There is something very peculiar, unique actually, about the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus in the Gospel of John (18:33-37). Pilate asks: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Nobody would ever dream of approaching Queen Elizabeth and ask her: “Pardon me, your highness; are you the queen of England?” The entourage, the bodyguards, the press secretary, the palace in which she lives, everything and everyone would make our question seem not only superfluous, but also plainly insane. Yet, with Christ, before Pilate, and even nowadays, before our eyes and the eyes of the world, the question is legitimate, beyond the unspoken agreement that the answer will, undoubtedly, humor Pilate and many others.
Jesus was in chains, bruised up, dirty, tired, totally unkept. He did not look like a king. He did not act like a king. He was most certainly not dressed like one. He only spoke like a king, but that could have been easily attributed to a severe case of delusion. Yet, Jesus is so in charge of the situation that instead of answering Pilate’s question, he responds with a question of his own. Pilate tries again with a different question: “What have you done?” Jesus replies by pointing out the nature of his kingdom: clearly, his kingdom is of a totally different type than Pilate and everyone else was accustomed to.
His kingdom unveils the truth about God’s plan of salvation. And the subjects of Christ’s kingdom are not your average subjects but rather special people “who hear the truth and act upon the truth”.
Wow! It is precisely here, as Jesus specifies the nature of his Kingdom that we find it difficult to celebrate the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus reminds us: “Everyone who belongs to the truth, listens to my voice.” Everyone who claims to be a Christian, anyone who belongs to Christ who is TRUTH, listens to Him. Suddenly, Jesus becomes uncomfortable, disturbing, demanding.
We can deal with people who are dishonest, who lie and cheat. We know how to protect ourselves, to steer clear of them. We can live with evil people; but we have a lot of trouble with someone like Jesus who can see clearly and denounce our trumpeted goodness and honesty. We can live with the truths that float around politics, morality, media, workplace, school system, hospitals, anywhere really: cynicism and savoir-faire can help us. But we know that it is impossible for us to stand before Christ, the Truth, and continue to hide our fears, to pretend, to act as if we and everything inside our heart and around us were OK.
We rely on common sense, we look at others; we do not want to stand out; we choose to go with the flow; and here, Jesus, the Truth, expects us to deny ourselves, to turn the other cheek, to forgive our enemies and pray for our persecutors, for those who are ripping us off…
We have a hard time with being decent people, law-abiding citizens, Catholics in good standing, and Jesus, the Truth, demands that we strive to be as perfect as the Father is perfect, to be as compassionate as God is.
Our list of values is pretty good right? Order, honesty, integrity, a nice family, prosperity, a successful career…and here comes Jesus, the Truth, and expects us to turn our list on its head.
Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the hungry, the meek, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted. Day in and day out, we operate on the principle that good must be rewarded and evil punished. The good guys we place on this side, the bad ones in jail or, at least, far away from us. Honest people over here and the crooks over there; just and sinners, friends and foes, we… and the others.
Here comes Jesus, the Truth, and doesn’t even try to hide his preference for sinners, the rejects, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the outcasts. Consequently, we think that God should build His kingdom up there in heaven. But a king in our midst, a king whose agendum is embarrassing, impossible, unreasonable, we do not need. How can he expect to build a kingdom with ideas and followers whom society and the whole world despise and ridicule?
We are clearly at a critical point of our life. It is clear, by now, the type of Kingdom that Christ has in mind, so is what type of King he is. Each day, when we walk out of our homes, the whole world including our family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, classmates will be asking us with unspoken insistence: “Are you a subject of Jesus’ Kingdom?”
If we opt for belonging to Christ the Truth, we must listen to his voice and act upon it by working toward genuine integrity: i.e., that what we say and do on the outside may be a true reflection of what goes on the inside.
Jesus, the Truth, desires to share his Flesh and his Blood with us, so that we may become genuine witnesses to the Truth. Thus, after a while, no one out there would dare to say: “Hey, you do not look like a Christian; you do not act like one; you do not sound like one; you do not reason like one.”
But everyone should soon notice that the Kingdom of Christ will eventually, inevitably, triumph over the whole universe thanks also, although in a small, yet significant way, to our humble and loyal contribution.