Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Kingdom of God is a Person: Jesus Christ


The Kingdom of God becomes a reality NOW, as each one begins the conversion process away from “self-referentiality” to go to the “peripheries.” The Kingdom is present now in the world insofar as each becomes another Christ by exercising professional work as service.

 “Christ not only proclaimed the kingdom, but in him the kingdom itself became present and was fulfilled. This happened not only through his words and his deeds: "Above all,...the kingdom is made manifest in the very person of Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, who came 'to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many' (Mk 10:45)." The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into a purely human or ideological goal [“a better world through chemisty,” (technology)] and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor 15:27).”[1]
 St. Josemaria Escriva:  During Mass and the elevation of the Host on August 7, 1931, he heard the Lord speak the verse of John 12, 32: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.” In continuation, he heard: “I say it to you, not in the sense in which Scripture says it; I say it to you in the sense that you put me at the summit of all human activities; that in all the places of the world, there be Christians with a personal and most free dedication, that they be other Christs.”

 The Eschatology and the Epistemology:  Christ lives, not in the past, not in the future, but now. A major point of The Way #584 reads:

“Stir up the fire of your faith! Christ is not a figure of the past. He is not a memory lost in history.
“He lives! ‘Iesus Christus heri et hodie: ipse et in saecula!’ As St. Paul says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today- yes, and forever!”
The Kingdom of God is Now: “If I cast out devils by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11, 20). It is present and invisible. It is invisible because the Person of Christ is divine, and therefore is not “part” of the world. The divine “I” of Christ is “in” the world, but not “part” of it. Therefore, the response to John the Baptist who sent the messengers asking “are you He is to come, or shall we look for another” (Mt. 11, 4) was: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not scandalized in me” (Mt. 11, 5-6). In a word, God as Creator is so other than the world (his creation) that if the world did not exist, He would not be less; and now that it does exist, He is not more. Hence, since the Word became flesh, He is present in the world but cannot be seen or experienced as “part” of the world. Yet He is in it and present to us in the moment by moment call to serve in our particular state in life. Hence, He can be known only by becoming like Him. Only God knows God (“no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” [Mt. 11, 27]).

The “Realism of the Kingdom”

“Furthermore, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our idea that matter, solid things, things we can touch, are the more solid, the more certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one's life: sand and rock. The one who builds on sand builds only on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will pass away. We can see this now with the fall of large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. The one who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is the one who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.”[2]

            In the recent “Domini Verbum,” Benedict writes: “The word finds expression not primarily in discourse, concepts or rules. Here we are set before the very person of Jesus, His unique and singular history is the definitive word which God speaks to humanity. We can see, then, why ‘being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice of a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event [my underline], a person, which gives life a new horizon and a definitive direction… We are speaking of an unprecedented and humanly inconceivable novelty: ‘the word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (Jn. 1, 14a). These words are no figure of speech; they point to a lived experience! Saint John, an eyewitness, tells us so: ‘We have behold his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (Jn. 1, 14 b). The apostolic faith testifies that the eternal Word became one of us. The divine Word is truly expressed in human words.”

The Concrete Asceticism:

            Escriva heard the cry: “Nolumus hunc regnare super nos” (Lk. 19, 14). “I strove to repeat my own response thousands of times. I even felt the need to jot it down while working. Every page or half-page I wrote down that same strong and loving response we now make by our lives: oportet illum regnare (1 Cor. 15, 25). We want Christ to reign! You’ll find it written on many of my papers. I remember this as if it were yesterday.

            “But we ought to ask ourselves, ‘Where should Christ Jesus reign?’ And we find the answer in the consecration that we renew today in our centers. First of all, he should reign in our hearts. He should reign in our life, because our entire existence must bear witness to love. Despite our mistakes! Don’t worry if you make mistakes; I make them too. Despite our weaknesses! As long as we struggle, they don’t matter. Didn’t the saints on the altar also make mistakes I mean mistakes that come from our human condition. Our Lord must smile at such mistakes…

            “I don’t know about you, my son, but I sense that Our Lord is asking me a very specific question: who do you let me reign in you? I reply that I want him to reign in every corner of my being, but that I need lots of his grace. Only then can my every heartbeat and breath, my least intense glance, my most ordinary word, my most basic feeling, be transformed into a hosanna to Christ my King. But I’m also a man and have to react in a human way, so that you, my God, may imbue my human reaction with supernatural meaning through my life dedicated to your service in the world.

