Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Year B – Solemnity
Gospel: John 18:33-37
vs.33 Pilate asked Jesus,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
vs.34 Jesus replied,
“Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?”
vs.35 Pilate answered,
“Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me; what have you done?”
vs.36 Jesus replied,
“Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.“
vs.37 “So you are a king then?” said Pilate.
“It is you who say it” answered Jesus.
“Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of the truth listen to my voice.”
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose
Michel DeVerteuil : A Holy Ghost Priest, formar director of the Centre of Biblical renewal, Trinidad W.I.
Thomas O’Loughlin: Prof, MRIA, FRHistS, FSA , President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain, Professor of Historical Theology University of Nottingham NG7 2RD
Sean Goan:Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and is now a Religious Education/Religious Studies teacher at Blackrock College.Dublin.
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger and National Director of The Apostlship of Prayer.
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels
In today’s feast we celebrate Jesus under the title of ‘King‘. These days, of course, we don’t have too many kings around but we do have “leaders” – so today we can call him a “perfect leader”. He is the kind of leader we all want to be, the kind of leader we want for ourselves and for others.
We know that Jesus exercised a special kind of leadership. His example must therefore invite us to a deep reflection on how we exercise leadership. Is our way of exercising it true or false? How do other people do it? What is the true form of leadership as it is understood in the world of today? This is clearly the importance of this feast for us and for the world in which we live.
To help us in this meditation on leadership, the church invites us to reflect on St John’s account of the confrontation between Jesus and Pilate. What we have here is only a short extract of a long and very wonderful scene. It is still long enough, however, for us to really enter into the extraordinary interplay between these two men.
It is a meeting between two people who know what kind of leadership they are about. We often find ourselves in this kind of situation today and so we can really meditate on it.
– Jesus is the ideal we are all looking to be like;
– Pilate represents the kind of leadership we are anxious to get away from.
We have played both parts at different times in our lives and we must be able to see how we can fit into each; we will then be able to measure how we are like them, and draw our conclusions. So this meditation will lead us to two things:
– to make an act of thanksgiving for the times when we have exercised leadership as Jesus wants us to;
– to make an act of humble repentance for the times when we have done it all wrong, when we have been more like Pilate than Jesus.
We remember those who stood up proud and self-confident in the presence of rulers who were considered powerful in the eyes of the world but in fact were not. We think of people like:
– the great popes and saints of our church’s history e.g Pope Francis on the issue of refugees
– the great women in the history of our church who have objected to the accepted ways of behaving and done wonderful things on their own;
– people of different faith traditions who we know are among us today; e.g. Covid Front line workers
– the many strong men, women and children in the world today.
Naturally Jesus himself is a powerful challenge to the church of our time – the universal church , and local church communities. He also reminds us of communities of people who in the face of very opposed values share a common faith, in themselves, and in the real values of the world they live in.
We need to go more deeply into this aspect of what Jesus claimed for himself. Note his total self-confidence when he says, “My kingdom is not of this kind”. It is a tremendous act of self-confidence. He is claiming his kingdom and declaring it to be different from that of Pilate. Let us learn to recognize how separate we are from many in our society.
Jesus in his nothingness was totally self-confident, while Pilate was afraid. This comes out more clearly in a later passage but we already see it here. Pilate was afraid, anxious to set Jesus free, but Jesus was not afraid. Jesus knew what kind of leadership he was offering and how different it was from that of Pilate. We too must be very conscious of what is special in our kind of leadership and how it separates us from the rest of humanity today.
Often in our lives we are like Pilate. As we sit on our thrones and call people into our presence to pass judgment on them, it is they who question us. They ask us, are we speaking from the truth of ourselves or just mouthing what others have told us? Jesus knew what was happening in the world, how different his style was from that of other leaders. He chose it with no reference to what others said or taught.
Scripture prayer reflections
“Teach us to love as you did and to see others as you did.” …Mahatma Gandhi
Lord, remind us that the values of Jesus cannot be imposed.
It is never a matter of fighting battles,
with followers preventing their leaders being surrendered into the hands of their enemies.
Our kingdom is different, it is not of this kind.
