November 24-25, 2018 Jesus Christ, King of the Universe - Cycle B
A man and his wife were at the doctor’s office. He had been experiencing a lot of chest pain and other symptoms of heart problems. After a lengthy exam, the doctor came out with him, and asked to see the wife in private. The doctor told the wife that her husband had a serious heart problem but that they couldn't operate. He told her that any stress might kill her husband so from now on she would have to do everything to insulate him from stress. She should not argue with him or nag him. She should give him anything he wanted, and she should allow him to relax and watch his favorite shows. He emphasized that if she didn't do all this, her husband was in great danger of dying.
On the way home, the man turned to his wife, and asked her what the doctor had said. The woman was quiet for a moment, then she shook her head and replied, “He said you are going to die.”
Jesus tells Pilate, and us: “This is why I came into the world: to testify to the truth.” In the very next verse of John's Gospel which is not included in today's Gospel passage, Pilate says to Jesus, 'What is truth?".
If we ever needed a lesson in how hard it is to discern the truth, we have had it these past few years, haven’t we? It is so important to work at getting to the truth, especially when there are so many agendas that bend it and twist it. And then once we come face to face with the truth, it calls us to a response. Truth never just calls for an acknowledgment. It always calls us to action. That action can testify to the truth or it can deny the truth.
Pilate saw the truth that Jesus was innocent. But he refused to testify to that truth; that would have been too difficult for Pilate to do. So he denied it by handing Jesus over to be killed.
Today’s readings reveal a truth that demands as costly a response from us as it did from Pilate. In the first reading from Daniel, the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven is a symbol, not of God or of Jesus, but of Israel, God’s chosen nation. Early Christians saw this Son of Man passage as a symbol of Jesus alone, assuming that before their generation passed away, Jesus would come back to conquer evil in some magnificent battle. Especially when the turmoil of the Roman persecutions and the destruction of Jerusalem looked like the end of the world to them, they looked to God to magically free them from that pain and suffering. The truth revealed in this reading is that Christ the King is not just Jesus who is the head of Christ, but we too are part of Christ the King. We too have responsibility for establishing the fullness of the kingdom of God here on earth .
But the truth is that Jesus came as the first fruits, not the whole harvest. The coming of the kingdom is not just in Jesus’ human hands. He has placed it firmly in ours, the kings and priests and prophets into which we are formed by baptism. He is the model of what we are to be as kings. And while we are certainly called to this kingship as individuals, primarily we are called to it as a community. So I would ask you to think about this from the point of view of the parish community rather than as individual an individual.
Jesus testifies to the kind of king we need to be to bring about His kingdom;, a king who goes to any length to care for his people. See when Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, he didn't mean it was in heaven and we just need to wait till we get to heaven to enter this kingdom. He meant that Pilate had nothing to fear in terms of a political or military uprising. Jesus’ kingdom is definitely about this here and this now. That is what he proclaimed throughout his life, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” It is what we pray for in a few minutes in the Our Father when we say, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” It will come when we who are anointed kings by baptism start acting like that king on the cross.
We just celebrated Thanksgiving and I hope every one thanked God for all the wonderful things we have. But now it is time to face the truth. Everything we have is given to us to use for the kingdom. In the midst of all we have given thanks for, there are people in this world who are dying from addiction; there are people with mental illness who have no help until they get to the point of suicide or of harming others; there are people within shouting distance of this church who month after month have to choose between feeding themselves and their families or buying needed medicine or paying rent; there are people in Massachusetts who have jobs and are still homeless.
And all of this is because the kingdom of God is not yet fully established here on earth. Or to speak the truth plainly, because we who have been commissioned by Christ to bring about this kingdom of God have not yet accomplished this mission. Our truth is a person, Jesus Christ. Through baptism, Christ has anointed us as kings to bring about this kingdom. There is a cost to this mission; we have to do more than just come to Mass once a week. We have to deepen our connection with Jesus so that we really start to understand how much He loves us, and be willing to share that with others.
How will we respond the Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Do we start acting like kings who ease the sufferings of those in their care? Or do we just shake our heads and say, “They say you are going to die?”