Most major feasts of the liturgical year celebrate events in the life of Christ. Today’s feast rather celebrates an idea or a concept: Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords: to echo the responsorial psalm of today’s Mass: “The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed.”
In the gospel we meet Pontius Pilate, the representative of Roman imperialism, who confronts Our Lord, crowned with thorns; the victim of a night of betrayal, insult and beating. And yet who is ill at ease? Who is afraid and uncertain? Is it the King of the Jews? No, it is Pontius Pilate, the powerful Roman Governor of Judea who is ill at ease, afraid and uncertain. Pilate asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Our Lord is the one who is in control. Yes, he is a King, but his Kingdom is not of this world. His is not a rule of power; he came not to oppress us, but to serve us. His Kingdom, as we will hear in the Preface of the Mass, will be a ‘kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace’.
It seems inevitable that we should want to contrast Christ’s Kingdom with the world situation today. Who or what rules our world? Is it Christ or is it force of arms, or perhaps economics, or engineering and computerized superiority? Pilate’s question is still valid: “Are you a king?” Today he might ask does your kingship have anything at all to do with the world situation today.
These are not easy questions to answer, but they have to be faced by us who call ourselves Christians, subjects of Christ our King. Perhaps the beginning of an answer could be found if every Christian seriously and honestly answered the question: is Christ King in my life? Is there any attachment that I prefer to Christ? Is there anything I consider to be more important than Christ? As professed followers of Christ, we have to face up to our responsibilities honestly and without evasion.
Everything seems to point to the fact that we are at a turning point in human history and in the history of Christianity: a turning point that has its foundation in Christ’s own words: “My kingdom does not belong to this world.”
The philosopher Alexander Campbell wrote: “Christ’s kingship does not depend on armies and bombs and missiles, but on the power of truth. It is not national, but rather transcends all boundaries of class, gender, colour, religions. It does not oppress human lives, but rather lifts and frees people. It does not reside in territories that have to be defended, but rather in the hearts and minds of ordinary people, as those hearts and minds are open to his presence”.
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.” Our Lord had neither the intention nor the desire to be a political leader. His is a kingdom of hearts belonging to people who live in this world. Building and strengthening this kingdom is our concern, and the concern of every Christian. We begin by making Christ our King in reality, not in any vain future hope. He has to be our King right here and now. We determine to make our lives Christ-centred by deciding to serve him completely in all that we do. He has to become king of our minds and our hearts.
And Our Lord showed us by personal example how to make him our king: he came not to be served but to serve. We recall how he washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, how he spent his life caring for all who were in any kind of need, how he hung on the Cross and died out of love for us.
His is a kingdom of hearts, of our hearts. We make Christ our King by serving those in need. But even more necessary is that we open our hearts to the Servant-King and welcome him into our lives, as Mary his mother welcomed him when she said: “Let it be done to me according to thy word.”
Christ’s Kingdom is in the making, and we are part of it. We will probably not see its universal and final fulfilment in our lifetime, at least not in our lifetime in this world. But there is another lifetime that will last forever, and in that lifetime, if we have made Christ the King of our hearts, if we have served others as he did, then we will know that we had our own personal part in it.
May we always be open to the Spirit of God who guides us in the way of justice, peace and truth. And may we echo Our Lord’s own words to the Father: “Not my will, but thy will be done.”