21 November 2009


Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe
Jn 18:33-37

Five persons went for a job interview. They were strangers to one another. Though coming from different points, they reached the office almost together, an hour ahead of schedule. Upon arriving, they sat just outside the room for the interview, waiting for THE “moment”. There was no secretary. Instead, a computer printout was posted on the door: “Knock before you enter. Interview starts at 10:00 A.M. Enter one at a time, with a thirty-minute interval. After your interview, exit through the back door inside the room. Thank you.”

When ten o’clock arrived, the applicants started going in one by one with a thirty-minute interval as instructed. Finally, it was the last applicant’s turn – he stood up, approached the door, knocked, and entered. Upon entering, he was greatly surprised and confused by what he saw: seated in front of him were the other four applicants who went inside the room ahead of him. They were the ones to interview him after all! The interview was over.

There is also an interview in the gospel today. The interviewer is the governor of Judea – Pontius Pilate – and Jesus – the itinerant preacher from Galilee – is the interviewee. Where we stand in the history of humanity, we already know that this interview is far from the ordinary. It changed the entire history of humankind. But for now, as it happens in the gospel, there are no cameras to capture the moment, no gadgets to record the exchange, no media coverage. No other people are in the room – only Jesus and Pilate.

For the colonizers, any feast can be exploited by the Jews for rebellion against Rome. This forthcoming feast is the most volatile: it is the Great Pasch. Thus, Pilate arrived in Jerusalem, days ago, with a battalion of Roman soldiers. They are on red alert.

On this Pasch, the Jewish authorities handed over Jesus – a fellow Jew – to Pilate, the Procurator sent by Caesar from Rome. If he has his way, Pilate does not want to have anything to do with any conflicts of Jews among themselves; thus, how he wishes he could simply return Jesus to His accusers. But the accusers of the Galilean do not want Him back because they cannot put Him to death. And death is what they want for Jesus. Pilate, for his part, cannot help but be intrigued: “What is it in this Jesus that the elders and leaders – religious and others – of the people are so fuming mad at Him?” In the eyes of Pilate, Jesus is a perfect picture of serenity, meekness, and passivity. Jesus does not have armed forces that may threaten Caesar. Instead, Pilate even heard that Jesus’ teachings carry the recurring theme of love, forgiveness, gratefulness, and other values that Rome has nothing to worry about. The most Pilate can make sense of Jesus is that He is a lunatic. What adds to his confusion is his wife’s nightmare about Jesus, just the night before. So, what is it with Jesus? Pilate wants to know the truth. Does he? Really? Well, it seems.

Thus, Pilate interviews Jesus: “Are You the King of the Jews?” Amazing how Jesus turns the table. Upon answering the interviewer’s question, the INTERVIEWEE becomes the INTERROGATOR: “Do you say that of your own or others have told you so?” Clearly, now, Jesus cross-examines Pilate. If the governor interrogates the accused, the accused also has His own agendum in questioning the governor. But Pilate is not interested. Instead, betraying the grip of fear on him, he defends himself and reacts: “Am I a Jew? It is Your own people brought You to me.” Now tragedy has become a comedy: Pilate is now on the defense and Jesus prosecutes, Jesus sustains His bearing while Pilate struggles to hide his fear, Jesus interviews Pilate when Pilate should interview Jesus.

Jesus, nonetheless, assures Pilate there is nothing to fret about: His kingdom does not march to the drumbeat of political struggle. His kingdom is the kingdom of truth. “Veritas? Qui est veritas?” Pilate surrenders in his ignorance.

Truth? It seems that that is Pontius Pilate’s primary problem. He sees that Jesus is innocent but he allows himself to be intimidated by the shouts of the crowd.

Here is one good example that the saying “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” is not always correct, most especially when those who impose themselves on the people have already paid the populi. Pilate is afraid to be kicked out of Caesar’s graces because the people threatened him that they would bring the matter to Caesar if he would not act on the case of Jesus – swiftly and according to their demand for blood. If Pilate acts according to the truth, he will free Jesus. But, we already know that he will not. Perhaps, he is concerned with Jesus’ welfare – what with the interview he granted Him – but Pilate is not faithful to the truth he has come to know: Jesus is not guilty. No matter how strong this truth is, it has not effect on the decision and action of Pilate. Pilate fails the interview. He flanks because he fails to satisfy the first condition of giving witness to the truth.

How about us – will we pass the interview of Christ?

Quite often, we fail. We have our weaknesses, shortcomings, and sins. Each of us has a share of the guilt for the proliferation of lies and the suppression of the truth in our society. And, indeed, silence is enough for evil to triumph.

But knowing the truth is also not enough. Many know the truth but are not truthful at all. Take for example the lot of our own nation. While our beloved Philippines is the first Christian nation in the Far East, it is among the most corrupt countries in the world. We have well educated leaders – many of them earned their degrees in renowned universities and colleges both here and abroad, some even are Catholic institutions. Most of our leaders are intelligent: they know the truth. But are all of them truthful?

The truth is, he who knows the truth but is not truthful is more dangerous than he who is truthful but does not know the truth. For the former can twist the truth, break it into pieces, and slaughter it with the hatchet of lies. Jesus suffered death by crucifixion because of one who knew the truth – and had the power to uphold it – but was not truthful at all. Pontius Pilate was his name – the first trapo (traditional politician).

But Jesus – even at the height of His suffering up unto Calvary – remained steadfast in His witness to the truth, trusting the Father through and through, even as His accusers reviled Him and His friends deserted Him. His suffering did not ease even a bit. His wounds did not heal. But He remains truthful.

With compassionate service and life-giving love, enduring witness to truth is the sign of Jesus’ true kingship. And as His disciples, we shall be measured against our witnessing to His truth, to His love, to His life. The interview for those who wish to belong to His everlasting kingdom happens here and now. When we knock on the door and enter the room, may we not be surprised to see the familiar faces of our interviewers.


At 5:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could not find a suitable section so I written here, how to become a moderator for your forum, that need for this?

At 12:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"to be realistic about the way things are going in the world and to never lose hope in the future. " I like this line - very inspirational. It's really true to be realisic and to keep the hope - that's RESILIENCE.


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