(Adults, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
This Sunday, we celebrate a feast called Christ the King. Both "Christ" and "King" are titles that tell us something about who Jesus is and what he does. "Christ" means "one who is anointed," one who is chosen by God for something special. At our Baptism, we are also anointed, so we call ourselves Christians. We belong to him. What does the title "King" tell us? What kind of king do we belong to?
Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Pilate is the Roman soldier who rules over Israel. He is the man who gives the order for Jesus to die on the cross. On the feast of Christ the King, we do not see Jesus Risen and Glorified, so full of eternal life that he can never die again. We do not see him riding triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey with everyone cheering. Instead, the Church has us thinking about the moments before Jesus' death. Before his resurrection. What kind of king is he, ready to die?
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world.
Not from this world? Pilate must wonder what this can mean. All he knows is this world. Pilate has a king—the emperor—back in Rome. Kings have armies of soldiers to take over the world. Pilate knows all about that. His emperor sent him to take over this small country of Israel.
“If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”
Pilate understands this. Kings and emperors of this world send out their armies to fight. An army of soldiers goes ahead of the king when he goes into battle. The king rides behind the army to stay safe. The soldiers die for him.
Jesus' followers are not fighting. They are not going ahead of Jesus into battle. Most of them are scared and hiding. Jesus's followers seem to be from this world, but they are not acting like the soldiers of this world. Maybe they belong to the Kingdom that Jesus comes from.
Pilate looks at Jesus who has been arrested, who will soon die. If he is a king, he is certainly not from this world. This King goes ahead of his people. This King dies for them. What kind of king is this??
This is a Shepherd-King. Pilate has not heard the Parable of the Good Shepherd. He has not Jesus say that the Good Shepherd,
“calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
Pilate has not heard that,
“When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
Pilate has not asked Jesus what kind of king he is. If only he would ask, he would hear,
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
No one dies for this king. He dies for them. Why?
Pilate does not ask why. He is determined, instead, to hear Jesus say that he is a king.
Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
This sort of talk really confuses Pilate. He does not know what the truth is. He has not spent time listening to Jesus' voice, so he does not know that in the Parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus says what the truth is.
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
Why does this King die for his followers? Why does he go ahead of them?
The truth is, so that they might have abundant life.
So much life.
Life together with him.
This is truth to be celebrated! How can we have this truth?
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
We listen to his voice, don't we? We listen to the Word of God. We pray. When we forget to listen, we say we are sorry, ask forgiveness, and receive his mercy because we are so loved. We start again. This is truth, and we belong to it.
Poor Pilate. He is not yet listening, is he? He does not belong to the truth. He is missing out on the abundant life.
But perhaps he will listen one day, for Jesus says, in the Parable of the Good Shepherd,