The Mission of Christ: the Kingdom of God

Author: Pope John Paul II

"The kingdom of God has come to you" (cf. Lk 11:20 )

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 27 April 1988, the Holy Father reflected on the Gospel of the kingdom, planted as a seed by Christ's mission, to be realized through time.

1. "The time has come and the kingdom of God is near; convert and believe in the Good News" ( Mk 1, 15). Jesus Christ was sent by the Father "to announce the Good News to the poor" ( Lk 4, 18). He was —and still is— the first Messenger of the Father, the first Evangelizer, as we already said in the previous catechesis with the same words that Paul VI uses in Evangelii nuntiandi . Moreover, Jesus is not only the herald of the Gospel, of the Good News, but He himself is the Gospel (cf. Evangelii nuntiandi , 7).

Indeed, in the whole of his mission, through everything he does and teaches, and, finally, through the cross and resurrection, "he fully manifests man to himself" (cf. Gaudium et spes , 22), and it reveals to him the prospects of that happiness to which God has called and destined him from the beginning. The message of the beatitudes summarizes the program of life proposed to those who want to follow the divine call, it is the synthesis of the entire evangelical "ethos" linked to the mystery of redemption.

2. The mission of Christ consists, above all, in the revelation of the Good News (Gospel) addressed to man. Its object, therefore, is man, and, in this sense, it can be said that it is "anthropocentric": but, at the same time, it is deeply rooted in the truth of the kingdom of God , in the announcement of his coming and his nearness: "The kingdom of God is near... believe in the Good News" ( Mk 1, 15).

This, then, is " the Gospel of the kingdom ", whose reference to man, visible throughout Christ's mission, is rooted in a " theocentric " dimension , which is precisely called the kingdom of God . Jesus announces the Gospel of this kingdom, and, at the same time, realizes the kingdom of God throughout the development of its mission, through which the kingdom is born and develops already in time, as a seed inserted in the history of man and the world. This realization of the kingdom takes place through the word of the Gospel and through the entire earthly life of the Son of man, crowned in the paschal mystery with the cross and the resurrection. Indeed, with his "obedience unto death" (cf. Phil 2, 8), Jesus began a new phase of the economy of salvation, the process of which will conclude when God is "all in all" ( 1 Cor 15, 28), so that the kingdom of God has truly begun to be realized in the history of man and of the world, although in the earthly course of human life we ​​continually meet and collide with that other fundamental term of historical dialectics: the "disobedience of the first Adam", who submitted his spirit to the "prince of this world" (cf. Rom 5, 19; Jn 14, 30).

3. We touch here the central point —and almost the critical point— of the fulfillment of the mission of Christ, Son of God, in history: this is a question to which it will be necessary to return in a subsequent stage of our catechesis. If in Christ the Kingdom of God " is near " — indeed, it is definitely present — in the history of man and of the world, at the same time its fulfillment still belongs to the future . For this reason, Jesus commands us that, in our prayer, we say to the Father "your kingdom come" ( Mt 6, 10).

4. This issue must be kept in mind when dealing with the Gospel of Christ as "Good News" of the kingdom of God. This was the "guiding" theme of Jesus' announcement when he spoke of the kingdom of God, especially in his numerous parables. Particularly significant is the one that presents us with the kingdom of God similar to the seed that the sower of the earth sows... (cf. Mt 13, 3-9). The seed is destined "to bear fruit", due to its own interior potentiality, without a doubt, but the fruit also depends on the land on which it falls (cf. Mt 13, 19-23).

5. On another occasion Jesus compares the kingdom of God (the "kingdom of heaven", according to Matthew) to a mustard seed, which "is the smallest of all seeds", but which, once grown, becomes in a tree so leafy that birds can nest in the branches (cf. Mt 13, 31-32). And he also compares the growth of the kingdom of God with " yeast ", which ferments the dough so that it becomes bread that serves as food for men ( Mt 13, 33). However, Jesus still dedicates a parable to the problem of the growth of the kingdom of God on the ground that is this world. It is about the parable of the wheat and the tares , that the "enemy"Mt 13, 24-30): thus, in the field of the world, good and evil, symbolized by the wheat and the tares, grow together "until the time of harvest" — that is, until the day of divine judgment —; another significant allusion to the eschatological perspective of human history. In any case, Jesus lets us know that the growth of the seed , which is the "Word of God", is conditioned by the way it is received in the field of human hearts : it depends on this that it produces fruit giving "one hundred, another sixty, another thirty" ( Mt 13, 23), according to the dispositions and responses of those who receive it.

