Father THOMAS IDERGARD SJ
Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King
Year B: Daniel 7:13-14; Ps 93; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37
St. Eugenia Catholic Church, Stockholm (English Mass)
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
”My king and my God”! This, the Church proclaims about Jesus Christ on this day, with the responsorial psalm we just sang. But “king” as someone who rules – does that really tell anything today? Shouldn’t the solemnity be renamed to “Christ the President” or “Christ the Prime Minister” – particularly topical in Sweden at the moment; I mean, today we choose our rulers between alternatives similar to one another and to us, and we can change them whenever they no longer suit us?
But then we are approaching the very point of this day. Suggested by the prophecy of the Old covenant that we heard in our first reading from the Book of the prophet Daniel. And outpoken by the explanation of the New covenant in our second reading from the Book of Revelation: Whether one wants it or not, believes it or not, God, Being itself and the origin of everything, has become man to lead us to eternal life with him. We are completely free to believe in and say yes to the offering, or not. This freedom must be respected also when not affirming God’s offering. Respect, however, does not entail any automatic right to escape from hearing about the offering. God is the final judge but his love for us gives us in eternity what we choose in time. We thus freely choose our relationship to a matter of fact, we do not vote on the validity of it, or on us escaping reminders about it.
In today’s gospel we hear how Jesus is interrogated by Pontius Pilate. Put before the Jewish Temple priests Jesus has claimed to be the Messiah, the liberator king Israel awaits. But in a way that transcends the ideas of the Jewish faith, as he also claims to be God. According to the law, this was blasphemy and punished by death. But due to the Roman occupation, capital punishment could only be imposed by the Romans. Consequentially, a trial before Governor Pilate was needed, and thus a political prosecution. The Temple priests therefore insist Jesus’s claims will threaten Roman supremacy. Accordingly, Pilate’s question: “Are you the king of the Jews?”.
Jesus answers by further transcending the Jewish Messianic expectation – as well as the expectation of Pilate and of all times, also ours, about what really is power: “Mine is not a kingdom of this world”; i.e. does not presuppose the exercise of violence or threat of violence, something which also our democratic governments ultimately do. Against all worldly ways of ruling – exercising power, influencing – Jesus puts the truth. Truth, that we find when our concept of something equals to what that something really is. Truth, of which God is the “highest and first”, speaking with Thomas Aquinas.
When Jesus says he has come only to bear witness to the truth, he means that we are not able to fully grasp and internalise it on our own. Humanity can only become true, as good at it was thought to be, by reflecting God; the origin and aim of creation, the eternal reason. But too often we out of convenience in different forms allow other things obscuring the truth about our lives. A choice known as “sin”, a word originating in an older Germanic term referring to something that not should be, i.e. is not true.
Empirical science can give us parts of the truth; about howall observable things, us included, function. But it cannot give us the wholetruth. It cannot answer the questions why, about the meaning of life: from where we come, what we ought to do, what is good or evil. When we turn to science for answers its methods cannot find, we make science our god and de-humaniseourselves by reducing us to atoms and hormones. And when we, on the other hand, believe that all that cannot be described by empirical science cannot be true, we fall into relativism. Leaving the definition of reality to the most high-voiced, strongest, richest or most violent; submitting us to, even enslaving us under, our own or others’ desires, limitations and arbitrariness.
Jesus asserts God’s will before all powers, good and bad, within us and outside of us. Only with God the code can be cracked. So that all of creation, us included, becomes possible to read; to be understood as it was thoughtto be, and with God’s help can become. Reconciliation means exactly this: God bridges over the things that are not true, that should not be, to what should be, i.e. to the truth, to Him. Jesus Christ is this visible bridge. A bridge the Church has the task to maintain and point at, at all times. Not to reconstruct, to move or to cut the bridgehead of. Because without the teaching and the sacraments of the Church, Christ, and thus truth, becomes a projection of ourselves as we are when we are untrue, as we should not be. And everything, ultimately hope, will depend upon ourachievements and limitations. And our separation from God will last
Truth is powerless according to worldly definitions. It does not force itself on us, but instead it must be sought after, and it gives itself freely. Therefore, truth often falls victim to violence, malice, ignorance or benefit calculations. Just like Jesus before Pilate and on the cross. But through this visibly powerlessness Jesus has truepower. Because he takes on himself all sin and evil, i.e. all that is not true, turned away from God, in order to conquer it and to open a door to life with God, a life of and in truth. A life that is not extinguished by physical death, not even in its most humiliating form. Just like with Jesus in the darkness of the cross, God, also when hidden, is always with us.
On the cross Jesus shows true power, God’s endless love, and becomes an image of the hope that we are called to put first, before everything else important but never thatimportant. We put hope first when we allow Jesus Christ to become king, ruler, of our lives; the light giving true content and meaning to everything. Never dependent upon us for its existence, i.e. never subject to our will, our votes or our manipulations. But always a servant of our reel needs, those we often do not want to acknowledge. The light that we, if we allow ourselves to be opened and transformed by him, can reflect in the world.
Soon, Jesus will give himself, freely and silently, to us in the Holy Eucharist. The origin and meaning of the whole universe, also of me, in an outwardly insignificant, broken piece of bread. If I cooperate, he transforms all that is broken and unfinished in me, and through me all my relations, into life; eternal life. God’s kingdom. What a real power! What a king we have in the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.