ON THE SOLEMNITY OF JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 21 November 2021
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
The Gospel from today’s liturgy, the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, ends with an affirmation made by Jesus who says: “I am a king” (Jn 18:37). He pronounces these words in front of Pilate, while the crowd shouts out that he be condemned to death. He says: “I am a king”, and the crowd cries out that he be condemned to death. Quite a contrast. The crucial hour has come. Previously, it seems that Jesus had not wanted the people to acclaim him as king: we recall that time after the multiplication of the loaves and fish when he withdrew by himself to pray (cf. Jn 6:14-15).
The fact is that the kingship of Jesus is completely different than that of the world. “My kingship”, he says to Pilate, “is not of this world” (Jn 18:36). He did not come to dominate but to serve. He did not come amid signs of power, but with the power of signs. He was not dressed with precious insignia, but he was naked on the cross. And it was precisely through the inscription placed on the cross that Jesus came to be defined as “king” (cf. Jn 19:19). His kingship is truly beyond human parameters! We could say that he is not like other kings, but he is a King for others. Let us reflect on this: in front of Pilate, Christ says he is a king at the moment in which the crowd is against Him; but when the crowd was following and acclaiming him, he remained distant from this acclamation. That is, Jesus is showing that he is sovereignly free from the desire of earthly fame and glory. And we – let us ask ourselves – do we know how to imitate him in this aspect? Do we know how to govern our tendency to be continuously sought after and approved, or do we do everything to be esteemed by others? So, I ask: what matters? Is it applause or service that matters about what we do, particularly concerning our Christian commitment?
Jesus not only fled from seeking any earthly greatness, but he also makes the hearts of those who follow him free and sovereign. Dear brothers and sisters, he frees us from being subject to evil. His Kingdom is liberating, there is nothing oppressive about it. He treats every disciple as a friend, not as a subject. Even while being above all sovereigns, he draws no dividing line between himself and others. Instead, he wants to have brothers and sisters with whom to share his joy (cf. Jn 15:11). We do not lose anything in following him – nothing is lost, no – but we acquire dignity because Christ does not want servility around him, but people who are free. And – we can ask ourselves now – from whence does Jesus’ freedom derive? We discover that by returning to the affirmation he made in front of Pilate: “I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world: to bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:37).
Jesus’ freedom derives from the truth. It is truth that makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). But the truth of Jesus is not an idea, something abstract: the truth of Jesus is a reality, it is He himself who made the truth within us that frees us from the fabrications and falsity that we have inside, from doublespeak. Being with Jesus, we become true. The life of a Christian is not a play in which you can don the mask that best suits you. For when Jesus reigns in the heart, he frees it from hypocrisy, he frees it from subterfuge, from duplicity. The best proof that Christ is our king is detachment from what pollutes life, makes it ambiguous, opaque, sad. When life is ambiguous – a bit here and there – it is sad, very sad. We must always face our limitations and defects, of course: we are all sinners. But when we live under the lordship of Jesus, we do not become corrupt, we do not become false, inclined to cover up the truth. We do not live double lives. Remember this well: all of us are sinners, yes; corrupt, never, never. Sinners, yes; corrupt, never. May the Madonna help us to seek every day the truth of Jesus, King of the Universe, who liberates us from earthly slavery and teaches us to govern our vices.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Saint Peter’s Basilica
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – Sunday, 21 November 2021
Two images drawn from the word of God that we have heard, can help us approach Jesus as King of the Universe. The first, taken from the Book of Revelation and foreshadowed by the prophet Daniel in the first reading, is described in the words, “He is coming with the clouds” (Rev 1:7; Dan 7:13). The reference is to the glorious coming of Jesus as Lord at the end of history. The second image is from the Gospel: Christ who stands before Pilate and tells him: “I am a king” (Jn 18:37). Dear young friends, it is good to stop and think about these two images of Jesus, as we begin our journey towards the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon.
Let us reflect, then, on the first image: Jesus who comes with the clouds. The imagery evokes Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time; it makes us realize that the final word on our life will belong to Jesus, not to us. He is – so the Scriptures tell us – the one who “rides upon the clouds” (Ps 68:5), whose power is in the heavens (cf. ibid., v. 34). He is the Lord, the sun that dawns from on high and never sets, the One who endures while everything else passes away, our sure and eternal hope. He is the Lord. This prophecy of hope illumines our nights. It tells us that God is indeed coming, that he is present and at work, guiding our history towards himself, towards all goodness. He comes “with the clouds” to reassure us. As if to say: “I will not leave you alone when storms gather over your life. I am always with you. I come to bring back the bright sky”.
