JOHN 18: 33b-37 NOVEMBER 22, 2009
Let's say your heritage or ancestral lineage is Italian, or French, or Latino, or in my case, Irish. What if you were to say one day, "I think I will be Greek." You drop all your ancestral ways, change your name, eat Greek food, and practice Greek customs. Now you might think this is very strange. Yet we do this every day with reference to our spiritual heritage. We are Catholic Christians, member of the Kingdom of God. We are children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus from our baptism. If you are like me, you forget all this most of the time and focus your life on other things.
Do I wake up and say to myself, "I am a child of God, loved by God and a freed member of the Kingdom of God?" No, I wake up and wonder if my computer is going to work the way I want, or if it will be too cold to run comfortably, or if there are bananas for my cereal in the kitchen. I forget my true identity and decide to live in some other kingdom, enslaved by worries and anxieties.
Jesus began this kingdom but in the Gospel he never directly says that he is a King even though Pilate pushes him on this. Jesus is not yet a King because he has yet no subjects. They are still hostages of the devil. Satan had a battle with Adam and Eve who were living in the Paradise Kingdom. Adam and Eve did battle with the cunning devil. They lost and became his hostages. When an army lost a battle in ancient times, hostages were taken by the winners. To get freed someone had to pay a ransom. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures the devil had the people, the lineage of Adam and Eve, enslaved to his kingdom. There was the Tower of Babel, Noah's Ark, the rebellion of God's chosen people in the desert, defeat by Greek and Roman pagans, all because the people forgot their heritage and decided to focus on things other than God.
God wants us back. So God tells Satan, "I will become a human being and you can have me executed in a shameful and painful fashion, if you will let me people go. Satan agrees. So now we are at the scene of today's Gospel. Jesus has to die to ransom us from captivity. Then he will be a King. He dies. The devil did not know about Resurrection. Jesus goes down into hell and gets all the people who are there. It is in our Apostles' Creed. We are all freed to live in the kingdom. In baptism we become Kings. It says it right there in the ritual. We become sisters and brothers of Jesus, and children of God. But like an Italian who decides to be Greek, we decide to give up this identity and be like Pilate, slaves to passing things.
Jesus' hands are bound but he is really free in the Gospel. Pilate's hands are not tied but he is bound by his focus on esteem, power and control. These are the things Pilate wakes up to think about. What about us? In the celebration of the Eucharist, we spiritual royalty come together to celebrate the Kingdom in which we live and eat of the food of God prepared by and for a royal people.