Sunday Sermon for November 25, 2018, the Solemnity of Christ, the King of the Universe, Year B
Readings: Dan 7:13-14; Rev 1:5-8; Jn 18:33b-37
In the Gospel reading today we are privy to a conversation between Pilate, the Roman Procurator and Jesus. In the course of the interrogation, Pilate asks Jesus if He is a King. Our Lord answers that His Kingdom does not belong to this world. Moreover, if His Kingdom were of this world, His subjects would be fighting to save Him from being handed over. When Pilate asks a second time about our Lord’s Kingship, Jesus responds that His purpose for coming into the world is to testify to the truth and He says everyone who belongs to the truth listens to Him.
While it may appear that our Lord is evading Pilate’s questions, He is actually answering them in a way much more profound than meets the eye. Pilate must have recognized this also because after pointing out to our Lord that it was the nation of Israel and the High Priests who had handed Jesus over to Pilate, the Procurator then places the titulus over the head of Jesus bearing the charge for which He is crucified: King of the Jews.
The Kingdom of our Lord is not of this world. In fact, the Church gives this Solemnity the title of King of the Universe. So, His Kingship is not limited to this world. In fact, His Kingship was established only at the very end of His life, when He was exalted on the throne of His Cross. The soldiers crowned Him with thorns in mockery, but His charity and fidelity were rewarded by God the Father Who bestowed on Him everlasting Kingship and dominion, as we see in the first reading.
The Prophet Daniel tells us of his vision in which one like a Son of Man was presented before the Ancient One Who gave this Son of Man dominion, glory, and Kingship. All peoples, nations, and languages serve Him as their King. However, as our Lord told Pilate, it is not just anyone on earth who will serve Him, but only those who belong to the truth and listen to His voice.
Those on earth who belong to the truth also belong to the Kingdom of Christ. In fact, more than just being loyal subjects of our Lord, St. Paul tells us in the second reading that those who are freed by His Blood have been made into a Kingdom and they are priests for God the Father. But if His Kingdom is not of this world, then how do we understand these statements? Also, why would our Lord teach us to pray for the coming of His Kingdom if it is not of this world?
His Kingdom, as we have seen, is universal, so it encompasses this world, but it is infinitely greater than this world. The people in this world who fall under the dominion of His Kingship are the people whose citizenship is in Heaven, as St. Paul tells the Philippians. In other words, they are living in this world, but living for the world to come.
In this life each of us is given the choice of whom we will serve. Two options are given to us: the King of the Universe or the Prince of this world. Since the Prince of this world has nothing to offer beyond this world, why would anyone want to serve him? The only thing he can offer is limited to the here and now: a false sense of dominion, power, and glory that are finished when this life ends. For those who choose to serve the Lord, they already share in Christ’s dominion, power, and glory; when this life ends their union with the King will be perfect, universal, and eternal.
When we hear in the first reading about the peoples, nations, and languages serving Him we might think that having the power and glory now sounds better. After all, we might suggest, at least we are served for a time rather than being required to serve. In reality, the Kingdom of Christ is one of love, which means every person in that Kingdom is there by free choice.
Jesus said to Pilate that if His Kingdom were of this world His subjects would be fighting to keep Him from being handed over. In fact, His subjects do not fight this because this is His proof of love for us and the inauguration of His Kingship. They do not fight because they receive His love from the Cross and are drawn to Him to share in His glory. They do not fight; rather, they unite themselves in love to Jesus Christ Crucified and participate in His victory. This is truth; this is love. It not only sets us free and fulfills us, but it provides entrance into His Kingdom which is universal and everlasting.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.