“The springs of war are in the invincible world and it is there that we must deal with it, remembering that those most responsible for its sins and horrors lie in the power of those who are our neighbours and they need our help.” … Evelyn Underhill
Lord, give us the power which comes from knowing that we were born for a purpose.
We come into the world to bear witness to certain principles,
and therefore we don’t have to worry about who approves or disapproves of them.
We know that those who are on the side of these principles
listen to our voice and will be touched by them.
Lord, nowadays anybody who has something to sell
spends a lot of time and money making it look good,
covering up whatever aspects are not attractive.
Forgive us that we try to do the same with the message of Jesus.
Remind us that like Jesus we have come into the world
to bear witness to the truth and that whoever listens to the truth will listen to our voice.
“God has created me to do him some definite service. I may never know it in this life but I shall be told it in the next.” ...Card. Newman
Lord, once we know that like Jesus we have come into the world for a purpose,
we need not be afraid of others, even if they are governors
and can summon us to enter into their praetorium.
“God communicates himself to all persons, redeems them and stamps their being with an orientation towards sharing his own life.” …Karl Rahner
Lord, we thank you that you have planted your truth
in the heart of every human being.
We know that we are followers of Jesus
when those who are on the side of truth recognize our voice.
“Lord, look through my eyes, speak through my lips, walk with my feet. Then my poor human presence will be a reminder – however weak – of your divine presence.“…Helder Camara
Lord, help us to walk with Jesus in our daily surroundings,
so that we may be sure that you are there to walk with us.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
Introduction to the Celebration
‘Last January we began a cycle of readings from the gospels of Mark and John. We read them between January and Ash Wednesday, and then again from Pentecost until today: they have been laying before us one way of recounting the mystery of Jesus, our teacher, our brother, and our God. Now today we come to the end of this year-long recollection. Today we are thinking of Jesus, not as someone who came among us in the past, but as the King of all creation who will come again among us. When he comes at the end of time, he will gather all of us into his kingdom, and present that kingdom to the Father.
1. When we listen to the voices of those advocating concern for the environment, care for the planet, or care for the quality of human life, we hear certain themes recurring. We find these themes whether the promoters of these concerns are
– Christians (viewing the universe as a creation with a plan and providence within it) or
– theists (who see ecological concern as somehow a sacred activity) or
– people who ignore the sacred dimension as if it were irrelevant.
2. Some of these themes are:
– The importance of recognising that humans can act constructively or destructively in the way we live.
– The importance of recycling: we must not behave as if anything can simply be used and thrown away as waste; we must see every object as having its own value.
That we must recognise that everything we do as individuals or small groups becomes part of a larger pattern that can have far greater consequences.
We must keep our eyes fixed on the longer-term picture: ‘Now’, ‘Today” are such fleeing moments!
3. For us who believe that God is the creator, the beginning and ’ end of all that is, seen and unseen, these four themes of ecologists are not simply ‘human wisdom‘ but part of our whole understanding of this mystery of why we are here. And the imagery we use to express this very complex set of beliefs is that Jesus, the Anointed of the Father, is the King of All Creation. It is in him that all creation comes to its perfection, and then through him that it is presented to his Father.
4. On Holy Saturday night we welcomed the risen Christ by inscribing the Paschal Candle (that actual candle, now a worn down butt, can be a visual at this point) with these words:
Christ, Yesterday and Today,
The beginning and the end
Alpha and Omega
All time belongs to him
And all the ages
To him be glory and power through every age forever.
5. We often think of God the Son at the beginning of the creation: as we say in the creed: he is ‘begotten not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made’ and St John adds: ‘and without him was not anything made that was made.’ This is recognising Christ at the beginning, the Alpha of all.
6. Today we think of Christ as the end, the final point, the goal of all creation, the Omega of all.
7. And for us, This is the future of hope, not a great catastrophe but when all that is good and noble in brought to perfection. The figure of the Christ stands at the end of time like someone gathering the harvest, and then presenting it in its completed state to the Father.
