November 21, 2021

Daniel 7: 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1: 5-8; John 18: 33b-37

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE: Here’s a Christmas gift idea for your favorite preacher and catechist. The new liturgical year begins next week, the first Sunday in Advent. We have prepared reflections on the Sunday readings on our updated CD for Liturgical Year C. We also have a CD containing reflections for all three liturgical years.

Go to http://www.judeop.org/cd.htm and click on "First Impressions CDS."

Israel Longed for an ideal King, like the Shepherd King David. This anticipated king, anointed by God, would bring a period of just rule and practice to Israel and Judah. But a long line of monarchs failed to live up to people’s yearnings and God’s standards. Despite the multiple failures by these rulers the people still believed God would keep the promise God made them. We pray our Psalm Response today focusing our eyes on God, with gratitude for having fulfilled the ancient promise by establishing the reign of Christ. "Your throne stands firm from of old; from everlasting you are, O Lord."

We usually describe God’s establishing the "kingdom" on earth, with Jesus as our true king. True enough. But try on another description – the "Reign of God." Kingdom can sound stagnant, as if Christ is sitting on a throne somewhere far off. The "Reign of Christ," or the "Reign of God," suggests a present and active rule. Christ hasn’t left us on our own to observe the "rules of the Kingdom" which he revealed, ordered us to observe, left and promised he would return someday, to see how we did on our own. Rather, he has stayed with us, enabling us to be his instruments in the world. People should experience in us the loving presence of a new kind of ruler – one from humble origins, who proclaimed the Reign of God, washed feet, died to manifest God’s love for us, rose from the dead and breathed his Spirit on us, so we could live his life as citizens of the Kingdom/Reign of God.

Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" That claim would have been enough to get Jesus killed as a rival to Caesar and the Roman Empire. But Jesus’ kingship differed from all the world’s claimants to that title. He responds to Pilate’s question, "My kingdom does not belong to this world." But that doesn’t mean it is somewhere else. Jesus’ kingdom is very much here and now – in this world.

Let’s face it, the history of many, or most, of the world’s rulers hasn’t given humanity a favorable view of royalty. We are challenged on this feast to call Christ our King – indeed, "King of the Universe," as this feast reminds us

Nor is Jesus exempting us his followers from an involvement in this world. Quite the contrary. We have a part to play in bringing about Jesus’ Kingdom where peace, justice, truth and love are concrete signs that Jesus reigns in this world. When the world’s earthly rulers and institutions dominate by force, violence and economic exploitation, the source of Jesus’ power comes from a very different and holier source. Jesus’ rule calls us to a manifest "counter culture."

While the world’s rulers draw the lines of their power on a map, Jesus draws his on the human heart. We have welcomed King Jesus and his reign into our hearts and so our lives should constantly reflect the source and rule of the one we follow. We are all familiar with coronation ceremonies and have seen the crowning of kings and queens with great pomp and circumstance. Jesus’ reign began when he died on the cross, as the cynical sign Pilate posted over his head read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Our king didn’t wear a crown of jewels, but a crown of thorns, and the purple robe of mockery. What armies did Jesus lead and what victories did he win? He fought and won a war against sin and death, a battle no mere human troops could ever win. As a result we can live his teachings of love, not by mere force of will, but by the power of his reign and the indwelling gift of the Spirit – the King’s Spirit.

Pilate sneered at the seeming-powerless, peasant preacher from Nazareth before him. He thought he was the judge and jury over Jesus’s fate. In his world being a king, or queen, meant sitting pompously on a throne, but cautious that some other force might come to snatch power away and usurp the throne. Jesus challenges Pilate’s and our notion of rule. Yes, he is a king, but he would not use power to coerce people to follow him and live under his kingship. Instead, people would follow Jesus because they would be attracted to the truth of who he is, "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

The evangelist John has Jesus on trial before Pilate. But Pilate is not the only one judging Jesus – we are the jury and must pass judgment as well. Is Jesus the truth we accept into our lives? Or, shall we follow the powers of the world and live by their rules? We are reminded on this feast that today is not just some theological, or ritual celebration. Our feast immerses us in the political world as well. We live in the world as citizens of Jesus’ realm. Will we accept that citizenship? How? By implementing the vision Christ has revealed to us through his life, death and resurrection.

Jesus’ kingdom, his world, is with us now. We have, through our baptism and the gift of the Spirit, been given the vision to see the presence of the kingdom and its life-giving possibilities. It is a world of community, equality, respect and dialogue. In the kingdom, under Jesus’ rule, each person’s gifts are recognized. The poor and neglected are empowered and no one is left out. Justice is given to each, regardless of their political influence, race, gender or economic status.

Citizens usually have papers, or documents, that attest they are citizens of the land. What do we have to prove we are citizens of Christ’s reign? We have the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables us to give witness by our lives that we are followers of Jesus, citizens under his rule. In other words, our lives are more than ample proof of where and in whom our allegiance lies – who rules our hearts and minds.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings: