Feast of Christ the King
Today’s feast faces us with 2 problems: one apparent, the other real. Apparently stems from our American reaction to kings: We don’t like them! The word “king” conjures up images of the tyrant or the despot, of too much power in one person’s hands… Herod slaughtering babies — Henry VIII or George III — denotes might, dominion, violence.
Jesus tells Pilate he’s not the kind of king Pilate imagines. Pilate’s world, like many civil leaders’ today, is a world of competition, fear, force. Little wonder Pilate is intimidated by Jesus. Jesus had no need to cling to status (remember Philippians 2 where the hymn tells us Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a slave, accepting even death?). He knew who he was, and he knew that his only purpose in this world was to testify to the truth (another thing with which many civil leaders struggle!).
Forgoing force is such an overwhelming, crushing decision. In the Gethsemane scene in Luke, Peter, in a preemptive strike, cuts off the ear of the servant of the High Priest. Jesus says simply, “No more of this.” Remember earlier:
“Princes of this world use power to dominate, lord it over others… it cannot be that way with you… Want to be follower? Serve. Wash feet. Forgive. Love enemies.”
“No more of this” and he heals the man, restoring his ear. Jesus has spent his entire ministry giving people ears to hear, so he is not about to start taking them off now. The symbolic import is that the beginning of violence is the end of dialogue. That is why Peter’s sword severs the ear. Combatants can no longer hear one another.
Finally, the problem is how I relate to truth. Jesus is Lord, but is Jesus MY Lord? My king? Who commands my love? Rules my heart? Can I say, with full integrity, that no person, no thing, takes precedence over Jesus in my life? What motivates me? Possesses me? Thrills me? …from dawn to dusk? What makes me get up in the morning? What makes me tick? Who or what rules my heart? Something does, or someone does. Or, dreadful thought, perhaps nothing does.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.