Solemnity of Christ the King
Fr. Jean Galot, S.J.
Jesus is King because he witnesses to Truth
Jesus of Nazareth revealed himself to be a king, in the sense that he made himself known as the Messiah for whom the Jewish people awaited: the Messiah had been proclaimed as the ideal king who was to crown all the aspirations of a nation full of hope.
It is this figure of the ideal king that Andrew discovered, who then enabled his brother Simon to discover the same truth by telling him: "We have found the Messiah" (Jn 1:41).
Jesus bore no resemblance to a king. Up to the age of 30, he did not make himself known and had no recognizable title. In the little-known village of Nazareth he simply exercised the craft of carpenter, which did not prepare him for a royal destiny.
At the time when he left the village and began his preaching mission, there was nothing to suggest that he had the qualities or power of a king: he was a king without an army and without a people.
A different kind of Kingdom
Nevertheless, there was a group that wanted to recognize him as an ideal king, a messianic king. This was the multitude that had benefited from the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Those who had been fed free-of-charge and had been able to eat bread in abundance wished Jesus to take on the role of Messiah and provide for the people's needs.
But this is not what Jesus wanted: indeed, he announced the gift of a spiritual food for the foundation of a spiritual kingdom.
So just what kind of kingdom was this?
The question was asked specifically during the trial before Pilate. Jesus' adversaries were accusing him of challenging the sovereign power of the Roman Emperor by desiring to make himself King of the Jews.
Pilate therefore asked the accused: "Are you the King of the Jews?" (Jn 18:33). The Roman Procurator had been informed of the sentiments of envy and rivalry that had given rise to the accusation; but he had to interrogate Jesus about his intentions in order to report to the Emperor on this possible Jewish King.
But Jesus had other concerns and wanted to make Pilate ponder on the problem that arose from his mysterious kingly identity.
"Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" he asks Pilate. If the Procurator was only repeating what others told him, the question did not require much thought; but if he had said it of his own accord, this would indicate that deeper reflection was required.
Jesus as King witnesses to truth
Pilate did not want to make this investigation. He limited himself to noting that he was not a Jew and that Jesus' conduct was the only point to examine: "What have you done?".
Nonetheless, the reflection that Pilate wished to avoid was imposed upon him by other words spoken by the accused.
Jesus drew the Procurator's attention to the unique and exceptional nature of his Kingdom: "My kingship is not of this world". He then states, "if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight that I might not be handed over to the Jews".
This reasoning expressed an obvious truth, difficult to dispute. But in exactly what did this Kingdom, which was not of this world, consist?
It was the Kingdom that Jesus had proclaimed throughout his preaching. During the trial, he summed up its essential content: "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice".
This declaration prompted a skeptical retort from Pilate: "What is truth?".
However, as a fundamental piece of information about the Kingdom it requires those who read the Gospel to meditate on it. Christ is King since he bears witness to the truth.
This witness entailed his supreme commitment in sacrifice. With the sacrifice of himself, Jesus established his Kingdom.
He was born and lived on this earth with a view to this witness. He became King with the total gift of his love and of his life.
Weekly Edition in English
22 November 2006, page 9
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