This is my homily for the FEAST OF JESUS CHRIST THE KING – Sunday, November 22, 2009. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/112209.shtml
Thanks as always for reading and your feedback. God Bless, Father Jim
Are you the King of the Jews – Pilate asks Jesus, and by all appearances, it sure doesn’t seem like it, does it? King’s aren’t usually turned in by their own people to an enemy. You have to be really hated for that to happen. And that’s what’s going on here. The Jews hated the Romans. Hated them for occupying their land. Hated them for making them live under their rule. Hated them for treating them like second class citizens. So they must really hate Jesus to be looking for the Roman authorities to take care of him. Not exactly royal. Not exactly what we imagine a King to be.
We kind of have in our minds what a King should be like. Maybe you’re like me and think of that guy from the movie 300. King Leonidas. The guy becomes king because when he was a kid, he makes a spear and kills this giant wolf. That’s cool right there, isn’t it? I mean, considering what a mess our political scene is, that seems as good a way to pick a leader as any. (Just kidding on that) Years later in the movie, these messengers come from Persia, a larger, more powerful kingdom and they demand the Spartans submit to their king peacefully or that they would be attacked, enslaved and taken over. King Leonidas doesn’t take those threats too kindly – he kicks the messengers down this massive well to their deaths. Then realizing that the Persians probably are going to be ticked off and attack them, King Leonidas leads this band of 300 men to battle against this massive army from Persia. Most (if not all) of the 300 realize that this is certain to end with their deaths – yet the King would never consider surrender. In the end, the Spartans prove to be more difficult to deal with than Persia expected. Even though the 300 would lose their lives the King and his men’s valor and sacrifice inspire the people of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy.
The scene we have of Jesus Christ our King in this Gospel is the complete opposite. There’s no one in sight coming to Jesus’ rescue. In fairness Jesus had told Peter in the Gospel just a few passages before to put away his sword. So what could be done? We’ve heard this story before, so we know what’s going to happen next. Pilate would ignore the truth of Jesus’ innocence. Instead compromising the truth so as not to hear the angry hateful voices that were shouting “CRUCIFY HIM” turn on Pilate himself. So the embodiment of truth, Jesus Christ, the Son of God ends up nailed to a tree.
If that were the end of the story, it would be ridiculous to look to Jesus as a King. We know that Jesus is King because we know that Jesus’ story didn’t end on the cross or in the grave. We know that Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to God’s right hand in the heavenly kingdom and that He remains with us in this His Word and in His Body and Blood which he gives us to eat in the Eucharistic Bread and wine
On the Feast of Christ the King, you would think we’d read something from the Gospels about those realities of our faith rather than this scene that we just heard focusing on Jesus’ trial. I doubt the directors of 300 would pick this scene to celebrate Christ the King.
So what’s the Church thinking? I think it’s meant to remind us that this feast isn’t just about that fact that Christ is our King because he has destroyed Sin and Death in his crucifixion and resurrection. It is meant to point out that this world still seems to want to fight our king. This world continues to question his authority. This world continues to put Jesus on trial. This world has always and will always reject Jesus Christ as it’s King.
Jesus’ radical call of selfless, sacrificial love isn’t popular in this world of ours. To follow this King means being obedient rather than seek power. It means putting others first rather than trying to be first. It means trying to live our lives with that same radical, selfless and sacrificial love that He had.
It sounds good, so why does it still elude us? Because people of this world still feel the effects of original sin – We go right back to the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The sin of Adam and Eve wasn’t simply about eating a piece of fruit as much as it was self-centeredness. By doing the complete opposite of what God asked them to do, by buying into the lie of the serpent, they basically asked – Who need God when we can be god’s ourselves?
So the trial of Jesus, the interrogation by Pilate resonates thousands of years later. We are asked point blank, is Jesus our King? Or are we stuck with Adam, Eve and many of those who live focused on this world who still try to be gods themselves, living by their own rules, making their own definitions of things, rejecting Jesus and His Gospel.
To be a follower might not seem as dramatic as following King Leonidas to the battlefields against the mighty Persians, but make no mistake, our King is calling us to battle each and every day in small but meaningful and eternally important ways –
Do we cheat in that class?
Do we sleep with that girl or that guy?
Do we take that drug?
Do we make fun of that classmate, roommate or colleague?
Do we forget about that relative who’s suffering because we have stuff to do too?
Do we refrain from telling someone that something’s wrong because we don’t want to deal with the hassle of testifying to the truth?
“Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus has already answered that in his death and resurrection. Is Jesus really our King? The choices we make, the lives we live gives testimony to where our allegiance ultimately lies.