Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Kingdom of God

(3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, A)

Over the last couple of Sundays we have been hearing about the end of the ministry of John the Baptist and the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, and now the transition is complete. John is arrested, Jesus establishes his “home base” in Capernaum and he begins to preach. As Matthew tells us, “Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

This proclamation of the kingdom of God and the good news that this kingdom is “at hand” is the central message and teaching of Jesus Christ. So for us, as his disciples, as those who call themselves Christians, it would be good for us to have a full, robust, compelling idea of what is meant by the “kingdom of God.”

What is the kingdom of God? The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults puts it this way:

The Kingdom of God is Jesus’ presence among human beings calling them to a new way of life as individuals and as a community. This is a kingdom of salvation from sin and a sharing in divine life. It is the Good News that results in love, justice, and mercy for the whole world. The Kingdom is realized partially on earth and permanently in heaven. We enter this Kingdom through faith in Christ, baptismal initiation into the Church, and life in communion with all her members.

In this description of the kingdom of God we hear about what it is, where it’s going, and how we can join in. The kingdom is first of all the presence of Jesus among us, calling us to a new way of life. In the recovery movement they define insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.’ That’s what our world is like, suffering from war and poverty, from oppression and violence. And yet we keep doing the same old thing, thinking maybe it will get better. No! The answer is a new way of life, the life of the gospel, the life of Holy Communion with God and each other that comes to birth in this Eucharist. The same goes for our individual lives. We need someone to free us from the cycles of sin and maladaptive behaviors that we fall into over and over, even though we know thy make us miserable. This is what the kingdom of God is for us: the presence of Jesus calling and empowering us to live in a new, different, happy and constructive way.

This peace and joy, this happiness and freedom from misery, anxiety, depression and sin is the final destiny of the world. Final peace and joy in God is where everything is going in the permanent fullness of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God which is present now in the mysteries of the sacraments and of Christian love will one day come to be all in all. And so we may as well jump in now!

So how do we join in with this revolution that God is working in history and in our lives, in this growing kingdom of God? First of all we enter the kingdom through faith, for faith acknowledges that Jesus Christ is Lord, that it is he who is the king of all, and that all of the idols and false gods around us are worthless. When we acknowledge Christ the King, we are members of his kingdom. Secondly, we enter into the mystery of the kingdom of God by entering into the mystery of the Church. Now the Church is not the same thing as the kingdom of God, but the Church is part of the mysterious presence of the kingdom of God in history and in our individual lives. That’s why our initiation into the Church through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist is important. We who are baptized come to the Eucharist each week to renew ourselves, to be initiated anew into the communion of Jesus Christ with the Father. That’s the ultimate Holy Communion, the communion of Jesus with the Ultimate Mystery we call the Father. And by our communion with the Body and Blood of Christ in this Mass, we tag along gratefully.

By the Holy Communion we celebrate and receive in this Eucharist we enter into the perfect love and relationship that is the Holy Trinity of God. And for us and for human history, that’s what we call the Kingdom of God.

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