Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
Pontius Pilate – desperate to avoid getting bogged down in a local religious feud – questions Jesus, hoping he will confess to being a political subversive, a charge Pilate can understand and deal with. If Jesus were to confess to being a self-anointed “king,” Pilate could easily declare him guilty and crucify him. No muss, no fuss. The Romans do not tolerate upstart political revolutionaries. Unfortunately, for Pilate, Jesus deftly parries Pilate's questions, forcing him to wade into philosophy – not an area the Romans navigate well. Jesus says, “For this I was born...to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” You can almost feel Pilate rolling his eyes as he impatiently asks his famous question: Quid est veritas? What is truth? Jesus reveals – in word and deed – that he is indeed a king. Not a revolutionary or insurrectionist or even a claimant to the worldly throne of Israel. What baffled Pilate and may still baffle some of us is that Christ is King of the Universe, a title, a reality that flows naturally from his Sonship. He is the King of the Universe b/c he is first the Son of the Father.
Christ's Kingship is something of an embarrassment among some in the Church. Some would prefer that we forget both his Kingship and his Sonship. All this talk of Christ being a Son and a King sounds patriarchal and militaristic, so old-fashioned and unnecessarily hostile. The Jewish leaders certainly didn't like it. Nor did the Roman occupiers. Some, even now, would dethrone Christ and replace him with a Committee or a Parliament! But denying the truth is a sure path to confusion and death. In his 1925 encyclical, Quas primas, Pope Pius XI lays out why this feast is necessary: “...[the] manifold evils in the world [are] due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics: [...]that as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ[...]”(1). Without the Kingdom and Kingship of Christ there can be no Peace of Christ. And w/o the Son of the Father, none of us can reach the Kingdom. So, we celebrate this morning our liberation from sin and our elevation as Sons of God.
A quick reminder: at baptism each one of us is added to the Body of Christ as sons, as heirs to the Kingdom. Yes, even the women are sons b/c they are heirs as well! We become partakers in the divine nature, participants in the divine life. That divine life – the Holy Trinity – created, recreates, and holds in being all that is. You, me, planets, squirrels, bacteria, distant stars, whole galaxies. Everything created was created with Christ, through Christ, in Christ, and for Christ. He is the Living Word that animates – gives life – to every created thing. If you need your faith revived, remember this: you are a living, breathing player in the drama of creation; a rational animal made into a partaker of the divine! You and I aren't just heirs to the Kingdom. We are also growing in the Kingship of Christ as we grow in holiness. We are becoming Christs. Each one of us is Christ, imperfect now but growing in perfection as we practice loving sacrificially. What sustains us in this world as we grow is prayer. Both private prayer and public prayer. What prayer does is perfect the pray-er, the one praying. And with perfecting prayer comes Christ's peace.
We will pray the Our Father this morning. At every Mass. And we will exchange the Peace. Both the prayer and the peace give us a chance to publicly proclaim our allegiance to the King and prepare us for the sacrifice. The Our Father instructs us to surrender ourselves completely to God, holding nothing back, giving all we have and are. We ask that His Kingdom come among us and that His will be done on earth just as it is done in Heaven. Are we prepared for that? Are we prepared for the Father's will to be done on earth as it is done in Heaven? By turning to one another and forgiving one another at the peace, we signal our eagerness, our willingness to be subject to His will. We forgive and love before the sacrifice on the altar, leaving aside all grudges, all hurts, all offenses, all debts. We come forward to take and eat and drink having said, “I am prepared to receive Christ's peace!” Then we receive our daily bread, the bread of life that makes us alive in Christ, perfecting us to be Christs. I ask this every year: who rules your heart? Who or what sits on the throne of your life? Are you ruled by Christ? Or sin and death? Christ the King made you, remade you, and keeps you in being. Hold tight to your inheritance. Come, Lord Jesus, King of the Universe!