Today is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday will begin the new liturgical year in the Church calendar as we begin Advent. In today’s Gospel from John, Jesus faces the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate:
“So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”
Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (Jn 18:37).
Clearly, Jesus is a king, yet not in the way of other kings who have gone before him or followed after. As Jesus said before his above statement, “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36). The Son of God came among us to re-orient, to re-align the worldly order. Leadership is to no longer to be about the aggrandizement of self nor at the expense of others. God was very aware of the suffering of his people. He sent Moses to free his people from slavery from Egypt and he sent his Son to free all humanity from our slavery to sin.
Yet this freedom has a cost. Today we are reminded that we have a choice to make. Who are we to serve? Are we to serve Pharaoh or Moses, Pilate or Jesus, our self or God. If we seek to be free from the shackles of our slavery to sin, the choice is clear that we are to listen to the voice of the king of the universe, the truth of Jesus the Christ.
We can see in our own actions who we serve and whose voice we listen to in the action or inaction we direct toward one another. Are we indifferent, blind to another’s suffering or are we aware and willing to get involved, to be, as Fr. James Keenan, S.J. wrote, “willing to enter the chaos of another.”
The reign of Jesus is about personal encounter. We serve Christ the King in being aware of and accompanying one another. We are not to be about bringing world peace, ending hunger, providing homes for all in some abstract utopian pursuit. We are instead to be about treating each person we meet with dignity, we are to see Jesus in our midst: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35-37). Jesus our king, commands us to act as he lived, to be aware, to accompany, and to make a difference, one life at a time.
We may feel overwhelmed with our own struggles, let alone the present state of our country or weight of the world, but we do not have to bear the weight alone, nor are we expected to change the world. We begin each day with ourselves. We resist the temptation to turn within and instead adjust our attitude and focus outward, while at the same time making a commitment to serve Jesus in one another. God is guiding us already through the love of the Holy Spirit he shares with us, we just need to receive his love, and have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a willingness to participate in his will.
What we need today, on this feast day of Christ the King, is to allow Jesus to re-orient, to re-align the order of our life. We need to be willing to allow Jesus to lead us such that we are willing to enter the chaos of another. May we, in this final week of Ordinary Time, choose who we will serve, and then spend some time reading and meditating on the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12) and chapter 25 of Matthew. Jesus gives us not only this blueprint on how to be collaborators with him, he empowers us to accomplish that which he guides us to do.
As Pope Francis said in a 2014 homily these are: “Few words, simple words, but practical for all. Because Christianity is a practical religion: it is not just to be imagined, it is to be practiced. If you have some time at home today, take the Gospel, Matthew’s Gospel, chapter five. At the beginning there are the Beatitudes; in chapter 25 the rest. And it will do you good to read them once, twice, three times. Read this programme for holiness. May the Lord give us the grace to understand his message.”
Pope Francis photo credit: Paul Haring, CNS
Fr James Keenan article on Mercy:
Pope Francis homily, 6 September 2014: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/06/09/pope_the_beatitudes,_a_practical_programme_for_holiness/1101553
The Mass readings for Sunday, November 25, 2018: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112518.cfm