As a young lad growing up in the 1970s, I found the idea that God had a Kingdom quite puzzling. In those days, I could only imagine two possibilities of what this Kingdom could be like: either it was like the fantasy medieval kingdoms of fiction or the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Did God’s kingship mean He was somehow a sovereign ruler of some heavenly territory like Queen Elizabeth, or did he rule a kingdom with knights and dames, and chivalry and quests? Of course, such childhood ideas might get us to the starting gates of what God’s Kingdom is all about, but they are hardly where we need to go in our understanding.
But what is God’s Kingdom, such that Jesus would present it as that which his disciples were to receive and work in with fruitfulness?
It might be helpful to firstly put aside some wrong understandings of God’s Kingdom. It is not a place as such, or a territory that can be identified on some map. God’s Kingdom is not a ‘thing’ which can be pointed to. When we say ‘Thy Kingdom come’ in the Lord’s Prayer, we are not praying for something like a political party to win an election. Our questioning about God’s Kingdom should not be so much ‘what’ it is, but ‘who,’ and ‘for whom’.
As our Catechism puts it, the Kingdom of God means Jesus Christ himself, whom we desire to come into our lives, and whose life we wish manifested in ours. (CCC.2816) In this sense we can better speak of God’s kingdom as his reigning or ruling in our lives. When we say, ‘Thy kingdom come’ we also say ‘Thy will be done’. In other words, it is the very presence of God with us, manifested in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, that matters. The kingdom we seek is not a place but a person; it is our participation in the life of God, in the Body of Christ. To pick up and run with the image from Jesus’ parable, we will do well to remember that he would say later on: ‘I am the vine, and you are the branches.’
There is fruit to be produced from this kingdom-vine, onto which we were grafted at our baptism. But what is that fruit? What is it that this Godly reign seeks to produce? St Paul (as always!) offers us a good answer. They are the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Imagine one of our political parties putting these up as their policy platform to govern our nation! Yet, also imagine if these were indeed the measures by which all our political parties were operating from in guiding our pathway out of COVID.
God’s kingdom is not some ‘pie in the sky’ dream; it is real, and it is to be worked for now so that the good of everyone is attended to in our political, economic, social, cultural and religious structures. This is why Paul would say to the Philippians in today’s second reading: “Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise… Then the God of peace will be with you.” God’s Kingdom is both ‘to come’ and ‘here and now.’
So, we would all do well to make our own the words of Jesus, spoken to those willing to hear. There is no use saying: look, here it is. Look, there. For the kingdom of God is among you, He is with you.
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli27 January 2021