Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Last Sunday and this Sunday, the Lord spoke in the Gospel in parables about the Kingdom of God. St. John Paul II explained what the Kingdom of God is and its relation to the Church in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio.

“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…

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.

In the Risen Christ God’s Kingdom Is Fulfilled and Proclaimed…

Christ not only proclaimed the kingdom, but in him the kingdom itself became present and was fulfilled. This happened not only through his words and his deeds: “Above all,…the kingdom is made manifest in the very person of Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, who came ‘to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into a purely human or ideological goal, and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected.

 

Likewise, one may not separate the kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both. Christ endowed the Church, his body, with the fullness of the benefits and means of salvation. The Holy Spirit dwells in her, enlivens her with his gifts and charisms, sanctifies, guides and constantly renews her. The result is a unique and special relationship which, while not excluding the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries, confers upon her a specific and necessary role; hence the Church’s special connection with the kingdom of God and of Christ, which she has “the mission of announcing and inaugurating among all peoples…

La Iglesia está efectiva y concretamente al servicio del Reino. Lo está, ante todo, mediante el anuncio que llama a la conversión; éste es el primer y fundamental servicio a la venida del Reino en las personas y en la sociedad humana. La salvación escatológica empieza, ya desde ahora, con la novedad de vida en Cristo: « A todos los que la recibieron les dio el poder de hacerse hijos de Dios, a los que creen en su nombre ».

La Iglesia, pues, sirve al Reino, fundando comunidades e instituyendo Iglesias particulares, llevándolas a la madurez de la fe y de la caridad, mediante la apertura a los demás, con el servicio a la persona y a la sociedad, por la comprensión y estima de las instituciones humanas.

The Church is effectively and concretely at the service of the kingdom. This is seen especially in her preaching, which is a call to conversion. Preaching constitutes the Church’s first and fundamental way of serving the coming of the kingdom in individuals and in human society. Eschatological salvation begins even now in newness of life in Christ: “To all who believed in him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”.

The Church, then, serves the kingdom by establishing communities and founding new particular churches, and by guiding them to mature faith and charity in openness toward others, in service to individuals and society, and in understanding and esteem for human institutions.

The Church serves the kingdom by spreading throughout the world the “gospel values” which are an expression of the kingdom and which help people to accept God’s plan. It is true that the inchoate reality of the kingdom can also be found beyond the confines of the Church among peoples everywhere, to the extent that they live “gospel values” and are open to the working of the Spirit who breathes when and where he wills. But it must immediately be added that this temporal dimension of the kingdom remains incomplete unless it is related to the kingdom of Christ present in the Church and straining towards eschatological fullness.

The many dimensions of the kingdom of God do not weaken the foundations and purposes of missionary activity, but rather strengthen and extend them. The Church is the sacrament of salvation for all mankind, and her activity is not limited only to those who accept her message. She is a dynamic force in mankind’s journey toward the eschatological kingdom, and is the sign and promoter of gospel values. The Church contributes to mankind’s pilgrimage of conversion to God’s plan through her witness and through such activities as dialogue, human promotion, commitment to justice and peace, education and the care of the sick, and aid to the poor and to children. In carrying on these activities, however, she never loses sight of the priority of the transcendent and spiritual realities which are premises of eschatological salvation.

Finally, the Church serves the kingdom by her intercession, since the kingdom by its very nature is God’s gift and work, as we are reminded by the gospel parables and by the prayer which Jesus taught us. We must ask for the kingdom, welcome it and make it grow within us; but we must also work together so that it will be welcomed and will grow among all people, until the time when Christ “delivers the kingdom to God the Father” and “God will be everything to everyone”.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid