|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Dn 7:13-14||Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5||Rv 1:5-8||Jn 18:33b-37|
The king who serves his kingdom’s subjects
On this final Sunday of the liturgical year, the Lectionary asks RCIA participants and the believing community to think about different kinds of kings and kingdoms, and Jesus’ invitation to God’s kingdom.
The first reading from Daniel uses apocalyptic symbols and language to describe how God (“the Ancient One”) invests the son of man with “rule, honor, and kingdom.” Jewish hearers understand the “son of man” as a symbol of Israel, God’s people, whom God chooses to lead “all peoples, nations, and languages” to worship God together. Christian hearers interpret the “Son of Man” as Jesus, whom God sends to save and to call “all peoples, nations, and languages” into God’s eternal kingdom. That is, God’s kingdom is a community.
The second reading is from the opening of the book of Revelation, a Christian apocalypse. John the Seer uses symbolic language and titles to describe Jesus’ role in God’s saving plan: faithful witness refers to Jesus’ obedience to God’s plan in his passion and transformative death; firstborn of the dead refers to God’s raising Jesus, vindicating his life and work; and ruler of the kings of the earth refers to God’s glorification of Jesus at God’s right hand. Using baptismal language, John also reminds his believing community that they are also “kings, priests for God.”
John’s gospel recounts Jesus’ encounter with Pilate. Pilate interrogates Jesus about being a king, while Jesus invites Pilate to be part of God’s kingdom.
- What is a king? Pilate, the Roman ruler in Judea, asks Jesus if he is “the king of the Jews.” In Pilate’s mind, a king rules people with absolute authority. Pilate’s concern is that Jesus is a political threat to Roman order in Judea (Pilate’s office) or to the emperor. Pilate misses the point that “king of the Jews” is a messianic title. Inviting Pilate to faith, Jesus asks, “Do you believe I am the messiah, or did someone tell you I am the messiah?” Pilate disassociates himself from his Jewish subjects and rejects their messianic king. Concluding Jesus isn’t really a king, Pilate questions, “What did you do to be sent to me?” Jesus’ answer shifts the discussion from kings to kingdoms.
- What is a kingdom? Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom isn’t geographically located in this world. That is, unlike a bounded territory commanded by a king, Jesus’ kingdom is a community of believers everywhere: it’s not a “here,” it’s a “who.” Pilate, his thinking stuck in a king’s role and kingdom’s geography, concludes, “So you are a king.” Hearing Pilate’s continuing confusion, Jesus reveals the kind of “king” he is.
- What is Jesus’ kingship? Jesus defines his kingship through his identity and his mission: he is the incarnate Son whose mission is to witness to the truth. In John’s gospel, “the truth” is the revelation of God to humans. Jesus makes God present in his physical person, in his words, and in his actions. Everyone who encounters God listens to Jesus’ words and is invited into God’s kingdom. This is Jesus’ kingship: revelation, invitation, service. Ironically, Pilate, who encounters the Truth in person, dismisses Jesus’ revelation and invitation, cynically snapping: “What is truth?”
Today’s readings overturn the symbols and language of kings and kingdoms. God’s kingdom is not a limited, earthly kingdom; it is a universal community of believers who serve their king by inviting and serving others. What king do we choose to follow? To what kingdom do we pledge allegiance? Whom do we invite? Whom do we serve?