The Mission and Blessing of Manifesting the Kingdom
Manifesting the kingdom of God – this is the mission and blessing given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus “went around all Galilee…proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23). This kingdom is spiritual and not a political realm, and its final fulfillment will be realized in eternity. Yet Christ’s kingdom is rooted in this temporal world.
The kingdom entered human history through Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate. No mere poetic metaphor, this kingdom is a living reality – it is the presence of God. “Before all things,” the Second Vatican Council teaches, “the kingdom is clearly visible in the very Person of Christ” (Lumen gentium, 5). Entering this kingdom means being one with the Lord. His royal throne is the wood of the Cross and the law of his realm is love and truth.
When Jesus was put to death, the kingdom did not end, for he rose again on the third day. When the Risen Lord ascended to heaven, the kingdom was not removed from us, it continues on to this very day. It falls to us now to manifest, to make present, by our fraternal love, the beginnings of the kingdom here and now.
Jesus laid the foundation for the enduring presence of his kingdom in the Church – the Body of Christ. The Catholic Church is the enduring, visible yet spiritual, structured yet Spirit-led, human yet divine presence of Christ in the world today. While not the fullness of the kingdom, the Church is the beginning, the outward sign and instrument of that kingdom coming to be among us, of communion with God and of unity among all people (Lumen gentium, 1). In the Church, the Lord shows the kingdom to us as something visible, a community called together by him, of which he is the Good Shepherd, the true and lasting head.
The book of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that before Jesus returned to his Father in glory, he charged his disciples, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Those words echo in our ears and hearts. The continuation of the mission of Christ the Redeemer is what we are called to today. The call is to bring all things to Christ and make this temporal order a truly blessed expression of God’s love, truth and justice.
For two millennia, it has been the work of the whole Church, all of the People of God, every member of the Body of Christ, to show forth to the world the presence of our Savior and Lord, one of us who is also the Son of God. You and I are called to be, in our very lives, an epiphany of the Lord to those we encounter, a bright shining light so that others might be led to him like the Great Star of Bethlehem led the wise men to Jesus on that glorious Christmas day.
The kingdom of God offers humanity a different way of seeing life and the world around us. We bring a fuller vision of life than that offered by the secular society that lives as if God did not exist. In the Sermon on the Mount, we hear of a new way of life – a life of beatitude – and how it involves the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who mourn, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3-16).
Reflecting upon this Good News gives us a whole new way of looking at life. It offers us hope, stirring within us expectations of a fuller life and a better world. In Jesus, we learn the secret of true joy, which does not consist in having a lot of things – no amount of worldly goods can ever satisfy the longings of the human heart – but in knowing we are loved by the Lord who chose to become one of us, sharing in our human lives so that we might share in his divine life.
This is the first in a series based on excerpts from the pastoral letter, “Manifesting the Kingdom.”