The prophet Daniel, on the other hand, tells us that he saw the Lord coming with the clouds as he “watched in the night visions” (Dan 7:13). Night visions: God also comes in the night, amid the often dark clouds that gather over our life. We all know such moments. We need to be able to recognize him, to look beyond the night, to lift our gaze in order to see him amid the gloom.
Dear young people, may you too “watch in the night visions”! What does this mean? It means letting your eyes remain bright even amid the darkness. Never stop seeking the light amid whatever darkness we may often bear in our hearts or see all around us. Lift your gaze from earth to heaven, not in order to flee but to resist the temptation to remain imprisoned by our fears, for there is always the danger that our fears will rule us. Do not remain closed in on ourselves and our complaints. Lift up your eyes! Get up! This is the word of encouragement that the Lord speaks to us, the invitation to lift up our eyes, to get up, and I wanted to repeat it in my Message to you for this year of journeying together. You have been entrusted with an exciting but also challenging task: to stand tall while everything around us seems to be collapsing; to be sentinels prepared to see the light in night visions; to be builders amid the many ruins of today’s world; to be capable of dreaming. This is crucial: a young person unable to dream, has sadly become old before his time! To be capable of dreaming, because this is what people who dream do: they do not remain in the darkness, but light a candle, a flame of hope that announces the coming of the dawn. Dream, make haste, and look to the future with courage.
I would like to tell you something: we, all of us, are grateful to you when you dream. “But really? When young people dream, sometimes they make a din…”. Make a noise, because your noise is the fruit of your dreams. When you make Jesus your life’s dream, and you embrace him with joy and a contagious enthusiasm, it means you do not wish to live in the night. This does us good! Thank you for all those times when you work courageously to make your dreams come true, when you keep believing in the light even in dark moments, when you commit yourselves passionately to making our world more beautiful and humane. Thank you for all those times when you cultivate the dream of fraternity, work to heal the wounds of God’s creation, fight to ensure respect for the dignity of the vulnerable and spread the spirit of solidarity and sharing. Thank you above all, because in a world that thinks only of present gain, that tends to stifle grand ideals, you have not lost the ability to dream in this world! Do not live your lives numbly or asleep. Instead, dream and live. This helps us adults, and the Church as well. Yes, as a Church too, we need to dream, we need youthful enthusiasm in order to be witnesses of the God who is always young!
Let me tell you another thing: many of your dreams are the same as those of the Gospel. Fraternity, solidarity, justice, peace: these are Jesus’ own dreams for humanity. Don’t be afraid to encounter Jesus: he loves your dreams and helps you to make them come true. Cardinal Martini used to say that the Church and society need “dreamers who remain ever open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit” (Conversazioni notturne a Gerusalemme, Sul rischio della fede, p. 61). Dreamers who keep us open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit. This is beautiful! I hope and pray that you will be one of these dreamers!
Now we come to the second image, to Jesus who says to Pilate: “I am a king”. We are struck by Jesus’ determination, his courage, his supreme freedom. Jesus was arrested, led to the praetorium, interrogated by those who had the power to condemn him to death. In such a situation, he had every right to defend himself, and even “make an arrangement” by coming to a compromise. Instead, Jesus did not hide his identity, he did not mask his intentions, or take advantage of the opening that even Pilate had left for him. With the courage born of truth, he answered: “I am a king”. He took responsibility for his own life: I have a mission and I will carry it to fulfilment in order to bear witness to my Father’s Kingdom. “For this”, he says, “I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (Jn 18:37). This is Jesus, who came without duplicity, in order to proclaim by his life that his Kingdom is different from the kingdoms of the world; that God does not reign in order to increase his power and to crush others; he does not reign by force of arms. His is the Kingdom of love: “I am a king”, but of this Kingdom of love; “I am a king” of the Kingdom of those who give their lives for the salvation of others.
Dear young people, Jesus’ freedom draws us in. Let us allow it to resonate within us, to challenge us, to awaken in us the courage born of truth. Let us ask ourselves this: Were I in Pilate’s place, looking Jesus in the eye, what would I be ashamed of? Faced with the truth of Jesus, the truth that is Jesus, what are the ways I am deceitful or duplicitous, the ways I displease him? Each of us will find such ways. Look for them, seek them out. We all have these duplicities, these compromises, this “arranging things” so that the cross will go away. It is good to stand before Jesus, who is truth, in order to be set free from our illusions. It is good to worship Jesus, and as a result, to be inwardly free, to see life as it really is, and not be deceived by the fashions of the moment and the displays of consumerism that dazzle but also deaden. Friends, we are not here to be enchanted by the sirens of the world, but to take our lives in hand, to “take a bite out of life”, in order to live it to the full!
