The Passion of Christ in the Gospel of John is the most dramatic narrative of this event. It is the epitome of grace under pressure.
Fr. Mat Sanchez, SJ, our Novice Master, would often describe Christ in this passion narrative as walking peacefully and regally to his throne, the Cross.
This is the Kingship of Christ, the Feast with which we end the liturgical year this Sunday. He triumphs over the whole world not by a victory of a crushing conquest but by one of transcendence and love.
It is a victory for all who wish to follow the path that Christ first travels and opens for all of us. This is his Kingship: He goes first to prepare the way and pays the price that we may see the prize at the end of this road, the way of love.
Zechariah’s canticle puts it eloquently. “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1: 78-79)
This is his Kingship: He casts light on our own pilgrimage in life, and guides (not simply shows) the way of peace, joy and love.
Today, I invite you to reflect on the price Christ had to pay for this, and the prize it promises. Let us look at the entire passion narrative in John 18, which opens with the arrest in the garden. In John’s version, the agony was over, Christ had made his choice.
It was in the Agony in the Garden (cf. Luke 22: 39-46) where Christ suffered the most, the interior struggle between his will and his Father’s will. It was choosing the latter that made him King and “because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (cf. Philippians 2: 9-11)
It is in choosing the Father’s will that Christ is bestowed peace and serenity, and his majesty assumes a numinous quality. He confronts all possible evil and corruption of this world with this. Scholars say there were around 200 soldiers arresting him but he faces them courageously with calm and peace.
He then faces a farcical trial with Annas and after Annas, his son-in-law Caiaphas. Annas was the corrupt and egotistic high priest who had an axe to grind, since it was his corrupt “business” in the temple that was affected by Christ’s cleansing of the temple. Through it all, Christ kept his cool and always took the higher ground.
Testifying to the truth
In today’s Gospel, Christ brings out two truths: that he is King not of this world, and that his mission was to testify to the truth.
The truth was he is the “beloved Son, with whom [the Father is] well pleased” and that we must “listen to him.” (cf. Matthew 17: 5b) It was for this that he came into our world and it was for this that he died to gain for us the prize of the fullness of life.
His Kingship of serenity, peace and majesty, as narrated in John, is the essence of what we could consider as the platinum standard of spiritual flow, of missionary flow.
Flow as developed into a psychological theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” For Christ, it was for the sake of mission, to do the Father’s will and to be the Beloved Son.
This is the Kingship of Christ. He was in a constant flow experience of grace and mission, where everything for him was about the truth of being the Beloved Son by doing the Father’s will.
His passion and death on the Cross and his Resurrection was the flow of the Paschal Mystery, where his passion and death was his being the Beloved Son and his Resurrection was the Father’s love of being well pleased.
His being my King, our King is following his path, of living a life so integrated by doing what God wants us to do in the day to day and, for some, a total offering on one’s life.
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.” Yet it is in this world that we build a kingdom of justice and peace, of hope, joy and love. It is here that we work tirelessly, “totus ad laborem,” giving oneself totally to the work to build a better world because “we have eternity in which to rest” (Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ), the eternity in the Kingdom of Christ the King. —CONTRIBUTED