Pilate asks Jesus this question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Pontius Pilate was a petty-minded politician who hated his post in Judea. He had raised the ire of Caesar and was given it as a punishment. He detested the post and the Jews. However, because the Jewish religious authorities wanted Jesus put to death, a capital punishment that only the Roman authorities could approve, Pilate had to be consulted.
The passage of today’s gospel is about the universal kingship of Christ. The judgment before Pilate delivers Christ to his Cross, not to Pilate since he has no power over Christ. For the first time, Jesus is one-on-one with Pilate. He responds to Pilate with another question, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate replies , “I am not a Jew, am I?” A direct confrontation against evil makes the devil afraid as we see in this encounter. Pilate is afraid and anxious as Jesus makes it clear to him, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdoms did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
At the beginning of his mission, the devil takes Jesus to a very high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. The devil tempts Jesus with the words, “I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.” (Matt. 4:8-10) Jesus has not come for earthly glory. Like the tempter, Pilate imagines that Jesus would succumb to the pressures of earthly dominion, but as Jesus says at his arrest, he has to drink the cup that the Father has given him (Jn. 18:10-11)
In this encounter, Pilate is actually the one on trial, so, he declares to Jesus, “Then you are a king?” The affirmation form Jesus is, “You say I am a king.” This is a moment of revelation to both Pilate and the rulers of this world about His mission. Christ says to him, “For this I was born and for this I came into this world to testify to the truth” (Jn. 18:37). Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6), the image of the invisible God, and the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15). He leads all people and tongue and nation to his Father, that all may be saved through him. Unfortunately, like Pilate, those who dwell on earthly power are unable to understand Christ’s kingdom.
Pilate represents the struggle between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. Sin hinders its victim from identifying the kingship of Christ. It shuts the person out of the inner spiritual life. The Psalmist says, “Sin speaks to the sinner within his heart. There is no fear of God in his eyes. For he makes much of himself in his own eyes” (Ps. 36:1). Clinging to his false grandiosity, Pilate has no space for God just like many political leaders in our time.
This reminds us of the fight for the reign of Christ in Mexico between 1926 and 1929. David C. Bailey narrates that thousands of Mexicans fought and died in an attempt to overthrow the government of their country. These people were called the Cristeros, because of their battle cry, ¡Viva Cristo Rey!―Long Live Christ the King! There was a national calamity in which sincere people followed their convictions to often tragic ends. The Cristero rebellion climaxed a century of animosity between the Catholic church and the Mexican state. The revolutionists sought to impose severe limitations on the Church, and Catholic anti-revolutionary militancy grew apace. When the government in 1926 decreed strict enforcement of anticlerical legislation, matters reached a crisis. Church authorities suspended public worship throughout Mexico, and Catholics in various parts of the country rose up in arms. There followed almost three years of indecisive guerrilla warfare marked by brutal excesses on both sides. A de facto settlement was brought about in 1929, based on the government’s pledge to allow the Church to perform its spiritual offices under its own internal discipline. With the 1929 settlement the clergy returned to the churches, whereupon the Cristeros lost public support and the rebellion collapsed. Only after another decade did permanent religious peace come to Mexico. The kingdom of darkness will always fight God’s kingdom of light. Yet, Christ reigns!
The Feast of Christ the King reminds us that we belong to Christ’s kingdom of peace, justice, healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, faithfulness, mercy, compassion and love. It is the kingdom of light over darkness. But the question for today is, how much have we allowed Christ to reign in our lives? Looking back to the beginning of the year 2021 to this moment, would you say that Christ reigned through your actions, words, or even your thoughts? Is Christ the King in your family? Does Christ reign in your marriage? Does Christ reign in your job? Would you say that you bear sufficient witness to Christ’s kingship by the way you defend your Christian faith? Are there competing forces, interests, desires, and goals that make you give less attention to the reign of Christ? The truth is that you will feel it inside. If your spiritual life degenerates, you will definitely notice it. God speaks to your heart because he wants to reign. But the devil also wants to reign in your life. The devil works hard to establish his own kingdom in the hearts of believers too. The devil works to snatch believers to his kingdom of darkness through sin, injustice, hatred, greed, and insincerity? The moment you succumb, then you let Satan reign.
Think about it this way, most times you get on the internet to check your email or just check anything online, inappropriate unsubscribed images/adverts pop up. You do not pay for them, but they put themselves before you. They want you to subscribe, even free of charge, to view them. The captions can be tempting, so also the images. It is your choice to click or let them go. The moment you click on the images, then they open up more images that seem palatable, with curious captions. They take you to more seductive options online. You may want to see more. Next, your mind tells you to try again. You may gradually get sunk into the habit. The makers of those ads know you don’t need them but they tempt you. That is how the devil works. He knows you belong to God, yet he flashes his seductive cards. The devil wants to reign over you.
Peter warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8) Let us declare Jesus king in our lives and invite him to reign at all times. Jesus reigns when you live a life of holiness. Jesus reigns when you go to confession. Jesus reigns when you receive the Blessed Eucharist in a state of grace. Jesus reigns when you extend yourself to others in charity. Jesus reigns when you defend the truth of your Catholic faith. Jesus reigns when you speak up for the helpless, when you defend justice. Jesus reigns when you care for the orphans and the needy. Jesus reigns when you protect the dignity of human life from conception. Jesus reigns when you pass on the light of faith to your children and support them to live it out. He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Viva Cristo Rey!―Long Live Christ the King!
Readings: 1st- Dan. 7:13-14; 2nd- Rev. 1:5-8; Gospel- John 18:33b-37