8. So how do we Christians realise these four things:
A. *The importance of recognising that humans can act constructively or destructively in the way we live.
Our actions are not simply random activity: we are called to act with justice and honesty, with care and respect, not from self-interest but because this is part of God’s loving plan. We want to be in harmony with nature, but we also want to be in harmony with the Love that brought nature into existence and which draws it towards its goal.
B.*The importance of recycling: we must not behave as if anything can simply be used and thrown away as waste; we must see every object as having its own value.
Everything exists because of God’s loving will in giving it existence, and each thing has unique value because it is brought into being through the Son. To see anything as useless, waste, rubbish, is to ignore the Alpha of the creation and its Omega.
C.*That we must recognise that everything we do as individuals or small groups becomes part of a larger pattern that can have far greater consequences.
We recognise that we are called to behave responsibly as individuals and as groups. We know we must have an intimate relationship with God as individuals in prayer and action, but we must also have a group relationship with Christ as his body, the church. The Lord, who calls each of us by name, is also the Lord who calls us to become the kingdom, and it is that kingdom, embracing all creation, that is presented to the Father.
D.*We must keep our eyes fixed on the longer-term picture: ‘Now’, ‘Today’ are such fleeing moments!
Just as we must think long-term about the material universe – both, forwards and backwards – if we are to act with understanding, so we have to remember the Alpha of the universe – that all comes into being through the Son and its Omega – when the Son presents it to the Father – if act wisely within God’s creation.
9. For us these are not bits of human wisdom, rather they are fragments of the divine plan that we can see around us and which point us to the incompleteness of any understanding of the universe that does not acknowledge it as a creation that comes from God and which returns to God and which is suffused with the divine love through the presence of Christ, the Alpha and the Omega.
Let the reader understand
For the last gospel of the church’s year we return to John and this scene from the trial of Jesus before Pilate. Pilate represents the most powerful empire the world has ever known and lives out of a worldview that is utterly contrary to that espoused by Jesus. For Pilate, kings and kingship mean only one thing: a threat to the established order. For Jesus this is the language of the Bible where God is the shepherd king who looks out for the lost and bandages the wounded. For the worldly governor of Judea this is all a pipe dream; for Jesus it is a vision that will endure long after the Roman Empire has crumbled into the dust By his death and resurrection Jesus has witnessed to the truth about God and those who search for the truth still listen to his voice.
We don’t know how many people witnessed the death of Jesus in Jerusalem. We know that some of those who did were delighted to have him out of the way at last. Others were heartbroken at the death of a truly good man and the shattering into pieces of a dream for something better, a new world order in which love and service would triumph over oppression and hatred. The majority probably just went about their business and reflected that really it is wiser just to keep your head down and say nothing. We can be sure that nobody there thought they were witnessing the death of Christ the Universal King. His kind of king-ship has to be learned and not in palaces nor in schools of diplomacy but among the poor and needy and those whom the world has forgotten. For our king is the servant of the poor and we only belong to his court when we do likewise.
What type of King?
A big thing in life is ‘where are you from’? We say ‘your accent betrays you’.Sometimes we judge totally on where people are from, as Pilate with Jesus. With all he knew of him and heard, the miracles and the speeches, he asks
Where are you from?
Are you a king really? W
What sort is your kingdom?
Pilate was intrigued with Jesus and so are we.
Our Christian life is getting to know Jesus more, and taking part in his mission. The type of person he was. That he came from God and from humanity. He speaks of the best of God and the best of us, the best of heaven and the best of earth. He is worth our following.
Our role in life, our vocation and our mission is a calling to live like him in love and service.
There is the ‘from above’ in Jesus and much of John’s gospel stresses the divinity of Christ. He doesn’t look very divine but he does look very human. In the human is the divine. So we could be like him. We become like him by reading about his life and living like he did. He is a king in his truth, justice, compassion and love. The king-defender of the poor.
A good ending of one church year leads us to begin another. King and/or servant. We’ll see more of what it’s all like in the weeks of December. Meantime we want to live in this reign of God and pray and live – Your kingdom come.
Picture Jesus with Pilate, mocked and belittled.
Or on the cross, and recall, ‘this man is a king’.
Jesus, remember me,
when you come into your kingdom.