On Friday I had the privilege of traveling to the Big Apple, specifically to Carnegie Hall, to see our school’s Honor Choir perform Mass of the Children under the direction of the composer himself, John Rutter. Our choir’s director Tina Katella sent in a demo tape, and thus began a dream! Our kids did a terrific job; they enjoyed themselves and learned much in the process. You could see the excitement on their faces and hear the joy in their hearts.
We had a few hours to wait between our arrival in NYC and the performance, so I set out for two particular points. One of them was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, currently undergoing extensive renovations. I prayed that the kids would have a good time and do a good job. I also went shopping. It might have been the only nationwide business that didn’t have long waits or bickering on Black Friday. It might have been the only place in NYC where the cashier was a nun, and another sales associate told me about a pilgrimage he took through his native Spain. It certainly would have been the only place that had a chapel with the reserved Blessed Sacrament on the second floor. I’m talking about Pauline Books and Media, the Catholic book and gift shop operated by the Daughters of St. Paul, a community of religious women dedicated to the New Evangelization through communications media.
I bought the third and final volume of Pope Benedict’s work Jesus of Nazareth. It is concerned with the “Infancy Narratives” of Mt and Lk. This is the shortest book in the series, so I may finish it (appropriately) by Christmastide. But our Holy Father is not a writer of junk fiction. This isn’t the kind of book to be plowed through. I shall have to curb that tendency.
The very first chapter speaks to our current solemnity, Christ the King. Pope Benedict uses the scene of Jesus before Pilate—today’s Gospel—to introduce his treatment of Our Lord’s genealogy. In the midst of the interrogation session Pilate asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” Already the chief priests had established that Jesus claimed Himself to be the Son of God, an offense that deserved death according to the Jewish Law. As citizens of Rome, however, they felt it necessary to bring Jesus before a civil magistrate. This particular magistrate, the Pope says, was “frightened” by Jesus’ claim. A King whose kingdom was “not of this world” (Jn 18:36), whose mission was “to testify to the truth” (18:37)? This man was so unlike other anti-Roman rabble-rousers. By his own admission, Pilate was either unsure that there is an objective truth to be known, or denied it. But he wanted this much: to hear Jesus’ truth: His identity and mission. To encounter Jesus is to encounter the foundation for all truth and intelligibility. If something exists independent of my say-so, and if it can be known not just by me but by anyone and everyone, it’s because God has thought it and spoken it through His incarnate Word. To acknowledge objective truth is a crucial first step to acknowledging Jesus as King.
After the election I saw online postings of people affirming, “No matter who our President is, Jesus is still our king.” This will be very important to remember. How to live as faithful Catholics amid a quizzical and even hostile society will be the priority. If we fail to do this, we’ll find ourselves in Pilate’s position: wondering what truth is, who Jesus is, and who we are. It’s not my word to mark, it’s Jesus’ word: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to [His] voice” (18:37). We are so blessed to have the Church's clear voice speaking to the world, with her message of peace, fidelity, and service.
In this Year of Faith Catholics and all people of good will have been invited to explore the riches of knowing and loving Jesus the Christ, so that His Church and her teachings will mean more to us, will make more of a difference in our lives. With openness to the truth, an earnest inquiry promises an abundant yield. We will gain a greater confidence in sharing the faith, and our faith, with others.