Theme: The true king
By: Fr. Jude Chijioke
Homily for Sunday November 21 2021
Readings: Daniel 7: 13-14; Revelation 1,5-8; John 18.33-37
Our liturgy this Sunday presents us with the figure of Christ the King, whose throne is, however, the cross, the “torture of slaves”, as Tacitus wrote. And, in fact, the Gospel of this solemnity instituted in 1925 by Pius XI is taken from the account of the passion according to John. While for the first three Gospels the theme of the Kingdom is central in the words of Jesus, for the fourth Gospel it acquires a particular importance only at the end of the earthly existence of Christ where the kingship of Christ appears a dozen times. This is the case of this scene which has as its protagonists, Jesus, and the Roman Procurator Pilate. All the evangelists had tried to bring back the question of this high official of the Roman state: “Are you the king of the Jews?”. But it is only John who reports not a short and reticent answer (“You say it”) but a real dialogue with a precise definition of the Kingdom of Christ. This definition includes a double dimension. The first is negative, reaffirmed with clarity twice by Jesus: “My Kingdom is not of this world, it is not of here below”. It is not, therefore, a political project, it is not a system of power or a socio-economic or military strategy. It is founded on the “testimony given to the truth”. And “truth” in biblical language is a term with multiple resonances. It evokes the revelation of the Father’s goodness, it is an expression of God’s fidelity to his promises of salvation, it is the announcement of the divine Kingdom, it is the gospel, it is Jesus Christ himself.
The comparison between Christ and Pilate is, therefore, the definition of two antithetical kingdoms. On the one hand there is the imperial one which continues to loom in different forms on the face of the earth. It is a kingdom that needs to let the blood flow in order to establish itself and be stable, that needs lies, persecution, oppression. On the other hand, there is the “kingdom of truth” which has its root in the solidarity between God and man, which needs loving adhesion, which has its realization not in the blood of others but in the blood shed by his King and Lord. “The root of all evil – Jesus declares – is in the desire for power and the conquest of lands and peoples”.
Christ, in his whole Gospel sees in the gift, in the loss, in the goodness and in the sacrifice of himself the root of all good. His Kingdom does not have dominion as its law but service (read Mk 10, 41-45), it is not built on prevarication but on justice. All today’s biblical readings underline the eternity, the transcendence and therefore the indestructibility of this kingdom, of this seed hidden in the land of history. In Daniel’s famous messianic vision, the Son of man is clothed by God with an “eternal power that never sets and will never be destroyed” (first reading). Psalm 92 (93) exalts the divine throne which “is firm from the beginning and which has always been”. And the Christ of the Apocalypse (second reading) is the Alpha and Omega of history, that is, the first and last word of our human story, is “he who is, who was and who it comes”, He embraces in Himself the three dimensions of time, the past, the present and the future.
The Christ we adore today is not, therefore, a Christ that is absent from the storms of human life; indeed, he is the one who pushes humanity forward without armies or political and economic powers, yet he manages to sow fear in the midst of the ranks of evil. Christ acts patiently but energetically, and the believer is invited to take sides with him in the fight against evil and for justice. In fact, we are faced every day with the temptation of pride, of oppression, of falsehood, of hatred: it is that earthly kingdom that so fascinates and conquers us. But we also find ourselves before the Kingdom of Christ whose goal is truth and justice. Suspended on these two sides, one dark but attractive, the other bright but demanding, our life as creatures and believers unfolds. Today Jesus raises a challenge to us, transforming the words spoken that day in the Roman praetorium an appeal: “Whoever belongs to the truth, listens to my voice!”
Fr. Jude Chijioke