Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday word, 22 Nov 15

Colliding Powers
Solemnity of Christ the King B (22 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I have been in the company of Pilate and Jesus of late. I am slowly reading John L. Allen’s The Global War on Christians. I have imagined Pilate and Jesus as I read. In one country Pilate is companies that deforest the jungle and individuals who force independent farmers to leave their land. Jesus lives in those who stand up for the farmers and decry the greed that fuels companies to strip the jungle bare. A world away Pilate is the assassins of Christians who seek harmony among people and respect for their worship and in the workplace. Jesus embodies the Christians who call for that harmony and respect at the cost of their lives. These and the book’s other “dispatches from the front lines of anti-Christian persecution”1 demonstrate that power that looks out for self and power that seeks the good of others collide today as in the days of Jesus.

Today’s solemnity is about power. Pilate embodies worldly power, power that looks out for self; Jesus embodies God’s power, power for other’s good. The scriptures illustrate both with words that do not speak to us as they did to their first hearers: kingdom; dominion; throne; king; and majesty. The solemnity is not about God’s power there and power here as much as it about the collision of powers: Jesus face to face with Pilate.

Their exchange of words can mislead us to think of places instead of power. Especially, Jesus’ answer, My kingdom does not belong to this world. …my kingdom is not here. Jesus had proclaimed from the first the kingdom of heaven, the power of God2; even that the kingdom of God is within you.3 That means God’s power resides in those who welcome it.

Pilate questioned Jesus as if he were going through the motions. He was afraid to be in the middle of a Jewish squabble.4 For Pilate—like many of Jesus’ people—Jesus was not the individual Pilate expected him to be. Pilate knew if one had power, one would fight to keep it. But Jesus told Pilate that if his were worldly power, “My attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over.” Jesus was the Long Awaited One5 but, he came not as people thought.

We reel at the fighting for power and its disastrous and deadly effects in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The collision of powers—for self, for others—is as new as it is old. One message of today’s solemnity is to allow Jesus to continue creating us as our true selves. The more we reflect the divine image in whom we are created, the more we allow the voice of Jesus speak and act through us as his agents.

Two things about letting Jesus recreate us are worth noting. First, it isn’t easy. Pope Francis recently admitted that. “It’s not easy…living in this world where temptations are many, and the ploy of a double life tempts us every day. …for us not only is it not easy, it’s impossible. [The Lord] alone is capable of doing it.”6 

That is the second: it is not our doing—the pope’s final comment: Jesus creates us. Jesus never forces us. We let Jesus create us like him. Sometimes we are freer to let Jesus create us. We want to notice what makes us freer and cultivate them. Jesus offers us himself in the Eucharist and his healing and help in his other sacraments. Celebrating the sacraments he gives us empowers us to join our voices and actions to his power. Joining ourselves to Jesus and his power we are not blasé, frightened Pilates who do little for the sake of our world. Instead we echo Jesus, the voice of real truth, and advance his power to refashion our world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for choosing to surrender himself for you and to you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to surrender to him so you and your life will be a faithful witness of his Spirit of power alive in you.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us live our royal, priestly, prophetic mission with renewed courage and conviction.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The book’s subtitle.
  2. Matthew 22.29 & Mark 12.24; Mark 9.1; Romans 1.16.
  3. Luke 17.21.
  4. John 19.8.
  5. John 1.9; 3.19; 6.14.
  6. His 17 November 2015 homily.


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