Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe [B]
Daniel 7:13-14 + Revelation 1:5-8 + John 18:33-37
November 21, 2021
“To Him… who has made us into a kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”
If “Michael” is the question, then “Jesus” is the answer. The name “Michael” literally means, “Who is like God?” In sacred art, Saint Michael the Archangel is usually shown in conquest over the devil, who believes that the answer to the question is “Me”.
By contrast, St. Michael personifies the virtue of humility. Humility is the first step on the path towards God. If all the virtues of the Christian life were like the alphabet, then the letter “A” would be humility, and the letter “Z” would be caritas: divine love. But how do we get from “A” to “Z”?
Too often, unfortunately, we’re tempted to think of ourselves as “saved”, as if we’ve already reached our spiritual goal—that spiritual “Z”—simply because we were adopted by God the Father through our baptism. But you and I are fully capable of rejecting that inheritance, just like the Prodigal Son. Countless choices that we make testify that we prefer pigs to prayer, servitude to salvation, and husks of corn to the Bread of finest wheat.
Humility focuses our attention upon Christ the King. In Him we see the fullness of humility, and the fullness of divine love. “Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega”, the First and the Last, “the one who is and who was and who is to come”.
“Who is like God?” Only God Himself, as we see in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ embodies all the virtues, from humility to divine love. Our Gospel passage leads us to look on Jesus as our King, who shows humility and divine love in submitting Himself to sinful man.
Pilate and Jesus stand face-to-face. Pilate bears the power of the Roman Empire and exercises it with the snap of his fingers. Pilate plainly explains to Jesus that he has the power to crucify Him. Jesus responds to all of Pilate’s questions, demands, and threats with what may seem to be disinterested resignation.
In the Nicene Creed that we profess at Holy Mass, there are only three human beings whom we mention by name. Not surprisingly, two of them are Jesus and His Blessed Mother. But the third isn’t even a member of God’s Chosen People. The third is not Abraham or Moses, Peter or Paul, but a pagan by the name of Pontius Pilate. But why?
The Fathers of the Church who composed the Nicene Creed in the year A. D. 325 could, conceivably, have written that part of the Creed without mentioning Pontius Pilate. But perhaps they wanted to make a statement about worldly power: that Pontius Pilate is a symbol of all those who put their faith and trust in worldly power.
St. Teresa of Calcutta explained that “God writes straight with crooked lines.” God can use crooked men such as Pontius Pilate as His instruments, just as surely as God can use His faithful people as His instruments. Here again is the topsy-turviness of Good Friday. Pontius Pilate thought he was serving his earthly Ceasar by delivering Jesus over to death. In fact, he was serving God’s Providential Will, whether he knew it or not.
Human history is the drama of God’s grace warring against human sinfulness. Right in the center is Jesus Christ at the top of Calvary. God’s grace is a river, more powerful than any river in the natural world. God’s grace will flow, regardless of our choices and priorities.
On this feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the victory of God’s plan for mankind, already won by Christ on the Cross. In Christ, who reigns from the Cross, we have the King who wants us to share in His victory by our entering into His life and imitating Him through His grace.
Yet God only offers you His grace: He does not force it upon you. God’s grace will flow around you, if you divert it from your life. But on the other hand, God’s grace is always there, ready to flood your life, to destroy only sin and the power of death. No matter how many times we divert God’s grace, God has another plan for allowing His grace to reach its goal, and for allowing each of us, living in that grace, to rest in God’s divine love for all eternity.