In this way, with the freedom of Jesus, we find the courage we need to swim against the current. I would like to emphasize this: swimming against the current, having the courage to swim against the current. Not the daily temptation to swim against other people, like those perpetual victims and conspiracy theorists who are always casting blame on others; but rather against the unhealthy current of our own selfishness, closed-mindedness and rigidity, that often seeks like-minded groups to survive. Not this, but swimming against the tide so as to become more like Jesus. For he teaches us to meet evil only with the mild and lowly force of good. Without shortcuts, without deceit, without duplicity. Our world, beset by so many evils, does not need any more ambiguous compromises, people who move back and forth like the tide – wherever the wind blows them, wherever their own interests take them – or swing to the right or left, depending on what is most convenient, those who “sit on the fence”. A Christian like that seems more of an “equilibrist” than a Christian. Those who are always performing a balancing act are looking for ways to avoid getting their hands dirty, so as not to compromise their lives, not to take life seriously. Please, be afraid of being young people like that. Instead, be free and authentic, be the critical conscience of society. Don’t be afraid to criticize! We need your criticism. Many of you, for example, are critical of environmental pollution. We need this! Be free in criticism. Be passionate about truth, so that, with your dreams, you can say: “My life is not captive to the mindset of the world: I am free, because I reign with Jesus for justice, love and peace!” Dear young people, it is my hope and prayer that each of you can joyfully say: “With Jesus, I too am a king”. I too reign: as a living sign of the love of God, of his compassion and his tenderness. I am a dreamer, dazzled by the light of the Gospel, and I watch with hope in the night visions. And whenever I fall, I discover anew in Jesus the courage to continue fighting and hoping, the courage to keep dreaming. At every stage in life.
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 25 November 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, which we celebrate today, is set at the conclusion of the liturgical year and recalls that the life of creation does not advance at random, but proceeds toward a final destination: the definitive manifestation of Christ, Lord of history and of all creation. The conclusion of history will be his eternal kingdom. Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Jn 18:33-37) speaks to us about this kingdom, the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of Jesus, recounting the humiliating situation that Jesus is in after being arrested in Gethsemane: bound, insulted, accused and led before the authorities of Jerusalem. And then, he is presented to the Roman prosecutor, as one who seeks to undermine political power, to become the king of the Jews. So Pilate conducts his inquest and, in a dramatic interrogation, twice asks Jesus if He is a king (cf. vv. 33, 37).
And Jesus initially responds that his kingship “is not of this world” (v. 36). Then he states: “You say that I am a king” (v. 37). It is evident from his entire life that Jesus does not have political ambitions. Let us recall that after the multiplication of the loaves, the people, excited by the miracle, would have sought to proclaim him king, to overturn the Roman power and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. But for Jesus the kingdom is something else, and it is certainly not achieved by revolt, violence and the force of arms. This is why he withdrew alone to pray on the mount (cf. Jn 6:5-15). Now, in responding, He makes Pilate take note that His disciples did not fight to defend Him. He says: “if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews” (Jn 18:36).
Jesus wants to make it understood that above and beyond political power there is another even greater one, which is not obtained by human means. He has come to earth to exercise this power, which is love, by bearing witness to the truth (cf. v. 37), the divine truth which ultimately is the essential message of the Gospel: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8); and he wishes to establish in the world his kingdom of love, justice and peace. And this is the kingdom of which Jesus is king, and which extends until the end of times. History teaches us that kingdoms founded on the force of arms and on the abuse of power are fragile and sooner or later collapse. But the Kingdom of God is founded on his love and is rooted in hearts — the Kingdom of God is rooted in hearts —, conferring peace, freedom and fullness of life upon those who embrace it. We all want peace; we all want freedom and we want fulfilment. And how do you do this? Allow the love of God, the Kingdom of God, the love of Jesus, to take root in your heart and you will have peace, you will have freedom and you will have fulfilment.
Today Jesus asks us to allow him to become our king. A king who, with his word, his example and his life immolated on the cross saved us from death, and — this king — indicates the path to those who are lost, gives new light to our existence marred by doubt, by fear and by everyday trials. But we must not forget that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. He will give new meaning to our life — at times even put to difficult tests through our mistakes and our sins — merely on the condition that we not follow the logics of the world and of its ‘kings’.
May the Virgin Mary help us to welcome Jesus as the king of our life and to spread his kingdom, by bearing witness to the truth which is love.
ADDRESS SOURCE: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/angelus/2015/documents/papa-francesco_angelus_20151122.html
PHOTO SOURCE: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, “Cristo Rey” (Museo del Prado, Madrid) in http://www.mossenjoan.com/cristrei/Cristrei1.JPG
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