The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
November 25, 2018
The Good Friday exchange between Jesus and Pilate is reported in each of the four Gospels with varying detail. What is made quite clear by each, however, is that Pilate is not attempting to establish Jesus’s identity in order to honor Him. What we hear in the four passages is an interrogation tactic during a criminal investigation. Today’s Gospel could easily be taken from an episode of “Law and Order.” Pilate is trying to gather evidence.
Again, although offering slightly varying detail, the Gospel witnesses are totally consistent in their report of Jesus’s motives and actions in His public life, as well as His reply to His interrogator. His mission and ministry was definitely not to overthrow “The Law” or to disrupt “The Order.” Throughout the Gospels, we see The Lord validating and observing “The Law of Moses” and living perfectly and unconditionally “The Law of Love.”
As to “The Civil Order,” Jesus had already publicly declared His position: Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. He had no designs on the throne. He was not a threat to Caesar in this respect.
He was, however, very concerned about “The Religious/Spiritual Order.” There is overwhelming evidence of abuse of power among religious leaders. Hypocrisy was rampant. Temple authorities were more concerned about “their special places at banquets” than how starved the people were. Jesus addressed this situation head-on. His motive was to RESTORE order, not to disrupt it. He was not working to overthrow but to reform. And the backlash by those in power was immediate and lethal. Even still, the Lord was not a threat to the office of high priest or the Sanhedrin. He was, however, a severe critic of the way the people in office at the time were dispatching their duties to God, as well as the people God entrusted to their care.
Speaking truth to authority should not pose a threat to leaders if they are dispatching their duties and responsibilities in the best interests of the people they serve. But, obviously, Jesus was considered a threat to both the Roman Empire as well as religious leaders. They did not “belong to the truth,” and so they did not listen to the voice of the Messiah as He called them to repent and reform. Instead, They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
Considering that Jesus specifically rejected a crown, it might seem surprising that Pope Pius XI would institute The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. The year was 1925, and the world was still recovering from The War to end All Wars…World War I. Recognizing Christ as the Universal King might well have been seen as a way to encourage the restoration of order to a war-torn world. Submitting to the ultimate sovereignty of Christ would certainly promote the reforms needed to ensure that WWI was The War to end All Wars. With Christ as King, the law would be The Law of Love, which, when observed, promotes justice and peace among all people.
But even as today’s Feast was being celebrated for the first time in Catholic Churches around the world, evil forces were working to impose laws contrary to God’s will and God’s ways in hopes of establishing a world order that left no room whatsoever for Christ. That effort failed, but the evil forces have not been eliminated.
Today is about committing to truth. Christians, reborn in The Spirit through Baptism, are called to testify to the truth. And the truth is simply this: WE HAVE NO KING BUT CHRIST! Christ, Who imposes a law of love and restores an order of peace and justice among all peoples.