Today begins the last week of the Church’s liturgical year and it seems highly appropriate in this time of election termoil and political crisis to remind ourselves that we’re only temporary citizens of this world and that our permanent citizenship is found in the Kingdom of God. As Christians, we proclaim Christ as King and Lord of our lives and that’s whose feast we celebrate today. Christ the King. This is the day we have been leading up to since the first week of Advent last year. So let’s recap the year - we anticipated Jesus’ coming; we celebrated his birth; we journeyed with him to Jerusalem and we watched as the crowds following him grew larger and larger as he taught and healed and performed miracles and preached about the coming reign of the Kingdom of God. Finally, he was confronted by jealous leaders, brought in on false charges, tortured and executed on a cross; taking on himself all the sins of the world.
BUT - in the most triumphant return the world will ever witness, Jesus rose from the dead after being buried for three days. He stayed around long enough to satisfy his disciples that it was truly him and then he ascended into heaven before their very eyes. But before he ascended, he promised us two things:
That he would return at some unspecified time in the future to take all who believed in him and listened to his word to live eternally with his Father.
And he said that even though he must go to the Father, he would be with us through all time, always, until the end of the ages. He told us that he needed to go to the Father so that the Spirit could come and breath new life into the world. Its that same Spirit that allows the Kingdom of God to break in on our fallen world. The Spirit of life, the Spirit of justice, the Spirit of freedom. The Spirit of wisdom, understanding, charity and respect for the Lord. Our King did not abandon us! We are, as I said, even now citizens of his kingdom.
Many people think that the kingdom of God is something that will come way off in the distant future. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus established his kingdom while he was still on this earth. And he left it up to us, the Body of Christ, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to expand the kingdom to all people until Christ returns.
We hear Jesus tell us in the Gospel of John: “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Jesus has given to us through the Spirit what the Father has given him. God calls all of humanity to live in him through his Spirit and we receive the fullness of that Spirit in the Sacraments of Initiation - Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. It’s in these that we become citizens of that Kingdom of God we pray for in the Our Father; “Thy kingdom come - on earth as it is in heaven.” We’re praying for that heavenly kingdom to be established on earth. It’s happening all the time. There are signs of it all around us. Signs of the Spirit at work in so many different ways. But often we fail to recognize it and if we DO recognize it, we don’t often acknowledge it. Sometimes we fail to recognize the Kingdom of God right before our eyes because we have failed to ackowledge Jesus as the Lord of our lives. The more we allow Jesus to become the Lord of our lives, the more the Spirit will open our eyes to that kingdom of God breaking in on our world.
So, we have to ask the question, what does it mean for us to understand Jesus as our Lord, as our King?
Pilate wondered the same thing. Jesus tells Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world.” Thanks goodness, huh. Or he’d probably have Al Gore or George Bush demanding a recount. But Christ’s kingdom is not about power as we understand power - the power of public office, or the power of military might, economic power or physical strength. “My kingdom is not from here” Jesus says.
But Pilate doesn’t get it. When he hears Jesus talking about a “kingdom” he’s just looking for evidence to convict him of treason against Rome. He’s like Sergeant Friday from Dragnet: “Just the facts ma’am.” He’s basically saying to Jesus “Well, if you have a kingdom, then you ARE a king, right?” And Jesus says: “You wanna know about MY kingdom? Well, lemme tell ya’ - my kingdom is not about power - it’s about TRUTH. That’s the reason I came into this world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth, listens to my word.” And Pilate’s answer to that is; “What is truth?”
We live in an age of information overload. With TV, radio, magazines, newspapers and the internet, we have more facts than we could learn in a lifetime and more opinions than we’ll ever understand. The irony is that more and more of us than ever before find ourselves asking Pilate’s question: “What is truth?”
But Jesus didn’t answer Pilate’s question with words and facts, because the answer was already standing before Pilate in flesh and blood. Did any of you notice the way Jesus spoke about truth in the final verse? Let’s listen to it one more time. He said: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Isn’t that a strange way to think about truth? Usually we think about truth as something we can possess, something that might belong to us. But Jesus says that it’s the other way around. The truth is not something that belongs to us. Instead, WE BELONG TO THE TRUTH! In other words, truth is not ultimately found in facts and figures, like Pilate wanted. Truth is found in RELATIONSHIP.Truth is not about what we know. It’s about how we live. Truth is not something to be explained. It’s something to be experienced - in the way we relate to others and in the way we relate to God - God who is supremely revealed in the life and love of Jesus Christ. This “truth” of Jesus Christ demands a response from each and every one of us. As his disciples, as the “Body of Christ,” we’re called to live our lives in response to the truth, to the self-revelation of God in Jesus through his person, words, and actions, especially in the sacrifice of himself on the cross as the ultimate expression of his love. When we respond by living out the “truth” of Jesus in our lives, when our response starts to imitate the example of the self-giving love of Jesus, then we become “of the truth” and Jesus Christ becomes our Lord and King. The more we base our lives on the self-revelation of Jesus as the Word of God, the way, the truth, and the life, the more we grow as members of the Body of Christ, doing our part to continue to usher in the Kingdom of God in its fullness.
So maybe this week, we can think a little about how much we have turned over our lives to Christ our King and maybe we can begin to see a little more of God’s Kingdom breaking in on our world and in our own way, help it along a little bit.