of the sovereignty of Christ, but rather the imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which he brought about his kingdom. The one who accomplishes these works shows that he has welcomed Christ’s sovereignty, because he has opened his heart to God’s charity. In the twilight of life we will be judged by our love for, closeness to, and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters. Upon this will depend our entry into, or exclusion from, the Kingdom of God. Through his victory, Jesus has opened to us his kingdom. But it is for us to enter into it, beginning with our life now, by being close in concrete ways to our brothers and sisters who ask for bread, clothing, acceptance, solidarity. If we truly love them, we will be willing to share with them, what is most precious to us, Jesus himself and his Gospel.” (23 November 2014)
By Fr. Rudolf Horst SVD