Our Sacred Stories - The Kingdom of God: Making the Reign a Reality
Sometimes to know where we are, we have to know where we came from. The message and the mission of Jesus is to proclaim the Kingdom, the Reign of God. This is what he lived throughout his life. And it is what he shared with his disciples and the people who surrounded him. As followers of Jesus, this is what we are to reflect. But what does this mean, for us, in our lives, at this time in our own world?
On the Feast of Christ the King last year we listened to a piece from Matthew’s Gospel (Mt.25:31-46). Its focus was on living the reign by reaching out to the needs of the vulnerable among us. Next year, we will hear from Luke, as he tells of Jesus’s sacrifice of his life for all (Lk.23:35-43). This year we turn to John’s Gospel (Jn.18:33-37). Appearing before Pilate, Jesus asserts his life’s mission as a relationship with God and his call to testify to that relationship for the world. It is to announce the Reign of God among us.
This testimony by Jesus is not new in the Gospels. As Mark speaks of Jesus beginning his mission and calling his disciples, Jesus proclaims: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe the good news (Mk 1:13). Matthew expresses this good news as Jesus speaks to the crowds in the Sermon on the Mount (ch. 5-7). John’s Gospel presents Jesus responding to a Pharisee named Nicodemus (Jn.3:1-21). In the course of the encounter, Jesus reveals the purpose of his mission: For God so loves the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life (3:16). The reign of God permeates the Gospel message of Jesus.
The Feast of Christ the King comes at the end of the cycle for our church year. Next Sunday, we enter the new year with the Advent season. It seems like the Feast of Christ the King provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what Jesus was all about and what his message and mission was to effect in our world. Jesus the Christ, reveals God’s dream for us, for all creation, God is ever among us.
Jesus’s incarnation is God’s love coming to live among us. In him the reign of God has come near. Calling his disciples to follow him, he gave them a message that called them to share the good news of God’s love universally. It is for all humanity. A message of the heart, like the dream and visions of Daniel in the Old Testament (Dan.7:13-14), it is a message for all ages and all peoples.
This was the message expressed in the last major proclamation of the Second Vatican Council. Vatican II was a pastoral effort to bring the good news to the whole of humanity and creation. If Pope John XXIII saw the council as an opportunity to “open the windows of the church” to the world this document expressed this open vision of God’s reign as the council was ending:
The joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the people of our time, especially of
those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and the hope, the grief and the
anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find
an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of people who, united in
Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards towards the kingdom of the Father
and are bearers of a message of salvation intended for all. (Gaudium et Spes, Preface, 1)