            “Service. How I like that work! Serving my king, Christ Jesus. Serving, always serving. Mother of ours, grant us a spirit of service. Faced with the wonder of God about to become man, you said: ecce ancilla! (Lk. 1, 38). Teach me to serve like that.

            “My mother, if we all knew how to serve…, if each of your children in Opus Dei knew how to serve, how well the others would learn to serve. How much more refined we would be, and how much we would help the others to improve! Isn’t this the right moment, my son, for you to tell Mary in your mind and heart what I’m telling her? Tell her that we want to learn. For you and I teach by example, which is the right way to teach. May I bear witness to serving Christ in the world, by making him the king of all my life’s actions, the ultimate and only reason for my existence. Then, once I’ve borne witness by my example, I’ll be able to instruct others, to provide the theory, just as Jesus did: he bean to do and teach (Acts 1, 1).[3]
Secular Work as the Asceticism  of Building the Kingdom of God in the World: Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation – SCDF –March 22, 1986

The role of the laity 
80. It is not for the pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political con struction and organization of social life. This task forms part of the vocation of the laity acting on their own initiative with their fellow-citizens.(120) They must fulfil this task conscious of the fact that the purpose of the Church is to spread the Kingdom of Christ so that all men may be saved and that through them the world may be effectively ordered to Christ.(121) The work of salvation is thus seen to be indissolubly linked to the task of improving and raising the conditions of human life in this world. The distinction between the supernatural order of salvation and the temporal order of human life must be seer in the context of God's singular plan to recapitulate all things in Christ. Hence in each of these spheres the layperson, who is at one and the same time a member of the Church and a citizen of his country, must allow himself to be constantly guided by his Christian conscience.(122) Social action, which can involve a number of concrete means, will always be exercised for the common good and in conformity with the Gospel message and the teaching of the Church. It must be ensured that the variety of options does not harm a sense of collaboration, or lead to a paralysis of efforts or produce confusion among the Christian people. The orientation received from the social doctrine of the Church should stimulate an acquisition of the essential technical and scientific skills. The social doctrine of the Church will also stimulate the seeking of moral formation of character and a deepening of the spiritual life. While it offers principles and wise counsels, this doctrine does not dispense from education in the political prudence needed for guiding and running human affairs. 
II. Evangelical requirements for an indepth transformation 
Need for a cultural transformation 
81. Christians working to bring about that "civilization of love" which will include the entire ethical and social heritage of the Gospel are today faced with an unprecedented challenge. This task calls for renewed reflection on what constitutes the relationship between the supreme commandment of love and the social order considered in all its complexity. The immediate aim of this indepth reflection is to work out and set in motion ambitious programmes aimed at the socio-economic liberation of millions of men and women caught in an intolerable situation of economic, social and political oppression. This action must begin with an immense effort at education: education for the civilization of work, education for solidarity, access to culture for all. 
The Gospel of work 
82. The life of Jesus of Nazareth, a real "Gospel of work", offers us the living example and principle of the radical cultural transformation which is essential for solving the grave problems which must be faced by the age in which we live. He, who, though he was God, became like us in all things, devoted the greater part of his earthly life to manual labour.(123) The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobility and fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of Creation and Redemption.(124) Recognized as a form of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort. 
A true civilization of work 
83. Thus the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question.(125) It is therefore in the domain of work that priority must be given to the action of liberation in freedom. Because the relationship between the human person and work is radical and vital, the forms and models according to which this relationship is regulated will exercise a positive influence for the solution of a whole series of social and political problems facing each people. Just work relationships will be a necessary precondition for a system of political community capable of favouring the integral development of every individual. If the system of labour relations put into effect by those directly involved, the workers and employers, with the essential support of the public powers succeeds in bringing into existence a civilization of work, then there will take place a profound and peaceful revolution in people's outlooks and in institutional and political structures.
