The Feast of Christ the King
Dn 7:13-14 / Rv 1:5-8 /Jn 18:33-37
A very smooth advertising executive died and, by some administrative error, went straight to heaven. However, when he arrived at the gates, St. Peter had some bad news for him. “I’m terribly sorry,” he said, “but our new wing isn’t finished yet and we’ve had to set some quotas. Unfortunately, our quota for advertising and P.R. people is already filled. So you’ll just have to wait outside, unless you can persuade one of your colleagues to leave.”
“Just give me a few hours,” the ad man responded smoothly. And off he went. Before the day was over, every single ad executive in the whole of heaven had departed. St. Peter was stunned, “How did you do it?”
“Piece of cake,” replied the ad executive. “I just started a rumor that the devil was looking for a new ad agency.”
“By the way,” he continued, “I won’t be staying either. You never can tell about those rumors!”
We all talk baloney at times. It’s part of being human. But we can really get ourselves in trouble when we start believing our own baloney. And that’s what we do more often than we’d care to admit. Think of all the stories we’ve told ourselves and sold ourselves over the years.
– She’ll never find out.
– I’ll get started first thing tomorrow.
– Nobody will notice.
– Just one more time, and I’ll have enough.
– Who needs him!
– We’ll wipe ’em out, and then everything will be fine.
– I know they’d want me to have it.
– I’m sure God doesn’t mind.
– Once I get that, I’ll be set for life.
Those lines sound familiar, don’t they. They should, because we’ve probably said most of them, and believed them — partly — and walked around with our eyes squeezed shut, to keep out the truth. And worst of all, we’ve gotten angry when people have challenged us — angry when they’ve spoken up like the child in the nursery story, “Excuse me, sir, but the emperor has no clothes.”
That’s exactly how Jesus ended up condemned and in chains before Pilate in Sunday’s Gospel. When Pilate asked, “What have you done to get yourself in so much trouble?” Jesus answered, “I told the truth.” Now why would his telling the truth make so many people so angry and so fearful that they’d be willing to kill him to shut him up? Because deep down inside, where lies can’t live, they knew Jesus was right about them and about life. They knew that if they let his truth into their hearts, even for an instant, they’d have to change their lives from top to bottom. And they were afraid that that kind of change was just too much for them — afraid it would spoil what little happiness they’d been able to squeeze out of life.
They’d got it just backwards, because ironically, the lies we sell ourselves in our frightened search for happiness guarantee that we’ll always be sad. That’s because the lies that fear makes us live by always build up walls and cut us off from our best selves, from one another, and from the God who loves us.
Jesus has given us an alternative. It’s the only way of living that works, the only way of living that will bring us happiness. That’s why we call it “the truth.” The truth is this: If we make love our sole priority, and put real muscle into our loves, the walls built by lies and reinforced by fear will come tumbling down. And we’ll have the only joy that lasts.
Is loving like that really possible for us? Not on our own! But what we’re celebrating on the feast of Christ the King is that we’re not on our own. We have at our side — and on our side — the Lord Jesus, who has triumphed over all earthly powers and over death itself. And with him there, all things are possible.
So let us look our lies and our fears, large and small, straight in the eye, and call them by name, and bid them farewell. For we have seen Christ our savior; we have taken him as our Lord; and we have no need to lurk in the darkness anymore. We have embraced the truth, and it has set us free.