Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B.
When we’re reading a book or watching a movie for the first time, we don’t always understand the significance of an event or character at the beginning of the story until we get to the very end. That’s one of the reasons for reading a book or watching a movie again and again: the beginning takes on new meaning in light of the end, and the end in light of the beginning. For me personally, The Lord of the Rings is a story that I’ve read again and again throughout my life. I read it for the first time in seventh grade, and read it again almost every year after that until I entered seminary. So I’ve read it probably about ten times. Perhaps you too have a story that you’ve returned to again and again throughout your life.
But when we step out of the world of books and movies, when we step into history, into what we call ‘real life,’ it often seems like our story is being written as we live, from moment to moment. If we look back in history, we can know something about the beginning of our story, but we can’t see into the future, and so we don’t know how our story will end. In the past year, in my work as a priest, I’ve encountered a lot of people who are filled with despair when they look to the future. They don’t know for sure what the future will hold, but they nonetheless despair for themselves, their families, their communities, and their country. They may even despair for the world as a whole.
In the face of this despair, we’re reminded this weekend, on this Feast of Christ the King, that Jesus is the Lord of history. He is, as He says in our second reading, “the Alpha and the Omega,” the beginning and the end. All time belongs to Him, and all ages. He is “the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.” Jesus knows the whole story. He is its author. And He is ultimately in control. He was there at the beginning of the story, at the dawn of creation, and He will be there at the end, when all of creation is made new. Jesus knows how every current event and character fits into this larger story. And He knows how good will be brought out of every evil. Our job is to entrust the past to His mercy, the future to His providence, and to try to live the present as best we can with the help of His grace.
But doing our best to live the present moment well isn’t all we can do. We can also try to situate ourselves and everything that’s going on in our lives into the larger story of salvation history. That’s one of the reasons God gave us the Bible. That’s one of the reasons why we’re not just meant to read the Bible once, but again and again. God gave us Sacred Scripture, and He wants us to return to it frequently, so that we can see our own personal history, the history of the Church, and the history of the world in light of this larger story. From our extraordinarily limited perspective—from the perspective of this present moment in our own history, the history of the Church, or the history of the world—Jesus might not seem to be in control; He might not seem to be the Lord of history. But the Bible makes it abundantly clear that He is, despite any evidence to the contrary.
When Jesus came before Pontius Pilate in our gospel today, and when He was later crucified with Pilate’s permission and under his authority, Jesus’ disciples we’re probably in despair. In fact, we know that many of them were. At that point in the story, they didn’t know how it would end. They would have known about the resurrection if they had trusted in Jesus’ words and had faith in the promises of Scripture, but they failed to situate their story in the context of the larger story of salvation history. And they probably thought, in those moments of despair, that Pilate would end up being a much more important figure in history than Jesus. They probably thought that Pilate was ultimately in control and that Jesus was powerless. But they, of course, were wrong: in the grand scheme of things, Pilate ended up being a mere footnote in history, while all of history was changed forever because of Jesus. Jesus was ultimately in control, even if it didn’t seem that way to the disciples in the moment they were living in.
Friends, at the end of time, the Pontius Pilate’s of today—those today who care nothing about truth and only about power—these people will end up being nothing more than mere footnotes. At the end of time, they will finally be seen to be what they in fact always were: rather insignificant figures in the grand scheme of things. But Jesus and His disciples—His disciples two-thousand years ago and His disciples today—will be seen to be the real movers and shakers of world history. At the end of time, it will be clear how Jesus was in control all along and how He used the Pontius Pilate’s of today to bring about His purposes. Jesus is the King of the universe. He is the Lord of history. All time belongs to Him, and all ages. Let us not forget that. Let us take hope in that, especially when we are tempted to despair. Amen.