Sunday, November 22, 2015

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 34 Sunday Ordinary Time B, Nov. 22, 2015, Beverly Bingle, RCWP

The title of King is foreign to us.
To our 21st century American ears, it connotes domination.
It goes against our cherished values of freedom and liberty for all.
It excludes the female half of the population.
Definitely not a positive or attractive metaphor, not helpful.
So what are we to make of this celebration?
Some would have us throw it out.
Some would just ignore it.
But our ancestors in faith
heard the words “king” and “kingdom”
very differently from the way we do.
For ordinary Jews it was time without much hope.
Most of them lived lives of quiet desperation.
A few of them fought back with violence,
leading to the First Jewish War
that ended in the destruction of the Temple,
but most of them just kept on the best they could.
They knew from their own experience
that the values of the world around them were askew,
and they saw those false values enforced by a despot—
Herod Antipas—who called himself “king of the Jews”
and an emperor—Tiberius—who was hailed as a god.
When Jesus came, preaching a reign
of justice, peace, love, truth, and freedom for all,
what he proclaimed was very good news to them.
He told them that King Herod is not #1.
King Herod may have power, but God is in charge.
Herod rules with force and domination.
God rules with love.
And God's rule is here right now.
The contrast between the powers of domination
and the Way of Jesus
was stark.
So those Jewish farmers and laborers and slaves
under the civil rule of the Roman Empire
found hope in following the Way of Jesus of Nazareth.
His Way brought them peace that lasted.
His Way brought them justice.
They began to follow.
In spite of the vocabulary problem,
in spite of scholars telling us
that Jesus himself never claimed to be a king,
this passage from John's Gospel
still has a lesson for us about the Way of Jesus.
One of the points today's passage makes revolves around power:
Who is king?
As we would ask, Who's in charge?
Pilate thinks he is.
He's the prefect of the Roman province of Judea.
He works for the emperor.
Pilate's politics rule his thinking.
If this Jesus from Nazareth is claiming to be the King of the Jews,
that's treason, because the Roman Senate
has designated Herod Antipas as its vassal
and given him the title “king of Judea.”
So John teaches what the Way of Jesus is like
by creating this interrogation scene.
It has the structure of a dialogue, but it's not.
Pilate asks questions, but he doesn't listen to the answers.
We've all been in situations like that.
People with power,
whether in the state or in the church or on the job,
too often make decisions without listening.
Instead of entering into dialogue, they interrogate.
Pilate starts with the blunt question, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus doesn't answer the question.
Instead he asks Pilate who made the charge.
He enters into dialogue.
Pilate's answer makes the source of the accusation clear,
and he asks Jesus what behavior of his
has caused the charge to be made against him.
He interrogates.
And Jesus continues to dialogue,
explaining to Pilate that his is a different kingdom,
not like the Roman empire that rules by force.
The only thing Pilate is able to hear
is that Jesus has a kingdom somewhere;
he interrogates, “Then you are a king?”
Jesus continues the dialogue once more,
explaining that his mission is not political
but is to witness to the truth.
Still unable to hear what Jesus is saying,
Pilate concludes that Jesus says he's a king—
doesn't matter where or what he means by it—
and that's the end of the interrogation.
Jesus is guilty of treason.
That same dynamic continues today.
Some people still hear like Pilate,
ears closed to anything that is not what they're after.
Pilate's mindset too often
runs our government, our business, our world.
We have seen it in the Roman Curia.
We see it in Congress.
We see it in our city.
It's a power-driven mindset
that oppresses people and destroys lives.
In the face of power, Jesus stood and spoke truth.
We're called, following Jesus,
to listen, to learn from others, to dialogue.
We're called to speak truth to power.
Our gathering here speaks truth to power
about patriarchy and hierarchy and inclusiveness.
Our letters to the editor
and our calls to public officials
and our testimony at government hearings
speak truth to power.
Our contributions to organizations working for social justice
speak truth to power.
And all week long, all life long,
the way we live our faith
speaks truth to power.
It may not be very helpful for us to think of Christ as king.
But we know that when we follow his Way, God's in charge.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

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