By Father Anthony F. Raso
THIS IS THE solemn feast of Christ the King and I am going to begin our column with a reference to the famous movie “The Bride of Frankenstein.” It will be a long time before you read another “Sunday’s Scriptures” column that begins on this note, so hang in there.
In that famous movie, there is a mad scientist who lures Doctor Frankenstein back into the laboratory by showing him his own experiment in which he has created a tiny king, who looks and acts like Henry VIII, even to the point of attacking three other tiny experiments.We are relieved when the mad scientist picks up the tiny king, deposits him back into his jar and puts a cork in it – and him.
He’s a king and he is bad to the core. That is how we think of kings, especially in this country that sent George III packing in 1776. He represented tyranny and we wanted freedom. We are drawn to freedom like flowers are drawn to the sun.
Dream Come True
Now, consider the King that the Scriptures present us today. Daniel shows us a glorious figure coming out of the clouds, filled with “dominion, glory and kingship,” and whose kingship is “everlasting.” If Henry VIII was a nightmare, then this King is a dream come true. As the Responsorial Psalm sings out, “The Lord is King, He is robed in majesty” and “(His) decrees are worthy of trust (and) holiness befits (His) house.” If the kings of this world have for the most part let us down, this King will never disappoint us in this world and is preparing a place for us in the next one because of His everlasting love.
This is certainly not the way we think of kings in this world and as the Gospel tells us today, neither did Pontius Pilate. In virtually every movie or television program we’ve ever seen about the events of Holy Week, Pilate is presented as, if not a hero, then clearly as someone who strongly suspects that something is terribly wrong with condemning this man to death.
This is what we see in the Gospel today. Pilate sees no reason to condemn Him because he can’t register in his mind that He is guilty of being a “king.” What sort of “king” is this forlorn figure? Pilate knows what a potentate is: He is Tiberius Caesar or someone as strong and forbidding as that. This bedraggled man, on the other hand, is like no “king” that he has ever seen, and so He must be innocent of these ridiculous charges.
Pilate almost lets Him go and fails to do so not because he becomes convinced of His guilt, but because he’s a coward and gives in the threats of the people before him. He never in fact declares that Christ is guilty; he just washes his hands of the whole thing, literally.
Yet, this is Christ our King, surely, completely and forever. It is not earthly power that He possesses but the greater and more eternal power of love, a love that simply will not die. We can’t rely upon an earthly king who will disappoint us now, and then disappear from history. The kings of this world are pretty shallow figures. (No offense meant here, but the future king and queen of England are famous mostly because they’re good-looking and nice kids.)
The King of Heaven and Earth is more profound and genuine than any figure who ever lived. What Pilate suspected about the seemingly sad figure before him was entirely correct: He is Innocence and He is Love. There is a power about him that no Caesar would ever possess. When everything else in this world has passed away, He will still be there because Love is the most powerful force of all.
As St. John tells us in the Book of Revelation today, our King is the most faithful witness, the ruler of all the kings of the world. He has loved us and freed us from our sins.This can be said of no other king or queen who ever lived or ever will. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Almighty God. If we put our trust in this King, we will be the wisest people in the world.
Henry VIII was a nightmare in his time and a joke in ours through Hollywood’s portrayal of him. Christ our King was, is and always will be Love – a dream come true and a blessing for all time.
As our liturgical year ends and a new year begins next weekend, we should rejoice in the fact that we have in Him a King so powerful that he still haunts the dreams of the Pontius Pilates of the world, but blesses the dreams of all those who will be His new apostles, new Mary Magdalenes and new prophets.
We have a wonderful opportunity, and all we have to do to make it real is to follow our King from here to heaven.
Readings Readings for the Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Daniel 7: 13-14
Psalm 93: 1, 1-2,
5 Revelation 1: 5-8
John 18: 33B-37
Father Anthony F. Raso is the parochial vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Dyker Heights.