Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
This Sunday we celebrate the solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe. We often hear the expression “Kingdom of God” and Christ the King. Since we are people of our times, we immediately think of European style constitutional monarchies. However, Jesus Christ is not a King like Elizabeth II or Philip VI. The entire universe belongs to Him in His won right because He is God. He rules with strong hand and outstretched arm. He shed his blood to bring it by his Resurrection to the fullness of life in Him.
St. John Paul II explains what the Kingdom of God is in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio. Jesus of Nazareth brings God’s plan to fulfillment… 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 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.
St. John tells us that “God is love”. Every person therefore is invited to “repent” and to “believe” in God’s merciful love. The kingdom will grow insofar as every person learns to turn to God in the intimacy of prayer as to a Father and strives to do his will…
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.
By raising Jesus from the dead, God has conquered death, and in Jesus he has definitely inaugurated his kingdom. During his earthly life, Jesus was the Prophet of the kingdom; after his passion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven he shares in God’s power and in his dominion over the world. The resurrection gives a universal scope to Christ’s message, his actions and whole mission. The disciples recognize that the kingdom is already present in the person of Jesus and is slowly being established within man and the world through a mysterious connection with him…
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.24 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…”
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 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