JN 18:33B-37
The Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King
November 22, 2015

It has been reported that the number of “radicalized” ISIS recruits pouring into Syria and Iraq from around the world has doubled over the past year. Social media has been a very successful means of “getting the message out.” The question is: What is there about “the message” that is so powerful that so many young people find it irresistible? Some believe that the appeal rests in large part with the skillful use of an ancient collection of sayings and prophecies about “the end of the world.” The young recruits have bought in a vision of a final cosmic battle between good and evil; the victor welcoming into existence a new era. They perceive themselves to be God’s champions.

This non-Christian literature that has been used to give the impression of “religious war” is not unlike what we Catholics heard proclaimed last Sunday, on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, and again this week as we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The passages from the Book of Daniel as well as that from Mark’s Gospel are “apocalyptic” in tone. In other words, they speak to the final things. But it is extremely important to remember the closing line of last week’s Gospel: BUT OF THAT DAY OR HOUR, NO ONE KNOWS, NEITHER THE ANGELS IN HEAVEN NOR THE SON, BUT ONLY THE FATHER!

Those who are successfully inspiring others to barbaric violence are claiming to know things that Jesus, the Son of God, did not know. They are using Islamic apocalyptic literature as “a war strategy” and a script for terrorism. Those behind this movement are trying to make things occur in such a way that it appears that what has been foretold is now unfolding…and that this is the will of God. In short, they are attempting to impose a timetable on The Almighty.

And so, the message God sent through the Prophet Daniel has particular relevance for us today. There we enjoy a vision of Christ drawing all things together under His dominion and control. Daniel’s vision is one of unity, not war, terror, and violence. This Old Testament vision is made more brilliant by our Second Reading from the Book of Revelation. Jesus is The Beginning and The End…” The First and Last Word” so to speak. And The Last Word is one of love, forgiveness, and freedom for “all peoples.” What we hear in our Second Reading is essentially this: THE WAR IS OVER! JESUS IS VICTORIOUS! The Reign of God has already begun. The terrorists’ vision fails because Christ has won a peace that will prevail until…at the time God the Father choses…He will return in glory.

We celebrate Christ’s dominion in what, at first glance, might appear to be an unusual way. Our Gospel on this Feast of Christ the King takes us to the praetorium in Jerusalem on Good Friday to overhear what theologian Monika Hellwig once referred to as: “perhaps the most important conversation captured in literature.” By that, she means…we have it all wrong. Our perception of…our job description for…“monarch”…is one of power and control; when, in fact, Christ’s Kingship is about suffering, service, justice, peace…and unity! Should the Gospel appear weak next to the horrific acts of violence we are witnessing, consider how weak Jesus looked standing in front of Pilate!

Those who lost loved ones in the attacks on Paris and Beirut or in the downed Russian airplane over the Sinai Desert might not find comfort in all of this. Those who have a son or daughter deployed to the Middle East might well say: “This is just all a bunch of words.” But it is extremely important for us to remember that it is words that motivate all of this violence and terror. Many young people are listening to words that describe a vision that is the complete opposite of that which Jesus has left us, and they are buying into that vision…a false vision.

Christ the King is the Eternal Word of God. And the vision Christ has left us is one of peace, justice, love…and truth!

While we cannot deny that there needs to be a political and quite likely a military response to the evil that is spreading across the world, the most persuasive diplomacy and the most effective weapon…is truth…The Truth…Jesus Christ.

The front lines of this war on terrorism, in a very real way, are our classrooms and our pulpits. More than ever, it is imperative that we “radicalize” our young people…radicalize them in the Gospel. It is imperative that we pass on a clear vision of the Kingdom of God…a vision that has been spoken to us by The Eternal Word…Christ the King.

For some time now, our Church has been calling us to commit to a New Evangelization…but the response has been half-hearted at best. Next week, we begin a new liturgical year with the Season of Advent. Let’s commit in a radical way to these four short weeks of preparation. When we welcome Jesus at Christmas, let us do it with a deeper understanding that He is the Prince of Peace!