National and international common good
84. A work culture such as this will necessarily presuppose and put into effect a certain number of essential values. It will acknowledge that the person of the worker is the principle, subject and purpose of work. It will affirm the priority of work over capital and the fact that material goods are meant for all. It will be animated by a sense of solidarity involving not only rights to be defended but also the duties to be performed. It will involve participation, aimed at promoting the national and international common good and not just defending individual or corporate interests. It will assimilate the methods of confrontation and of frank and vigorous dialogue. 
As a result, the political authorities will become more capable of acting with respect for the legitimate freedoms of individuals, families and subsidiary groups; and they will thus create the conditions necessary for man to be able to achieve his authentic and integral welfare, including his spiritual goal.(126)
The value of human work 
85. A culture which recognizes the eminent dignity of the worker will emphasize the subjective dimension of work.(127) The value of any human work does not depend on the kind of work done; it is based on the fact that the one who does it is a person,(128) There we have an ethical criterion whose implications cannot be overlooked. Thus every person has a right to work, and this right must be recognized in a practical way by an effective commitment to resolving the tragic problem of unemployment. The fact that unemployment keeps large sectors of the population and notably the young in a situation of marginalization is intolerable. For this reason the creation of jobs is a primary social task facing individuals and private enterprise, as well as the State. As a general rule, in this as in other matters, the State has a subsidiary function; but often it can be called upon to intervene directly, as in the case of international agreements between different States. Such agreements must respect the rights of immigrants and their families.(129) 
Promoting participation 
86. Wages, which cannot be considered as a mere commodity, must enable the worker and his family to have access to a truly human standard of living in the material, social, cultural and spiritual orders. It is the dignity of the person which constitutes the criterion for judging work, not the other way round. Whatever the type of work, the worker must be able to perform it as an expression of his personality. There follows from this the necessity of a participation which, over and above a sharing in the fruits of work, should involve a truly communitarian dimension at the level of projects, undertakings and responsibilities.(130) 
Priority of work over capital 
87. The priority of work over capital places an obligation in justice upon employers to con sider the welf are of the workers before the increase of profits. They have a moral obligation not to keep capital unproductive and in making investments to think first of the common good. The latter requires a prior effort to consolidate jobs or create new ones in the production of goods that are really useful. The right to private property is inconceivable without responsibilities to the common good. It is subordinated to the higher principle which states that goods are meant for all.(131) 
Indepth reforms 
88. This teaching must inspire reforms before it is too late. Access for everyone to the goods needed for a human, personal and family life worthy of the name is a primary demand of social justice. It requires application in the sphere of industrial work and in a particular way in the area of agricultural work.(132) Indeed, rural peoples, especially in the third world, make up the vast majority of the poor.(133) 
III. Promotion of solidarity 
A new solidarity 
89. Solidarity is a direct requirement of human and supernatural brotherhood. The serious socio-economic problems which occur today cannot be solved unless new fronts of solidarity are created: solidarity of the poor among themselves, solidarity with the poor to which the rich are called, solidarity among the workers and with the workers. Institutions and social organizations at different levels, as well as the State, must share in a general movement of solidarity. When the Church appeals for such solidarity, she is aware that she herself is concerned in a quite special way. 

[1] John Paul II,  “Mission of the Redeemer” #18: “Likewise, one may not separate the kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both. Christ endowed the Church, his body, with the fullness of the benefits and means of salvation. The Holy Spirit dwells in her, enlivens her with his gifts and charisms, sanctifies, guides and constantly renews her. The result is a unique and special relationship which, while not excluding the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church's visible boundaries, confers upon her a specific and necessary role; hence the Church's special connection with the kingdom of God and of Christ, which she has "the mission of announcing and inaugurating among all peoples."

[2] Benedict XVI October 6, 2008: Keynote Address to the Synod on the Word of God.
[3] St. Josemaria Escriva, Meditation, 27 October 1963.

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