Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Kingdom of God 2007


Benedict XVI: “Speaking of God, we are touching precisely on the subject which, in Jesus’ earthly preaching, was his main focus. The fundamental subject of this preaching is God’s realm, the ‘Kingdom of God.’ This does not mean something that will come to pass at one time or another in an indeterminate future. Nor does it mean that better the better world which we seek to created, step by step, with our own strength. In the term ‘Kingdom of God,’ the word ‘God’ is a subjective genitive. This means: God is not something added to the ‘Kingdom’ which one might even perhaps drop.

“God is the subject. Kingdom of God actually means: God reigns. He himself is present and crucial to human beings in the world. He is the subject, and wherever this subject is absent, nothing remains of Jesus’ message.

“Therefore, Jesus tells us: the Kingdom of God does not come in such a way that one may, so to speak, line the wayside to watch its arrival. ‘The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you!’ (cf. Lk. 17, 20ff.).

“It develops wherever God’s will is done. It is present wherever there are people who are open to his arrival and so let God enter the world. Thus, Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person: the man in whom God is among us and through whom we can touch God, draw close to God. Wherever this happens, the world is saved.”

The above statement contains the main overview of the mind of Benedict XVI on “The Kingdom of God.” The major insight consists in understanding that we are not talking about a Kingdom that is independent of the divine Person, and that we could drop off the divine Person and still have a Kingdom of peace, justice, plenty, a “better world through chemistry,” etc. that would be the Kingdom of heaven, but would not be the Kingdom of God. In Bavaria last year (September 2006), Benedict touched on the same theme and said: “God is the subject. Kingdom of God actually means: God reigns. He himself is present and crucial to human beings in the world. He is the subject, and wherever this subject is absent, nothing remains of Jesus’ message. Therefore, Jesus tells us: the Kingdom of God does not come in such a way that one may, so to speak, line the wayside to watch its arrival. ‘The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you!’ (cf. Lk. 17, 20ff.).”

“The Kingdom” in Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth”

The specific points he develops in the chapter entitled “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God” in his “Jesus of Nazareth” are the following:

1) "The core content of the Gospel is this: The Kingdom of God is at hand. A milestone is set up in the flow of time, something new takes place…. The center of this announcement is the message that God’s Kingdom is at hand. A look at the statistics underscores this. The phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ occurs 122 times in the New Testament as whole; 99 of these passages are found in the three Synoptic Gospels, and 90 of these texts report words of Jesus.”[2]

2) The Father of the Church, Origen, developed the following crucial insights:

a) The Kingdom is a Person: “Jesus… the autobasileia…[is] the Kingdom in person. Jesus himself is the Kingdom; the Kingdom is not a thing, it is not geographical dominion like world kingdoms. It is a person; it is he…. (T)he term ‘Kingdom of God’ is itself a veiled Christology… Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in it God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence.”[3]

b) “(M)an’s interiority [is] the essential location of the Kingdom of God…. The basic idea is clear: The ‘Kingdom of God’ is not to be found on any map. It is not a kingdom after the fashion of worldly kingdoms; it is located in man’s inner being. It grows and radiates outward from that inner space.”[4]

c) “(T)he Kingdom of God and the Church are related in different ways and brought into more or less close proximity.” It could perhaps be offered that “Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men – '[5] the Church is “nothing more than the space into which this new subject can move.'[6] Ratzinger is explaining the radical transformation of the baptized person into Christ Himself:
“Becoming and being a Christian depends on conversion…. But conversion according to Paul is something much more radical than a mere revision of a few opinions or attitudes. It is a death event. In other words, it is the replacement of the subject. The ‘I’ ceases to be independent and to be a subject existing in itself. It is torn from itself and inserted into a new subject. The ‘I’ does not perish, but in effect it must let itself fall completely in order to be received within a larger ‘I’ and together with it be conceived anew.”[7] This ontological recasting of the identity of the “I” as the exegesis of the “putting on Christ” is perhaps the boldest and most explicit affirmation of the meaning of the Kingdom of God being “here” and “now.” For Christ became present not only in Nazareth 2,000 years ago, and will be present again at the end of time, but He is present now in this time and place in that this person and that, have most literally “become Him” by the radical gift of themselves to death. This radical transformation takes place in the Church and because of the Church. But the Church is not the Kingdom but the sacrament and the space of this transformation. The person-become-Christ is the Kingdom as “another Christ.” [However, this does not mean that the human person has become a divine Person: See below at the end].

