Saturday, December 18, 2010


During this past week, despite all the readings from the prophets about the future coming of the Messiah and all the exhortations to “prepare the way,” I have been very conscious of experiencing the presence of the Kingdom around me right now. I’ve found it helpful to think in terms of two ideas: first, the Kingdom as heaven touching earth, and second, the Kingdom as Jesus’ "dream."


When Jesus announced, “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” the original Greek phrase in the gospels is in the past tense. He was saying that the Kingdom had already broken in on the world in the person of Jesus himself. In two recent posts I mentioned the Israelites' idea that heaven could and did come to earth at times. heaven had once again touched the earth, but this time in a definitive, once-for-all manner; God had taken flesh and was born as one of us, sharing our human condition in everything but sin. (Giovanni Castiglione's "The adoration of the Shepherds" shown here gives an artist's vision of heaven reaching down across a great gap to come to earth in Bethlehem.)

Just as important, though, is that Jesus, Emmanuel, God-With-Us", showed us by the example of his life exactly what the Kingdom is and what it requires of each of us.


Jesus had a dream that he revealed and articulated during the three years of his public ministry. He called this dream “the Kingdom of God,” a whole new way for humans to relate to God and to one another. “The Kingdom of God” was a phrase found in the Old Testament, where it had a different meaning and a less prominent role. Christ, however, made "the Kingdom" the central metaphor of his teaching. All of the parables, the miracles, the banquets with sinners, indeed everything he did and said, were all meant to proclaim various truths about the “Kingdom” or “Reign” of God.


If the Kingdom has already arrived, however, we ought to be able to see it around us; further, we are charged with bringing it about through our own way of living: the way we treat others, the way we pray, and the way we think. It is up to us to make sure that the Kingdom is happening right now.

Where and how is God reigning in my life right now? Well, first, in all the obvious places such as in loving relationships, in the sacraments, and in certain moments of prayer.

It takes a better eye, though, to spot God at work in my back pain and in the suffering of some of my students. Once heaven touched earth in the Christ event, though, the element of mystery came into play -- by definition heaven lies beyond the reaches of time and space, beyond the grasp of my intellect, and beyond the limits of language. Calvary is a central part of the Kingdom, but it is also the most mysterious part. Only the eyes of faith can see the deep truth that good can come from evil, that victory can come from defeat, or that new life can spring from death. There are times when I have to be content to sit in awe in the face of a mystery that is clearly far beyond me.

So, as we keep praying for the coming of the Messiah at Christmas, let us also continue to look around us with the eyes of faith, expecting to find Him present already. Be on the watch!
.............. The Reign of God has drawn near!

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