The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Cycle B
Given at St. Jude, November 21, 2021, by Deacon Ken Steponaitis
On the celebration of Christ, the King, we celebrate a truth that if taken into our hearts will change our world. This Sunday is the last Sunday of the Church year. Next week we begin a new year when we enter the season of Advent in preparation for the birth of our King, Jesus.
Knowing the truth of things can have a dramatically good affect in our lives. Of course, the opposite holds as well. Sometimes we think we know the truth but too often we are deceived or veiled from the truth.
My family and I belonged to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson for nearly 20 years before being assigned to St. Jude. We were fully integrated into that community. In fact, my wife Ruby worked there, and early in this 20-year period, we lived in Wylie, in a brand-new home we had built. We quickly came to realize, however, living in Wylie and being parishioners in Richardson, became completely impractical. So, we began to search for a home near St. Joseph … and we found one. It had been renovated and we loved its rustic appeal and unique layout. Plus, it was right across the street from the church. The price was right, the location was right, and it was "move-in ready."
At least the inspection on the 1980’s home said it was ready. So, with the information we had, this house was going to be the one that we would enjoy living in. While not the home of our dreams, it seemed to have a lot going for it.
After only a week of living in that house, I had a sinking feeling we had made the worst financial mistake of our lives. What we thought was the truth of this home was not so true.
That first night, as we lay in the bed, we heard loud chirping noises that lasted through the night. At first it just seemed like birds that were outside. What we discovered was a bird’s nest in the chimney and the sound was being amplified by hollow brick flue. (I wanted to start a fire in the fireplace to get rid of them … but instead we hired a chimney sweeper who took out the birds and put a cap on the chimney)
The next day we came to find out our toilets were not emptying very quickly nor were our showers and tubs. We called out the plumber to find out tree roots were clogging the drainpipes under the foundation. When the plumbers went to clear the debris, gallons of shall we say less than aromatic water was shooting out of one of the toilets.
Several days after that, we noticed a stream of water coming out of the kitchen cabinets. We found out the drainpipe from the kitchen sink was leaking and had been leaking for some time resulting in crumbling, decaying wood and mold.
One night we woke up to scraping in the attic. We found out there were large holes in the soffits of the roof where squirrels and rats were getting up into the attic and making our house their home. It was so annoying at one point I was throwing things at the ceiling to scare the creatures to stop the scraping.
Several weeks after the exterminator came to our house, we started smelling rotten flesh in the kitchen only to find out it was a carcass of one of the critters.
Not knowing the truth of this home made it seem at the time like our home was destroying us financially. It felt like our lives were in an upheaval and we had no control. Not knowing the truth of this home brought about what seemed like a disaster.
As in all facets of life, there is good and bad. When we talk about truths, there are some truths that are difficult and others that bring great hope. A couple of the more difficult truths are: as humans we want to control every facet of our lives. Sometimes we look to political leaders, scientists, intellectuals who are experts in their fields to help us solve these problems. We kind of look to these people as kings of their domains. And to be frank, nobody seems to be doing a good job at resolving the problems these days, Covid being a great example.
Another difficult truth is nothing in this world is permanent. History tells us all nations fall and other nations will rise in dominance. Even the human species will likely go the way of the dinosaur and for that matter all of creation as we know it will end.
But one of the great uplifting truths of our faith is Jesus came to bring us good news. In fact, the very word Gospel means good news. Truly believing in this good news can bring about an irreplaceable peace even in the worst of times.
Roman emperors would send out something like town criers. Or they would inscribe messages into great buildings or temples that would use the Greek word euangelion, meaning good news of glad tidings. These messages were intended to bring hope and allegiance to the emperor, especially in his military victories. Often these victories were seen as proof of who’s god was more powerful and which god to worship.
When Luke wrote his infancy narrative, this same word euangelion was used in the proclamation of Jesus’ birth. He wrote that an angel said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Lk 2:10) This was not some lighthearted, nicety being proclaimed by Luke. This was a truth that was subversive and in direct opposition to the Roman emperor. It targeted the false notion that the emperor was some kind of messiah. Luke was establishing that the true Messiah, the true King, who contrary to the power of the earthly kings, came as an infant in a town called Bethlehem; a town as obscure as Wylie Texas, to parents who had no earthly wealth.
Turning to our first and second readings, we read about two very similar visions in a literary genre called “apocalyptic.” Usually when we hear the word apocalypse, we think this is about the end of the world or a disaster. And for the people to whom these sacred writers wrote, it very much seemed like the end of their world. But the word Apocalypse comes from the Greek word apokalyptein, meaning to unveil or reveal. In fact, our second reading, talks of a vision by John of Patmos and comes from the appropriately named book of Revelations. And what are these two visions from Daniel and John revealing? They are revealing some good news, some truths. They are providing the faithful with reason to have hope and to persevere in their faith. They are providing a reason to see Jesus as the King of the Universe.
Both sacred writers were writing to a people who had little to no control over their lives, and their difficulties in life seemed insurmountable. They were being forced to worship a god that was not their God. To trust in a king that was veiling the truth. Both visions came about at a time when a king and an emperor insisted, they be worshiped as gods and seen as messiahs. And during this time these rulers were persecuting anyone who was being subversive.
In both readings today, the visions from Daniel and John tell of a ruler who would come “one like the Son of Man, in the clouds of heaven who will reign over the kings of the earth.” (Dn 7:13) Their heavenly visions revealed a truth about God that brought great hope to those who felt their worlds tumbling. The truth that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was more powerful than any earthly ruler and that the Son of Man, the Son of God, would be established as king forever. These revelations were also telling of the joys and glory of those who followed this Son of Man. And they told of the reality that those who chose other gods, other kings, were living a life that leads to destruction.
In our Gospel reading, Pontius Pilate was trying to understand Jesus’ Kingship. Jesus said to Pilate, you call me a king, but I am not what you think. “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” (Jn 18;36)
Jesus was not saying that he was not King of this world. But clearly Jesus’ kingship was not an earthly kingship in the sense that Jesus never claimed to be a political leader who came to solve the problems of this world. In fact, Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew said “I have not come to bring peace” as so many Jews wanted of their messiah. Jesus came to bring the truth.
And that is exactly what he told Pilate. “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.” (Jn 18:37)
And what is the Truth? Or maybe more appropriately the question should be, who is this truth? In this same Gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. (14:6) "Whoever believes in me will have eternal life!" (6:47) And that is the euangelion, that is good news!
Jesus told Pilate “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.” (Jn 18:36) How often do we try to right wrongs with violence and fighting? Jesus did not fight his persecution … he allowed it. Why? Because Jesus our King wanted to take all that pain and suffering and transform it into a resurrection, into a restoration of humanity. Into a new heaven and a new earth … a new kingdom. God loves us too much to allow us to be destroyed. Rather He wants to transform us!
This is the apocalypse – this is the revelation, Daniel and John were declaring for us. This is the hope that the King of the Universe envelopes us with. So today, behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins, and the lies, of the world through the Eucharist. Know that if we fall in love with Jesus, we are assuring ourselves of a resurrection into a new world. A world that Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians. He said, if the rulers of this age knew about Jesus’ Kingship, “they would not have crucified [nor would they continue to crucify] the Lord of glory.”
So, what is the truth? The truth is, that on this last day of the Church year if we recognize that all of creation, all that is good, and all of eternity ... our very lives, are Jesus’ dominion. If we can see it, hear it and take this truth into our hearts, then our life is changed forever and the problems of this world don’t seem so devastating. Even possessed old homes can’t destroy us. And, we will have no doubt that Jesus is the King of the Universe!