d) The Kingdom is an Action: Since the Kingdom is a Person, and the Person of Christ is the action of self-gift to the Father, then the Kingdom is an “action.”[8] Benedict expatiates on that: “There is another important linguistic observation: The underlying Hebrew word malkut ‘is a nomen actionis (an action word) and means – as does the Greek word basileia (kingdom) – the regal function, the active lordship of the king’ (Stuhlmacher, Biblische Theolgie I, p. 67). What is meant is not an imminent or yet to be established ‘kingdom,’ but God’s actual sovereignty over the world, which is becoming an event in history in a new way.”[9] Benedict goes on: “We can put it even more simply: When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is quite simply proclaiming God, and proclaiming him to be the living God, who is able to act concretely in the world and in history and is even now so acting. He is telling us: ‘God exists’ and ‘God is really God, which means that he holds in his hands the threads of the world… The new and totally specific thing about his message is that he is telling us: God is acting now – this is the hour when God is showing himself in history as its Lord, as the living God, in a way that goes beyond anything seen before. ‘Kingdom of God’ is therefore an inadequate translation. It would be better to speak of God’s being-Lord, of his lordship.”[10]

The large point is made here. God is here and now, but not yet. “God’s dominion over the world and over history, transcends the moment, indeed transcends and reaches beyond the whole of history. Its inner dynamism carries history beyond itself. And yet it is at the same time something belonging absolutely to the present. It is present in the liturgy, in Temple and synagogue, as an anticipation of the next world; it is present as a life-shaping power through the believer’s prayer and being: by bearing God’s yoke, the believer already receives a share in the world to come.”[11] This makes sense of such statements as ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’ (Mk. 1, 15), it ‘has already come upon you’ (Mt. 12, 28), it is ‘in the midst of you’ (Lk. 17, 21).

e) It is small like a seed and invisible like a seed buried in the ground. How could it be otherwise when, as we saw in b) above, the Kingdom is interior as person is interior to himself. The Kingdom will be wherever the person who has become “another Christ” is. So, indeed, “the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1, 15), it “has already come upon you” (Mt. 12, 28), is “in the midst of you” (Lk. 17, 21). “What these words express is a process of coming that has already begun and extends over the whole of history. It was these words that gave rise to the thesis of ‘imminent expectation’ and made this appear as Jesus’ specific characteristic.”[12] And, yet for the same reason that we are talking about a divine Person who transcends time and space, and yet continues to be now in time and space by the fact that another person, a human person, has become another Christ by the action that is His Person – self-gift as service-agape. Benedict concludes his chapter III with “Here… it is not simply in Jesus’ physical presence that the ‘Kingdom’ is located; rather, it is in his action, accomplished in the Holy Spirit. In this sense, it is in and through him that the Kingdom of God becomes present here and now, that it ‘is drawing near.’”[13]

The Great Danger: Jesus of Nazareth is Separated from Jesus, the Christ, Son of the living God.

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”[14]

“The figure of Jesus of Nazareth remains astonishingly current. Even outside of Christianity he appeals to people: Islam recognizes him as a prophet; in India many people have set up an image of Jesus in their house. The Christ of the Sermon on the Mount, who moved Gandhi so deeply, has become for many non-Christians there a messenger of God’s goodness, in whom the light of eternity shines into the world….

