From the Pastor – November 21, 2021

Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?”

Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom 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.”

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

How many times have we gazed at a crucifix and seen that inscription: “I.N.R.I.”  We know it means something about Jesus being “King of the Jews,” even if we don’t remember that it comes from the first letters of the Latin inscription meaning “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews:  Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum.  The key is understanding what’s behind that inscription.  Is it just a “mocking” inscription provided by Pontius Pilate?  Was it placed there to enrage the Jewish Sanhedrin?  Or is it part of God the Father’s providential plan to reveal His Son to us?

To understand the role of Jesus as King, we have to understand a little bit of the Jewish concept of Messiah (literally meaning “someone anointed”),  a term used in the Old Testament to describe a king who was traditionally anointed with holy oil as described in Exodus 30:22-25. In Jewish eschatology the term referred to a future Jewish King from the Davidic line, who will be “anointed” and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age.

And here’s where Jesus comes in.  He comes to fulfill those prophecies.  He’s from the Davidic line; He ushers in a new age of the Messiah; He spends the majority of his preaching ministry focusing on one thing: the Kingdom of God.  After the Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they began to fearlessly proclaim Jesus as “the Christ,” Christ being the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah.

And so we celebrate this weekend the Solemnity of Christ the King.  We place Him as King of our world (since He made it and governs it); as Kings of ourselves (since He made us); and Kings of our destiny (since He has ascended to the Father to prepare a place for us).

But nowhere is Christ’s “kingship” more apparent than on the cross.  By dying for us, Jesus gave us the most radical notion of leadership.  The King loves us – His subjects – so much that He leads not by a command, but by an example.  He died first.  And we follow.  That’s how we reach the kingdom.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty