Christ the King: The two truths
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Christ the King: The two truths

Today’s readings: Daniel 7, 13-14; Apocalypse 1, 5-8; John 18, 33-37.

In life, many a time we are confronted with two truths, the one we want to tell ourselves and the one we need to listen to. The truth we want to tell ourselves normally makes us feel good and comfortable with ourselves, whereas the truth we need to listen to may be hard to digest and possibly painful.

Today’s gospel text is an icon of these two truths personalised in Pilate and Jesus respectively. It depicts Jesus being interrogated by the political authority and it immediately precedes Pilate sentencing Jesus to death. From the text, it is difficult to tell who is interrogating whom. It happens so often with us whenever we persist in choices made while the truth inside us struggles to put us back on the right track. It is the perennial struggle inside us between Pilate and Jesus.

In 2016, ‘post-truth politics’ was named Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionary. The term highlights how rhetoric is increasingly becoming detached from policy ideas and focusing instead on emotion. Hannah Arendt, one of the most influential political philosophers of the 20th century, had warned about this in a 1967 work on Truth and Politics when she wrote that we seem to live more and more in an environment in which our ability to form judgement is significantly weakened.

We are becoming more prone to easily join the chorus, on whatever issues, rather than taking time  to reflect and learn to distinguish the fake from the good news, the truth from the lie. In that manner, we opt for the truth fabricated rather than for the truth within, which always needs to be dug up and which ultimately is the only truth that liberates.

The kingship of Jesus Christ that we are celebrating today is not in the first place the type of kingship we always projected on society and culture in plain political terms. It is first and foremost a kingship more in the nature of a seed planted in the depths of the hearts of people. That seed has the potential to grow, to change people’s lives, and only in turn to eventually impact society as a whole.

We always went the other way around. The outcome is that now, at this juncture of history and faced as we are with a surrounding culture by far no longer religious in perspective, we are tempted to think that God is dead or absent and that talk about His kingdom on earth has been belied.

The text from Daniel in the first reading invites us to “gaze into the visions of the night” because it is precisely in this apparent and tragic vacuum that we are called to discern the Lord’s presence. That presence is meant to transform the hearts much before transforming the world. In the second reading from John’s book of Revelation, John hails Jesus as “the faithful witness, the Lord God who is, who was, and who is to come”.

The Lord has no past, present or future. The Lord simply is, and His presence is no longer to be guaranteed through the visible traits of an exhumed religious past. “Be still and know that I am God,” goes Psalm 46. Our religious past has very often made God resemble a fossil, someone who is no more simply because society has become secularised.

The Lord, whose kingdom we celebrate today, is not the Lord who can be silenced by the truths we tell ourselves. He is the Lord who is still interrogating us and whose gentle voice within us needs to be listened to. Listening to His voice makes the seed of a new kingdom grow in our interiority, an interiority not necessarily Church-focused and surely not world-rejecting.

Unlike Pilate in his being confronted by the living truth, Jesus Christ enables us to handle the truth in our lives rather than escaping it.

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