“Yet concurrent with this manifold presence of the figure of Jesus, it is disturbing to note that, within Christianity itself, Christology has been losing its meaning. It started with the effort to rediscover the man Jesus behind the gilded background of dogma, to return to the simplicity of the Gospels… Today in broad circles, even among believers, an image has prevailed of a Jesus who demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us…

“The presence of the figure of Jesus itself is becoming diminished – also with regard to the non-Christian contemporaries who surround us; the figure is transformed from the ‘Lord’ (a word that is avoided) into a man who is nothing more than the advocate of all men.”

The Third Temptation of Christ[16]

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. And he said to him, ‘All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Begone, Satan! For it is written ‘The Lord thy God shalt thou worship and him only shalt thou serve.’ Then the devil left him; and behold, angels came and ministered to him” (Mt. 4, 8-11).

Dangerous Replacements for the Kingdom of God

1) Christendom: “The Christian emperors after Constantine immediately tried to make the faith a political factor that would be conducive to the unity of the empire. The kingdom of Christ was not expected to assume the form of a political kingdom with its splendor. The impotence of the faith, the earthly powerlessness of Jesus Christ, was now supposedly compensated for by political and military might. In every century, in many forms, this temptation to secure the faith with power has arisen again and again, and over and over the faith has come close to being suffocated in the embrace of power. The battle for the freedom of the Church, the battle over the fact that Jesus’ kingdom cannot be identical to any political construct, must be fought in every century. For the price to be paid for fusing faith and political power, in the final analysis, always consists of placing faith at the service of power and bending it to political standards.”[17]

2) The Revolutionary [Marxism]: “Pilate has the people choose between Jesus and Barabbas. One of the two will be set free. But who was Barabbas? Usually we think only of the formulation found in the Gospel of John: ‘Now Barabbas was a robber’ (Jn. 18, 40). But the Greek word for ‘robber’ had acquired a specific meaning in the political situation in Palestine at that time. It was the equivalent of ‘freedom fighter’ or ‘member of the resistance.’ Barabbas had taken part in an insurrection and furthermore – in this connection – had been accused of murder (Lk. 23, 19, 25). When Matthew says that Barabbas was ‘a notorious prisoner’ (Mt. 27, 16), it shows that he was one of the prominent members of the resistance movement probably the one who actually instigated that uprising. In other words: Barabbas was a messianic figure. The choice, Jesus or Barabbas, is not coincidental: two messianic figures, tow forms of messianic belief stand in opposition. This becomes even more evident wh4en we reflect that ‘Bar-Abbas’ means ‘Son of the Father.’ It is a typically messianic appellation, the cultic name of a prominent leader of the messianic movement. The last great messianic war of the Jews had been waged in the year 132 B.C. by Bar-Kokhba – ‘Son of the Star.’ The construction of t he name is the same; the same intention is announced. From Origen we learn yet another interesting detail: In many manuscripts of the Gospels, well into the third century, the man in question is called ‘Jesus Barabbas’ – Jesus, Son of the Father. He appears as a kind of doppelganger [double] for Jesus, who of course understood the same claim in a completely different manner. The choice, then, is between a Messiah who wages battle, who promises freedom and an earthly kingdom of one’s own, and this mysterious Jesus, who proclaims that losing oneself is the way to life. Is it any wonder that the crowds prefer Barabbas?”[18]

3) The Worship of Well-Being and Rational Planning: “If we had to choose today, would Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, the Son of the Father, have a chance? Do we know Jesus at all? Do we understand him? Do we not have to make an effort, today as always, to become acquainted with him all over again? The tempter is not so crude as to recommend to us directly that we should worship the devil. He only suggests that we should decide on what is reasonable, choose the advantages of a planned and thoroughly organized world, in which God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes. Soloviev ascribes to the Antichrist a book entitled The Manifest Way to Peace and Welfare in the World, which becomes, so to speak, the new Bible and has the worship of well-being and of rational planning as its actual subject.”[19]

Oprah Winfrey and the “New Age” Kingdom

I copy below remarks by a Warren Smith on a daily series that will be aired by Oprah Winfrey during 2008. It is entitled “A Course in Miracles.” Having no intention to foster a “plot” mentality, but alarmed by the depth and proximity to Catholic teaching, I offer his presentation and assessment of the content:

“Oprah Winfrey will be letting out all the stops on her XM Satellite Radio program this coming year. Beginning January 1, 2008, “Oprah & Friends” will offer a year-long course on the New Age teachings of A Course in Miracles.1 A lesson a day throughout the year will completely cover the 365 lessons from the Course in Miracles “Workbook.” For example, Lesson #29 asks you to go through your day affirming that “God is in everything I see.”2 Lesson #61 tells each person to repeat the affirmation “I am the light of the world.”3 Lesson #70 teaches the student to say and believe “My salvation comes from me.”4 By the end of the year, “Oprah & Friends” listeners will have completed all of the lessons laid out in the Course in Miracles Workbook. Those who finish the Course will have a wholly redefined spiritual mindset—a New Age worldview that includes the belief that there is no sin, no evil, no devil, and that God is “in” everyone and everything. A Course in Miracles teaches its students to rethink everything they believe about God and life. The Course Workbook bluntly states: “This is a course in mind training”5 and is dedicated to “thought reversal.”6Teaching A Course in Miracles will be Oprah’s longtime friend and special XM Satellite Radio reporter Marianne Williamson—who also happens to be one of today’s premier New Age leaders. She and Conversations with God author Neale Donald Walsch co-founded the American Renaissance Alliance in 1997, that later became the Global Renaissance Alliance of New Age leaders, that changed its name again in 2005 to the Peace Alliance. This Peace Alliance seeks to usher in an era of global peace founded on the principles of a New Age/New Spirituality that they are now referring to as a “civil rights movement for the soul.”7 They all agree that the principles of this New Age/New Spirituality are clearly articulated in A Course in Miracles—which is fast becoming the New Age Bible. So what is A Course in Miracles and what does it teach?A Course in Miracles is allegedly “new revelation” from “Jesus” to help humanity work through these troubled times. This “Jesus”—who bears no doctrinal resemblance to the Bible’s Jesus Christ—began delivering his channeled teachings in 1965 to a Columbia University Professor of Medical Psychology by the name of Helen Schucman. One day Schucman heard an “inner voice” stating, “This is a course in miracles. Please take notes.”8 For seven years she diligently took spiritual dictation from this inner voice that described himself as “Jesus.” A Course in Miracles was quietly published in 1975 by the Foundation for Inner Peace. For many years “the Course” was an underground cult classic for New Age seekers who studied “the Course” individually, with friends, or in small study groups.As a former New Age follower and devoted student of A Course in Miracles, I eventually discovered that the Course in Miracles was—in reality—the truth of the Bible turned upside down. Not having a true understanding of the Bible at the time of my involvement, I was led to believe that A Course in Miracles was “a gift form God” to help everyone understand the “real” meaning of the Bible and to help bring peace to the world. Little did I know that the New Age “Christ” and the New Age teachings of A Course in Miracles were everything the real Jesus Christ warned us to watch out for. In Matthew 24 Jesus warned about false teachers, false teachings and the false “Christs” who would pretend to be Him. When I left the New Age “Christ” to follow the Bible’s Jesus Christ, I had come to understand that the “Jesus” of A Course in Miracles was a false “Christ,” and that his Course in Miracles was dangerously deceptive. Here are some quotes from the “Jesus” of A Course in Miracles:

“There is no sin. . . “9
A “slain Christ has no meaning.”10
“The journey to the cross should be the last ‘useless journey.’”11
“Do not make the pathetic error of ‘clinging to the old rugged cross.’”12
“The Name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol. . . . It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray.”13
“God is in everything I see.”14
“The recognition of God is the recognition of yourself.”15
“The oneness of the Creator and the creation is your wholeness, your sanity and your limitless power.”16
“The Atonement is the final lesson he [man] need learn, for it teaches him that, never having sinned, he has no need of salvation.”17

From what we have seen above, it will be important to make clear that:

1) Although we are “other Christs” empowered to share in His configuration as self-gift to the Father, principally through the action of prayer (not without the Cross), we are not God. We are ontologically limited created beings who experience the relative autonomy of freedom to do good by the gift of selves to God and others, or we can sin by turning back on self concomitantly rejecting God and others.

2) Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of man, is the historically real individual Jesus of Nazareth. To say that “The Name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol. . . . It is a symbol that is safely used as a replacement for the many names of all the gods to which you pray,” is pure vacuous lucubration.

Benedict XVI confronted this mental attitude in the foreword of “Jesus of Nazareth:” “the historical-critical method – specifically because of the intrinsic nature of theology and faith – is and remains an indispensable dimension of exegetical work. For it is of the very essence of biblical faith to be about real historical events. It does not tell stories symbolizing suprahistorical truths, abut is based on history, history that took place here on this earth. The factum historicum (historical fact) is not an interchangeable symbolic cipher for biblical faith, but the foundation on which it stands: Et incarnatus est - when we say these words, we acknowledge God’s actual entry into real history.

“If we push this history aside, Christian faith as such disappears and is recast as some other religion. So if history, if facticity in this sense, is an essential dimension of Christian faith, then faith must expose itself to the historical method – indeed, faith itself demands this…

“(Therefore), (t)he historical-critical method – let me repeat – is an indispensable tool, given the structure of Christian faith.”
[20] [But we must also go back and remember that the historical-critical method is insufficient of itself to reach through sensible phenomena to the person, and less to the very Person of the Son of God, without the deployment of the observer as self-gift and the experience of that "I" - gift transferred to the underlying reality of the Person.]

[1] Benedict XVI, Bavaria, September 14, 2006.
[2] Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Doubleday (2007) 47.
[3] Ibid 49.
[4] Ibid 50.
[5] Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium” 1.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “The Church and the Theologian,” Origins May 8, 1986, Vol. 15: NO. 47, 765.
[7] Ibid . 764.
[8] The solution to the modern dilemma: the Jesus of history, or the Christ of faith, is activating faith as self-gift and experiencing Jesus as the Revelation of the divine Self-gift. Perhaps Ratzinger’s clearest statement of this theological epistemology whereby we recognize Jesus as the Christ, and the Christ in Jesus of Nazareth is the following: “For what faith really states is precisely that with Jesus it is not possible to distinguish officie and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area [“being-as-substance”] reserved for an ‘I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be ‘off duty;’ here there is no ‘I’ separate from the work; the ‘I’ is the work and the work is the ‘I;’” Introduction to Christianity Ignatius (1990) 149.
[9] Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth,” op. cit. 55.
[10] Ibid. 55-56.
[11] Ibid. 56.
[12] Ibid. 57-58.
[13] Ibid. 60.
[14] H. Richard Neibuhr in Kenneth L. Woodward’s “Is this the Jesus you had imagined,” International Herald Tribune, Thursday, February 26, 2004, 6.
[15] J. Ratzinger, “On the Way to Jesus Christ,” Ignatius (2004) 8.
[16] See Ratzinger’s “Looking at Christ” in On the Way to Jesus Christ, Ignatius (2004) 79-106.
[17] Ibid 96.
[18] Ibid 97.
[19] Ibid 98.
[20] Ratzinger-Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth” Doubleday (2007) Foreword xv-xvi.

1 comment:

BK said...

The notion of a sinless world, and sinless empowered people, sounds attractive. And, the “Miracle Workbook”—coming in 2008--sounds like a best seller. Father Bob is correct and helpful, though, to point out the numerous pitfalls and misguided reality of the “New Age Kingdom.” Too bad, however, such a reality is not within our grasp in the “here and now” and is, in fact, a distinct impossibility for those who desire something more than self-actualization.

