The Kingdom of God

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

In the Gospel passage proclaimed this Sunday, Jesus announces the time of fulfilment and the coming of the Kingdom of God. St. John Paul II explains the meaning of these sayings in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio.

“Jesus of Nazareth brings God’s plan to fulfillment. After receiving the Holy Spirit at his Baptism, Jesus makes clear his messianic calling: he goes about Galilee “preaching the Gospel of God and saying: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel'”. The proclamation and establishment of God’s kingdom are the purpose of his mission: “I was sent for this purpose”. But that is not all. Jesus himself is the “Good News,” as he declares at the very beginning of his mission in the synagogue at Nazareth, when he applies to himself the words of Isaiah about the Anointed One sent by the Spirit of the Lord. Since the “Good News” is Christ, there is an identity between the message and the messenger, between saying, doing and being. His power, the secret of the effectiveness of his actions, lies in his total identification with the message he announces; he proclaims the “Good News” not just by what he says or does, but by what he is.

The ministry of Jesus is described in the context of his journeys within his homeland. Before Easter, the scope of his mission was focused on Israel. Nevertheless, Jesus offers a new element of extreme importance. The eschatological reality is not relegated to a remote “end of the world,” but is already close and at work in our midst. The kingdom of God is at hand; its coming is to be prayed for; faith can glimpse it already at work in signs such as miracles and exorcisms, in the choosing of the Twelve, and in the proclamation of the Good News to the poor. Jesus’ encounters with Gentiles make it clear that entry into the kingdom comes through faith and conversion, and not merely by reason of ethnic background.

The kingdom which Jesus inaugurates is the kingdom of God. Jesus himself reveals who this God is, the One whom he addresses by the intimate term “Abba,” Father. God, as revealed above all in the parables, is sensitive to the needs and sufferings of every human being: he is a Father filled with love and compassion, who grants forgiveness and freely bestows the favors asked of him…

Jesus gradually reveals the characteristics and demands of the kingdom through his words, his actions and his own person.

The kingdom of God is meant for all mankind, and all people are called to become members of it. To emphasize this fact, Jesus drew especially near to those on the margins of society, and showed them special favor in announcing the Good News. At the beginning of his ministry he proclaimed that he was “anointed…to preach good news to the poor”. To all who are victims of rejection and contempt Jesus declares: “Blessed are you poor”. What is more, he enables such individuals to experience liberation even now, by being close to them, going to eat in their homes, treating them as equals and friends, and making them feel loved by God, thus revealing his tender care for the needy and for sinners.

The liberation and salvation brought by the kingdom of God come to the human person both in his physical and spiritual dimensions. Two gestures are characteristic of Jesus’ mission: healing and forgiving. Jesus’ many healings clearly show his great compassion in the face of human distress, but they also signify that in the kingdom there will no longer be sickness or suffering, and that his mission, from the very beginning, is meant to free people from these evils. In Jesus’ eyes, healings are also a sign of spiritual salvation, namely liberation from sin. By performing acts of healing, he invites people to faith, conversion and the desire for forgiveness. Once there is faith, healing is an encouragement to go further: it leads to salvation. The acts of liberation from demonic possession-the supreme evil and symbol of sin and rebellion against God-are signs that indeed “the kingdom of God has come upon you”.

The kingdom aims at transforming human relationships; it grows gradually as people slowly learn to love, forgive and serve one another. Jesus sums up the whole Law, focusing it on the commandment of love. Before leaving his disciples, he gives them a “new commandment”: “Love one another; even as I have loved you”. Jesus’ love for the world finds its highest expression in the gift of his life for mankind, which manifests the love which the Father has for the world. The kingdom’s nature, therefore, is one of communion among all human beings-with one another and with God.

The kingdom is the concern of everyone: individuals, society, and the world. Working for the kingdom means acknowledging and promoting God’s activity, which is present in human history and transforms it. Building the kingdom means working for liberation from evil in all its forms. In a word, the kingdom of God is the manifestation and the realization of God’s plan of salvation in all its fullness.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid