2 Nov 2019
On the last Sunday of each liturgical year, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, or Christ the King. This year it is celebrated on Sunday 24 November Fr James Lyons writes.
Quod scripsi scripsi!
What I have written,
I have written!
These emphatic words of Pontius Pilate asserted his authority after Jesus’ accusers had manoeuvred him into handing Jesus over to be crucified.
The inscription, Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews (INRI) had been nailed to the cross and Pilate abruptly dismissed the objection that Jesus had only claimed to be king, [John 19:20-21].
Unwittingly, Pilate’s action gave public voice to the Christian belief in the regal status of Jesus; that he was indeed the visible expression of the reign of God.
‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full,’ [John 10:10]. Only someone with unequalled power could do this.
The feast of Christ the King has been long honoured as the climax to the Church’s year and the end-point of creation – the coming together of the entire creative work of God; the handing over by Christ to the Father of a kingdom united in justice, love and peace.
There is a second unintended action of Pilate in authorising those words above the cross. They were written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, the languages of the day. There is a sense of universality here, drawing the whole world into the affirmation of Jesus as Lord of the universe.
The life and ministry of Jesus prefaced the transforming power of this ‘Chosen’ or ‘Anointed’ one of God, the Christ. Conqueror of sin and death, he proclaimed himself and the Light of the world and the Resurrection and Life, [John 8:12; John 11:25].
He brought calm and order out of chaos, healing out of pain, forgave hurt and transformed what was broken, misshapen or perceived as worthless in people’s lives. He brought life out of death.
St Paul often refers to ‘Christ Jesus’ rather than ‘Jesus Christ’, emphasising the divine nature of Jesus, anointed and sent for the salvation of the world. He is the peace between us, [cf Ephesians 2:14].
‘Yes, I am a king,’ Jesus, told Pilate. Simeon’s prophecy that Jesus would be ‘a sign of contradiction’ took shape as this king stood before Pilate mocked and beaten, his face anointed with spittle and the crown on his head woven out of skin piercing thorns.
This king came not to be served but to serve, to gift himself for the life of the world. He washed the feet of his disciples and told them to wash one another’s feet. He issued no edicts except the command to love as he had loved, with compassion, mercy and forgiveness.
The feast of Christ the King is an opportunity look back over this year of the Church, captured and celebrated in the Gospel of Luke (Year C), which emphasises pardon and peace through the healing touch of Jesus.
Feel this touch as you recall the joys and sorrows you have encountered along the way, and check your response to the call to serve.
Jesus of Nazareth,
have mercy on us.