It is regrettable that some of our contemporaries have dropped away from Catholicism and Christianity and into “New Age” solutions that offer only temporary relief and false promises. All of us are at risk and the New Age attractions are lurking everywhere. The list of reasons for taking the alternative paths is certainly very long, logical, and seductive. And, atheism and loss of faith in modern times is understandable, particularly when suffering in the world is at times, unbearable and almost overwhelming in its magnitude. Some people, no doubt, also have abandoned the effort of the Christian life due to a frustration stemming from a lack of knowledge and acceptance of God’s redeeming power over sin—our sin (man’s sin)—and a lack of understanding about the available forgiveness of those sins through the Lord’s “Divine Mercy.” Sins and regrets pile up and the “towel gets thrown in” by some of us and the energies are put elsewhere where immediate gain and satisfaction is more easily experienced, noticed and appreciated. How sweet it can be—“La dolce vita.”

However, such a trek towards eternal degradation is more easily understood, I believe, when one considers that the Master of Deception & Distraction--the Evil One--is always a step ahead of us* and thrives in the modern environment where his alluring message can be mass or individually produced to match our innate weaknesses, arriving at just the right time or occasion when we are most confused, tired, overwhelmed, or simply looking for the easy answer. The subtle, clever ways of the Evil One are very powerful, and modern man with all of society’s distractions and conveniences is easy prey. We have always been attracted to the beauty, promises, and simplicities of the natural world—and today’s “apple” is offered and expressed in new varieties and appealing forms. Regrettably, the new apple(s)—like the apple of antiquity-- is, at first bite very tasty, only of course, to reveal the lingering and eternal taste of bitterness.

[*Unless we invoke the Lord and Holy Spirit to guide us on the righteous path to the Father.]

The message of God, on the other hand, while being elegantly simple IS very demanding and unwavering (the Commandments, Jesus in the Beatitudes, etc.) AND it is absolute and not subject to debate and modification. But, at the same time, God is forgiving and merciful beyond comprehension. Therein lies a great mystery that we, fortunately, do not have to reconcile by ourselves. We have been given powerful tools to understand the great mysteries in the form of reflections and prayers on The Passion of the Lord, scripture readings, the direct testimony of the Saints, the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church, access to the Holy Sacraments, and all other pathways set forth for us by the Holy Spirit to learn and understand the truth. And, should we accept God’s rules, and live them daily and submit to his Divine Will, and adore and exalt him above all else, and come to him for mercy and forgiveness when we fail, the gift to us is immeasurable and eternal. The gift is his presence and love and spirit—for all eternity. It is hard to grasp and appreciate these terms of a new reality given our proclivity to be drawn closer to the beautiful things in the modern world that surround us, saturate our senses, and pique our curiosities.

