Today we bring the liturgical year to a close with the solemnity of Christ the King, a solemnity John Paul II once termed “a synthesis of the entire salvific mystery.”
In today’s Gospel, a piece of St. John’s account of the trial of Jesus before Pilate, Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” The idea of Jesus as king is part of what made some people – including Pilate – nervous during Jesus’ lifetime. People like Pilate and Herod saw Jesus being king as a threat to their own power.
In reply to Pilate’s question, Jesus acknowledges his kingship, but makes clear his kingship is not the sort Pilate had in mind, replying, “My kingdom does not belong to this world….My kingdom is not here.”
Jesus’ acknowledgement of his kingship in the context of the trial that will result in his execution reminds us of the paradoxical truth that we Christians celebrate a king crucified. Not a king who rules triumphantly over an earthly kingdom, but one who dies an ignominious death.
Jesus’ kingship is not the sort Pilate could understand. As Pope Benedict once explained, Jesus is a new kind of king. “This king does not break the people with an iron rod (cf. Ps 2:9) – he rules from the Cross, and does so in an entirely new way. Universality is achieved through the humility of communion in faith; this king rules by faith and love, and in no other way.”
Blessings on this solemnity of Christ the King.