Catholic Social Doctrine: A Reflection on the Kingdom of God and His Christ
The kingdom of God though akin to a secret is something which is preached, something we work for, something for which we suffer and experience hardship, even persecution, and the coming of which we wait. (Acts 8:12; 14:22; 28:31, 2 Thess. 1:5, Col. 4:1, Matt. 5:10; Mark 15:43) It is something that sometimes requires the sacrifice of leaving home, wife, family. (Luke 18:29) It is something that requires preparation, wise custody, effort and planning. (Cf. Matt. 25:1-11) It is something which we enter by baptism, so it is closely linked, if it is not in fact equated, with the Church. (John 3:5) It is a difficult acquisition, hard to enter, and difficult to stay in. (Mark 10:24)
We do not inherit it without condition, since we are banned from it if we are wicked. (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:21) "Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal. 5:19-21)
We are therefore to act forcefully to avoid any sin that threatens to keep us from entering it. (Mark 9:47) The rich whose heart is in their earthly treasure, and who focus upon acquiring riches in gold rather than riches in spirit, have a difficult time accessing the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:23)
The selfish, self-regarding, self-sufficient rich are not our model. Rather, we must become innocent, poor in spirit, dependent, receptive, and full of wonder like little children. (Matt. 18:4; 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:17; Matt. 5:3) It is something that, once being in, we ought not to look back, for no one who "set his hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) The keys to that kingdom were given to Peter, the Rock, and it will be with us until the end of time, for the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18-19) Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia.
The kingdom of God, though present even in Christ when he walked on earth, and though present in us even now, and always near (Luke 10:11), will not be fully realized until the end of time, when, according to Scripture, an angel will blow his trumpet and voices in heaven will sing: "The kingdom of the world now belongs to our Lord and to his Anointed, and he will reign forever and ever." (Rev. 11:15; cf. Matt. 8:11; Daniel 2:44; 7:27) It is something the consummation of which ought devoutly to be wished, and indeed, the Lord taught us to pray to the Lord God, "thy kingdom come," adveniat regnum tuum." (Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2) And St. Paul prays impatiently: Lord come! Maranatha! (1 Cor. 16:22)
The Kingdom of God was one that did not rely on violence, even justifiable violence, against properly constituted authority. (John 18:36) It was not one that relied upon the sword. It was not one that relied upon "oppressive and despotic power," such as the power "wielded by the rulers of nations." (Compendium, No. 379) And yet the Kingdom of God offered a huge challenge to the kingdoms of this earth.
The kingdom of God ushered in by Christ was one that operated above and beyond and around and within existing kingdoms and kings, those who claimed, falsely in an absolute sense, to have final authority over, and be the real benefactors (euergetai) of, their people, and thereby approach divinity. (Luke 22:25) Such claims were false because Jesus knew that there was no authority exercised by any magistrate except that it was given to him by God. (John 19:11; cf. Rom 13:1) Such claims were also false because Jesus knew that the only real benefactor of men is God, the God who feeds the birds of the air who store not goods in barns, and who sees to it that the lilies, who neither labor nor spin, have beautiful raiment. (Cf. Matt. 6:26-33)
The Kingdom of God operated on a model entirely different from those under which the rulers of the world operated. In a sense it is topsy turvy. The model of leadership was service (diakonos), youth (ne˘teros), even slavery (doulos). (Luke 22:26; Mark 10:43-44) In this way, the leader was to imitate Christ, the "Son of Man [who] did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many." (Cf. Mark 10:42-45) That is why the Pope, heir to St. Peter's keys, is called the servant of the servants of God, servus servorum Dei.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Catholic Social Doctrine, Social Reign of Christ, Kingdom of God.Dominus Jesu, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
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