John 18: 33-38
33 Then Pilate entered the courtroom again. He called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered him, "Are you saying this about me on your own or did someone else tell you this about me?" 35 Pilate retorted, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the high priests have put you in my hands. What did you do?"
36 Jesus answered him, "The kingdom which is mine is not from this world. If my kingdom was from this world, my subordinates would have fought to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. No, my kingdom is not from this side". 37 Pilate then said to him, "So then you are after all a king!" Jesus replied, "You say that I am a king. For my part, know that I was born and came into this world to testify in favor of the truth. Every being who is inhabited by the truth is receptive to what I say". 38 Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"
Searching, digging, finding
Gospel commentary - Homily
The feast of Christ the King, at the end of the liturgical year, easily directs our imagination towards this moment of triumph: the Christianized world, surrounding its king, in the midst of joyful songs and cheers. No matter how quickly we "spiritualize" all of this, the fact remains that there is a fundamental force within each of us which would like to see "his world" imposes itself. John Paul II, at the beginning of his pontificate, during his trip to Santiago de Compostela, clearly expressed the wish for a re-christianization of Europe, and this for extremely noble, even touching reasons.
However, I have the clear perception that the Gospel according to John of this celebration, through the dialogue of Jesus and Pilate, takes us in another direction, almost the opposite.
Unlike the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman, the encounter of Jesus and Pilate was a failure: Jesus could not give anything to the Roman procurator and, for the latter, Jesus was a source of embarrassment. Why such a failure? In my opinion, the first reason is his refusal to assume personally the question on the identity of Jesus: to the question of Jesus (Do you say that on your own...), he replies: "Am I a Jew?". In fact, he shifts, he refuses to take a stand, he dismisses great existential concerns, and this moment probably sums up so many other moments of his life. It is all the more disturbing that Pilate can represent certain aspects of ourselves.
There is, in my opinion, a second, probably more important reason for the failure of the dialogue. Jesus says, "Every being who is inhabited by the truth is receptive to what I say." In other words, only a person who seeks the truth with his whole life can be open to what Jesus says. What does Pilate answer? "What is the truth?", implied: what is this nonsense?
What is this truth, of which John speaks? Describing it is so unclear that it is better to start by saying what it is not: "The kingdom which is mine is not from this world". We are not talking here about what the investigator is looking for who wants to shed light on the facts or about the scientist who is trying to understand complex physical or chemical processes. It is much more inclusive than that and deeply engages the whole person. Likewise, it cannot be forced. "If my kingdom was in this world, my subordinates would have fought to prevent me from being handed over to the Jews. No, my kingdom is not from this side", said Jesus. The medieval inquisitors wanted to establish doctrinal truth, but they were not seekers of truth.
There is another negative description of the truth: it is not fixed, tied up once and for all. This is because it is constantly on the move, constantly confronted with realities that are sometimes difficult to understand, with questionns without answers. What did Jesus, who once marveled at the Providence of God (birds in the sky, lilies in the fields), experience now that he is confronted with the mystery of evil and his personal social degradation? The evangelist Mark presents us a Jesus who dies with a question: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This is probably where we, with all the Pilates in the world, stumble: as we do not control it, it appears unattainable.
Despite the difficulty of speaking about it, we nevertheless have the feeling of being discreetly seekers of truth, if only by the internal conflicts that we are experiencing, where we awkwardly seek a little light. I pondered this question for a long time, until the evangelist himself reminded me of this incredible reality: the truth escapes all definition, because it identifies itself ultimately with the being of God, or in the words of John, to Jesus himself. We are engaged in a quest that has an infinite horizon, where each answer calls for several other questions, because it is a long walk towards God. To become aware of one's own quest for truth is to discover the deepest presence of the one who said: "I was born and came into this world to testify in favor of the truth", or even: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life ".
This is the kingdom of which Jesus speaks. A kingdom often very unpopular, very little frequented. What a paradox! However, here is the most powerful seed to transform the world, because it initiates an endless movement. But you should know that this seed is here at work when we agree to no longer control everything (Your own nation and the high priests put you in my hands).
The feast of Christ the King is addressed to all seekers of truth. It celebrates not the anticipated triumph of Christianity, but the faith that we are mysteriously advancing towards the person of Christ Jesus, because a part of him dwells in us, and we will have no rest except in him.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, August 2000