34th Sunday of the Year

Christ the King of Truth

There is no doubt that we are still reeling from the events of the Paris attacks and their aftermath. Just trying to imagine the sheer terror for those involved and wondering what would happen if such an attack were to take place here in the UK, fills us all with horror. It seems that sadly but entirely understandably, in some respects the terrorists have succeeded in one of their aims, namely that of generating an atmosphere of fear and suspicion in peoples’ minds where before there was none.

Many words have been spoken on both the radio and TV, and many newspaper column inches written about what motivated the attacks and what drove the terrorists to do what they did. Furthermore there have been plenty of views put forward about what these particular atrocities might mean for our western culture and our style of living. Some commentators are arguing that an existential shift has taken place, such that a new mind set is required simply in order to understand what has taken place. I’m not so sure. Certainly these people have set their ideology within the context of a religion, but their ideology is predicated on hatred and evil, ideals which have no valid place in any religion. Furthermore they then attempt to justify these ideals by conflating them with a warped and misguided view of the religion which they claim to be following. We know only too well from our own history how so called “religious wars” have left their scars. These acts of murder must be seen for what they are, and not for what the propaganda machines of the terrorists might otherwise wish.

What then is our response? As the Church, we are given this weekend the image of Christ the King to meditate upon, and in doing so we can draw from this image several aspects which speak to us about the nature of our religion and its capacity to gather us together rather than to tear us apart. About its call to cherish our commonality as members of the human family made in the image and likeness of God rather than to segregate and separate us as different and diverse, and finally to challenge us to understand kingship as broad avenue to love and truth rather than a dark cul de sac to hatred and evil.

The words of the gospel take us to the exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. We see in this encounter the unfolding of the meaning of “kingship”, which itself is juxtaposed against Pilate’s question “what is truth?”. All of us have an interest in wanting to claim a monopoly on the meaning of this phrase. No doubt it gives us a certain caché if we believe that what we say, holds sway. But of course one person’s truth is another’s inconvenience. If as we believe will happen, that ultimately we all will stand before the God of truth, then this encounter between Jesus and Pilate has a major significance for us as Christians. This is because it seems that too often we experience the truth that only force and fear can convince. What Jesus shows in the gospel, is that his authority is not reliant on this force or fear. In Jesus standing before the authority of Caesar and being condemned to death we see something much more profound. What we see is the image of the victim of tyranny and oppression, confronting their aggressor, and by presenting to them their vulnerability, they exhibit the kingship and victory of Christ over them as they show up and expose the bankruptcy of the ideology which faces them. Thus every ideology which has at its heart an emptiness and disregard for the value of human life and for the truth that each person is made in the image and likeness of God, will never prevail.

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