Gospel Reflections

Feast of Christ the King

John 18:33-37

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Jane Dwyer

Published: November 25, 2018

Read John 18:33-37

Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?" Pilate answered,... Read More…

Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King…a king imprisoned, tortured,  defiled, murdered, crucified…a king popular in life but alone in death, followed by a very small group of women and one lonely disciple… a king who during his lifetime never let his followers or people around him make of him a worldly and political king…a king who was a companion, a friend, a leader, a follower, a listener… a king whose journey toward death is the journey of many who offer their lives in defense of the downtrodden, the poor, the manipulated, the different, the defiled, the marginalized… 

Today´s Gospel brings us the story of the trial, the non-trial, the condemnation. The differences between the accusers and the accused are revealing and orienting.  First the religious leaders, this time Jewish, but today are often others. They take Jesus prisoner to the governor´s palace, demanding that Pilate meet them outside.  They want to remain pure and be able to participate in the paschal meal!  Pilate asks what is Jesus‘ crime.  The religious authorities evade the question forcing Pilate to assume the accusation.  Pilate refuses to assume the accusation returning the task to the religious authorities who in the end refuse to define Jesus´ crime but still demand his death.

Today´s reading follows in the same spirit .  Pilate, not wanting to be observed by the Jewish authorities, returns to the Palace calling Jesus to follow.  He asks Jesus if he is the king of the Jews.  Jesus responds with another question:  Is this your question or what others say about me?  Pilate responds:  Am I a Jew?  What have you done that your own authorities turn you over to me?  Jesus then responds: my kingdom is not of this world.  If it were my servants would fight to defend me.  Pilate returns the question:  So you are king? Jesus responds:  You say that I am king.  For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.

Pilate and the religious authorities threatened with Jesus´ life and message want him eliminated.  They don´t however want to assume the responsibility for his death.  The Temple pushes the decision to Pilate.  Pilate flees their presence and tries to force Jesus to confirm the reason for his death, his kingship confirming him as a political threat to Rome.  When Pilate asks, “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus does not answer Pilate´s question, but rather questions its source.  “Do you ask this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”  Suddenly Jesus becomes the interrogator and judge in his own defense, a defense that doesn´t save his life, but leaves behind him his life testimony.

Jesus does not consider himself a king.  All of his life states that he is not a king.  He consistently resists any attempt to push him to power.  In contrast to Pilate and the Jewish authorities who use power and authority for their own self-interest, using power to destroy people,  Jesus creates community, a community guided by love and truth.  While the religious authorities and Pilate evade answers to questions which place them in accusing and deciding roles. Jesus assumes who he is and the meaning of his life. He does not assume the role of king.  He answers, “You say that I am a king.”   But for this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” What truth is this?  Jesus´ life tells and shows us. Jesus does not use power.  Jesus empowers.  He washes the feet of those who walk with him, be they men, women, gay, Negro, Indigenous, landless farmers, strangers, immigrants, oppressed peoples or homeless families. These people are not a cause.  Jesus truly loves these people. His presence brings calm and peace even in the midst of violence and terror.  Jesus calls us to love one another, not to arm ourselves against one another. Jesus calls us to be brother and sister, family, friend, companions on life´s journey.  He calls us to compassion, listening, understanding, communion with one another.   For this Jesus was  victim of torture and crucifixion.  For this Jesus continues to be victim in those who are oppressed, hungry, defiled, violated, homeless, landless, nationless, verging on lifelessness.  Today in us, through us, with us, Jesus continues to give his life as we too give life  through our lives. Living as He lived  Jesus continues to live through us. We too are neither kings nor queens. We are witnesses to the TRUTH.  Truth too will be crucified in us, but will not die.


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