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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories - The Reign of God: Jesus’s Message of God’s Loving Touch

Ron Rolheiser begins his book Against an Infinite Horizon: The Finger of God in Our Everyday Lives (Rolheiser, 1995) with the words of theologian Karl Rahner: “In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable we come to understand that here, in this life, all symphonies remain unfinished.” Rolheiser goes on to point out that there is a horizon before us that we can never reach in our earthly journey. But there is an attraction or a taste of it that reveals the “finger of God” touching us, accompanying us along the way.

Spiritual writers, poets, creative artists and others have often helped us to recognize that no dream or goal we might set will totally and finally satisfy us. There will always be something beyond or “more” that we seek. We are by nature “seekers”. To be human is to be incomplete in this life. But, at same time, we live in hope and journey in faith that God touches us and will ultimately bring this life to fulfillment.

One of the great themes of western literature (as well as others) is the “Quest”. Some 800 years ago this appeared in literature as the Quest for the Grail. Based on the legends of King Arthur and his Knights, it told the story of the search for the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. In more recent times the theme has reappeared and can be seen again in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” as well as in the “Star Wars” story, among others.

As the stories unfold we see all the elements of our human search for meaning in our lives, our fulfillment. It begins with a dream, a goal. We hear the call to embark on a journey or a quest. In accepting the call there was a commitment to seek. In seeking there will be challenges, but there is also accompaniment. The seeker encounters others, a community that assist in the quest. Ultimately, there is attainment, fulfillment.

In its Christian origins the “Quest” is directed toward our seeking for spiritual union with God, God’s touch and our fulfillment. It is a conversion story of gradual becoming aware of God’s loving presence in all life, all creation and not least in those around us.

In Mark’s Gospel (1:14-20) Jesus, after his baptism in the Jordan, is led by the Spirit to the wilderness. Coming out, he begins to call disciples to follow and share his mission. As Mark tell us: “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” This repenting or turning around was/is the disciple’s call to conversion. Its further story is setting out on the “Quest” to discover the touch of God in all they encounter and to share this good news.

Jesus’ proclamation that the reign of God is close at hand grows out of the way of seeing God as present in our life story and in all of creation. As Jesus begins his ministry he announces that God’s reign is near. He will reveal it in his actions of healing, reconciling and bringing people together in peace. It will be this completed, fulfilled reign of God that will bring peace and harmony to humanity and healing and wholeness to creation. It is the ultimate goal of the human quest for fulfillment.

The Irish theologian Dermot Lane expresses it this way: The reign of God is ultimately about re-establishing right relationships between God and humanity, between humanity and the individual, between humanity and the whole of creation. (Lane. Christ at the Centre 21)

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