©2013 St. John Evangelist, Horsham
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The liturgical year always ends with the celebration of the Feast of Christ the King. The gospel reading for Year B
is from John's gospel where the notion of God's kin-dom or reign or empire features only twice in contrast with its
frequent appearance in the other gospels, especially Matthew. For readers in a Western society where
democratic rule is valued and promoted, the whole notion of kingship poses some difficulty. We need to put the
exchange between Jesus and Pilate into the political context of Roman occupied Judaea of the first century.
Rome was the dominant world force. It had the economic and military strength to maintain its power over the
whole Mediterranean world. When Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world, he is not pitting the
created world or cosmos over against a purely spiritual world. He is referring
rather to the world and values of the Roman Empire and the destructive values that are sometimes espoused by
The term 'world' is used in two different senses in John's gospel, both literally and metaphorically. On the one
hand, it is the world that came into being through the Word (1:10), the beautiful cosmos or world that 'God so
loved' (3:16). On the other hand, it is a 'world' that rejected the light (1:10-
11), a sinful world in need of the saving power of God (3:17).
Jesus, as king, does not claim the sort of over-bearing political, military, or economic power that Pilate exercises
on behalf of the Roman emperor. His authority has nothing to do with power over or domination of others. It is
grounded in truth (1:18) or, in other words, in the revelation of God. Jesus is 'the way, the truth and the life' (14:
6) and his mission is to testify to the truth. The path to freedom and life lies in acceptance of the truth (8:32).
To celebrate this feast, then, is to move in the direction of peaceful solutions to the conflicts in our world and
away from the paths of violence and domination. It is to seek the truth in dialogue and to respond to the voices of
those who suffer the pain of hunger and of loss. It is to look again at how we inhabit our world and to change
our ways for the sake of truth and life, the present and future life of our beleaguered planet.