Some “New Age” philosophers and believers, as Father Bob points out, have the hubris to suggest that their new approach to living conforms with God’s plan for us. The pathway they describe, however, elevates man above God. They call for the self-actualization of man and mastery of the natural world and self (without God) and suggest those outcomes become the example of the well-lived life. Perfection on earth can be achieved. Man is not broken beyond his facility for self-repair. Mistakenly, such an approach forgets or never even acknowledges that while God is, without question all-forgiving and all-merciful, he is also a vengeful and wrathful God. God alone provides the pathway to salvation on his terms and, unlike those of the Great Deceiver, God’s terms are eternal and non-negotiable. This, of course, is a reality, that is not often spoken of these days. Fear of God—now almost a forgotten concept--is a reality and necessity that must be accepted and understood. It is a topic that needs occasional revisiting—maybe even on a daily basis. Such a notion is foreign and offensive to our modern, “enlightened” sensibilities, however. It certainly is a “downer”, to use modern descriptions. Today, we typically hear of a God of forgiveness, of mercy, of kindness and tolerance, a God whose only wish is for us to “be happy” within ourselves and amongst ourselves. God is within us and we are God, and the perfection and realization of God is best achieved through self-development and the relentless pursuit of happiness on earth. However, the God of the New and Old Testament, the God of the Saints, of the Holy Martyrs, and the God of personal revelation, is indeed a loving, forgiving, demanding AND wrathful God—all at the same time--simultaneously. Love of God and love of neighbor is prescribed—yes. Love of self and the singular pursuit of happiness—no. And there are consequences for both approaches. Holiness, not happiness, is achieved by the giving of one self to God and neighbor. And, for mercy to be granted by God for our sinfulness it must be properly invoked--and God’s forgiveness and mercy must be prayed for and obtained by playing by his rules and prescriptions, not ours. The “Our Father” prayer is the powerful and elegant example. As Benedict XVI points out, the words did not just happen by chance; they were constructed for a specific purpose and meaning and taught by our Lord to us, for us, to approach the Father in a specific way for certain outcomes. Interestingly, no where is the pursuit of happiness found in the prayer whereas, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” is of central importance. And it is HIS kingdom and HIS will that will be done, not ours.

It is also noteworthy that the opening plea from the Divine Mercy Chaplet [from St. Faustina as revealed by our Lord to her] is clear and unambiguous on similar points. It starts: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” It is a bold plea and statement in the form of prayer directly to the Father that recognizes among other things: 1) we are all sinners; 2) that forgiveness of sins is a power only to be exercised by a superior and Divine God; 3) that the pathway to God the Father is through the Son; 4) that the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness is available to us only through affirmative acts of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit both of whom we must acknowledge and be thankful for and request through prayer; 5) that God’s forgiveness and mercy are options for us only because of the Divine Son’s offerings to the Father on our behalf (and not because of anything we did, or can do, or will do, in this life); 5) we pray for ourselves, and our brothers and sisters throughout the world in a spirit of community and out of an expression of love as our Lord did for us when he was among us.

St. Thomas Aquinas has said that personal revelation brings us not new doctrine but new graces. New graces in turn bring us new examples of God’s love for us. I believe that the work of St. Faustina and the series of revelations of her interaction with our Lord as expressed in her diary are here to provide a better and modern alternative to New Age simplicities and the crafty, subtle messaging of the Evil One. The God of ancient Israel and the New Testament believes in the ongoing accessibility of his message and his message is ultimately, a love story of eternal consequence. He wants us to avail ourselves of all relevant and appropriate mechanisms to hear his voice, and to understand his offer of love and forgiveness—before it is too late. In the case of St. Faustina, the revealer of God’s overwhelming abundance of Divine Mercy for us, he chose to deliver his message to a person of extreme humility and low station and to do so at this point in human history. How revealing. And, the message is available for everyone and to be particularly accessed in these troubled times. St. Faustina’s complete loss of self and personal Christ-like suffering for us as a victim soul, her child-like faith, purity of heart, true love and devotion to our Lord, and overwhelming simplicity, is an effective counterweight to the confusion of our times. There is no comparison. St. Faustina’s message is, above all things, a mutual love story of magnificent proportion unveiled by our Lord and the Holy Spirit for this complex and turbulent period to help us find our way to the Father. In the New Testament, and in modern times, it is no mistake that God speaks to the little people in the telling of his love story for humanity. He seeks above all: simplicity, complete devotion, and purity of heart into which his mercy and love and the Holy Spirit is poured without obstacle and objection into our soul. And that is the greatest of miracles for which we can thank our Lord, Jesus Christ. St. Catherine of Genoa wrote: “When the soul beholds within herself the amorous flame by which she is drawn toward her sweet Master and her God, the burning heat of love overpowers her and she melts. Then, in that divine light she sees how God, by his great care and constant providence, never ceases to attract her to her last perfection, and that he does so through pure love alone.”