The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you Peace. (Numbers 6: 24-26)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand! (Mt 4: 17 RSV)

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mk 13: 24-27 RSV)
Jesus spoke of the time when every knee will bow before the Lamb and all the brokenness of creation will be set right.  This is the eschaton, the Second Coming.  Part of what Jesus preaches refers to that promise, the promise when God will rule the world with pure justice and pure mercy and pure grace; setting all things right and in their proper place.  We do not know the time of this conclusion of history; but we know that it is on the way.

When speaking of the "Kingdom of Heaven", however, Jesus tells us not only of a coming event that may or may not be distant in its arrival.  Jesus also speaks of a present reality; the presence of God in the midst of His people.  Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, is the Kingdom of Heaven.
The new proximity of the Kingdom of which Jesus speaks - the distinguishing feature of his message - is to be found in Jesus himself.  Through Jesus' presence and action, God has here and now entered actively into history in a wholly new way.  The reason why now is the fullness of time (Mk 1: 15), why now is in a unique sense the time of conversion and penance, as well as the time of joy, is that in Jesus it is God who draws near to us.  In Jesus, God is now the one who acts and who rules as Lord - rules in a divine way, without worldly power, rules through the love that reaches 'to the end' (Jn 13: 1), to the Cross.  John Cardinal Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth
We live in a history that has been touched irrevocably by the physical presence of God.  He chose to make himself one of us, fully man and fully God, so that we might not only look forward to the promise of life eternal with Him; but that we might share in a restored relationship with our Father right here and right now.  Jesus points to the future, but he is not only about prophesy and promises.  Through our faith in Christ, our actions guided by the Holy Ghost and our participation in the Body of Christ, the Church, we find that we are in the presence of the Kingdom even while we await its arrival at the end of time.

Fr. Michael+

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