By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis prayed the Angelus on Sunday with thousands of pilgrims huddled under umbrellas in a rainy St. Peter’s Square. He even complemented their courage. “You’re brave to have come with this rain!” he said.
In his address ahead of the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father reflected on the day’s Gospel passage (Jn 18:33b-37) and the Solemnity of Christ the King. He said Jesus’ kingdom rests on the power of love, since God is love.
Christ the King
Pope Francis noted that the feast of Christ the King “reminds us that the life of creation does not advance by chance, but proceeds towards a final goal: the definitive manifestation of Christ, the Lord of history and of all creation.” He said the end goal of history will be fulfilled in Christ’s eternal kingdom.
In the day’s Gospel, Jesus has been dragged – bound and humiliated – before Pontius Pilate to be tried. The Pope said the religious authorities of Jerusalem present Jesus to the Roman governor of Judea as one who is seeking to supplant the political authority of Rome. They say he wants to become king.
So Pilate interrogates him, twice asking Jesus if he is the king of the Jews. Jesus replies that his kingdom “is not of this world”.
“It was evident all his life that Jesus had no political ambitions,” the Pope said. He noted that, after the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus’ followers had wanted to proclaim him king and to overthrow the power of Rome, in order to restore the kingdom of Israel. Jesus responded, the Pope said, by retreating to the mountain alone to pray.
Love over political power
With his responses to Pilate, Pope Francis said Jesus “wants to make it clear that above political power there is another, much greater power, which is not achieved by human means.”
Jesus, he said, “came to earth to exercise this power, which is love, to testify to the truth.”
The Holy Father said this divine truth, “which is ultimately the central message of the Gospel”, is that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8).
Pope Francis said Jesus worked to establish “his kingdom of love, justice, and peace in the world”. Jesus’ kingdom, the Pope said, will last until the end of time.
Founded on love
He contrasted this eternal kingdom with short-lived, earthly kingdoms. “History teaches that kingdoms founded on the power of arms and lies are fragile and collapse sooner or later.”
The kingdom of God, Pope Francis said, “is founded on his love and is rooted in the heart, granting peace, freedom, and fullness of life to those who accept it.”
Finally, the Holy Father said Jesus is asking us to let Him become our king. “A king who by his word, example, and life sacrificed on the cross has saved us from death and points the way to people who are lost, and gives new light to our existence that is marked by doubt, fear, and daily trials.”
But, said Pope Francis, we must not forget that Jesus’ kingdom “is not of this world.”
“He can give new meaning to our life, which is at times put to the test even by our mistakes and sins, only on the condition that we do not follow the logic of the world and its ‘kings’.”