Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
What is the Kingdom of God? Are we talking about an actual kingdom with a real king and political ministers and knights and subjects and all that? Or are we talking about some sort of earthly utopia where we're all living in glorious harmony like angels? Or is the Kingdom of God just another name for the Church, the Body of Christ? No, it's none of these. When asked about the coming of the kingdom, Jesus says, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.'” So, the coming of the kingdom cannot be seen, but once it's here can we see it? Yes. Sort of. Jesus adds, “For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.” Look around. Do you see any kings, thrones, knights, or other kingdom-like accoutrements? What does Jesus mean by “the Kingdom of God is among you” and what does this tell us about the nature of the kingdom? Simply put: Jesus is referring to his own presence among God's people. God's kingdom is eternal—it was; it is; and it will be. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow, Christ is among us, and with him, God's Kingdom.
Jesus warns his disciples that after he has suffered, died, and rose again, they will long to see him. Their desire to live just one more day with the Son of Man will be a temptation for them, “There will be those who will say to you, 'Look, there he is,' or 'Look, here he is.'” This temptation will be exploited by the Enemy to raise up one false Messiah after another, one false kingdom-utopia after another. And many of God's people will be duped into throwing their lot in with these frauds and their schemes. “Do not go off, do not run in pursuit,” he warns. Unfortunately, many of his followers did just that when news of his arrest and execution spread. Even his closest friends denied knowing him and fled in fear for their lives. Only with the coming of the Holy Spirit did they find the strength to do the hard work of living in the kingdom. Jesus' warning about not running after false Messiahs and fraudulent kingdom-utopias should ring loudly and clearly in our ears. Thanks be to God, we have the Holy Spirit permeating the Church; the authority of the magisterium; and the grace of the sacraments grounding us in the Rock of Salvation.
If the Church is grounded in Christ by the strength of the Holy Spirit, then why do we say that the Church is not the kingdom? Christ came among us as one of us to announce the arrival of the kingdom. The Catechism puts it this way: “It was the Son's task to accomplish the Father's plan of salvation in the fullness of time. . .'The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God. . .' Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. The Church 'is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery'” (763). In other words, the Church (that's us) is the seed of the kingdom on earth, not yet fully grown but germinated and growing. And we are charged—even with all our ugly warts and wounds—with preparing this world for the Reign of God, the rule of divine love through justice and peace. This is what it means to live right now, this second, as if we were already living in the heavenly presence of God. We aren't just trying to get to heaven. We are also trying to show the world what the Reign of God will look like when His kingdom is fully manifest. Kingdom-utopias built on human ideologies show us nothing more than the many and banal evils of man. Only Christ wields the wisdom and love necessary to bring the Father's eternal peace. He alone secures justice; gives food to the hungry; sets captives free. The Lord alone—not gov't's or politicians or utopias—the Lord alone gives sight to the blind; raises up those who are bowed down; loves the just; and protects strangers. And while we wait for his return to us, the Church—his true family—serves his will._____________
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