6. In his announcement of the kingdom of God, Jesus also lets us know that this kingdom is not destined for a single nation, or only for the "chosen people", because they will come "from East and West" to "sit at table with Abraham , Isaac and Jacob" (cf. Mt 8, 11). This means, in effect, that it is not a kingdom in the temporal and political sense . It is not a kingdom "of this world" (cf. Jn 18, 36), although it appears inserted, and in it it must develop and grow. For this reason Jesus distances himself from the crowd that wanted to make him king ("Realizing that Jesus was trying to come and take him by force to make him king , he fled back to the mountain by himself": Jn6, 15). And, shortly before his passion, while in the Upper Room, Jesus asks the Father to allow the disciples to live according to the same conception of the kingdom of God: "I do not ask you to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the Evil One. They They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world " ( Jn 17, 15-16). And even more: according to the teaching and prayer of Jesus, the kingdom of God must grow in the hearts of the disciples "in this world"; however, it will reach its fulfillment in the future world: "when the Son of man comes in his glory... All nations will be gathered before him" ( Mt 25, 31-32). Always in an eschatological perspective!

7. We can complete the notion of the kingdom of God announced by Jesus, emphasizing that it is the kingdom of the Father , whom Jesus teaches us to address with prayer to obtain his arrival: "Your kingdom come" ( Mt 6, 10; Lk 11 , two). In turn, the heavenly Father offers men, through Christ and in Christ, the forgiveness of their sins and salvation, and, full of love, awaits his return, as the father in the parable awaited the return of the prodigal son ( cf. Lk 15, 20-32), because God is truly "rich in mercy" ( Eph 2, 4).

In this light is placed the entire Gospel of conversion that, from the beginning, Jesus announced: "repent and believe in the Good News" ( Mk 1, 15). Conversion to the Father, to the God who "is love" ( 1 Jn 4, 16), goes hand in hand with the acceptance of love as a "new" commandment: love for God, "the greatest and the first commandment" ( Mt 22, 38 ) and love of neighbor , "like the first" ( Mt 22, 39). Jesus says: "I give you a new commandment: that you love one another". "That as I have loved you, so you also love one another" ( Jn13, 34). And we find here the essence of the "kingdom of God" in man and in history. Thus, the entire law —that is, the ethical patrimony of the Old Covenant— must be fulfilled , must reach its divine-human plenitude. Jesus himself declares it in the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them" ( Mt 5:17).

In any case, He frees man from the "letter of the law", to make him penetrate his spirit , since, as Saint Paul says, "the letter (alone) kills", while "the Spirit gives life" (cf. 2 Cor 3, 6). Fraternal love, as a reflection and participation in the love of God, is thus the animating principle of the New Law, which is like the constitutional basis of the kingdom of God (cf. Summa Theol ., I-II, q. 106. a. 1; q. 107. aa. 1-2).

8. Among the parables with which Jesus covers his preaching about the kingdom of God with comparisons and allegories, there is also that of a king "who celebrated the wedding feast of his son" ( Mt 22, 2). The parable narrates that many of those who were invited first did not attend the banquet, looking for different excuses and pretexts for it, and that, then, the king sent for other people, from the "crossroads", to sit down to your table. But, among those who arrived, not all were worthy of that invitation, for not wearing the required "wedding dress".

This parable of the banquet , compared with that of the sower and the seed, leads us to the same conclusion: if not all the guests will sit at the banquet table, nor will all the seeds produce the harvest, it depends on the provisions with which that the invitation is answered or the seed of the Word of God is received in the heart. It depends on the way in which Christ, who is the sower , and also the son of the king and the bridegroom , is welcomed, how He presents Himself on different occasions: "Can the wedding guests fast when the bridegroom is still with them? ?" ( Mc2, 19), he once asked his questioner, alluding to the severity of John the Baptist. And He Himself gave the answer: " While the bridegroom is with them they cannot fast" ( Mk 2, 19).

Thus, the kingdom of God is like a wedding party to which the Heavenly Father invites men in communion of love and joy with his Son. Everyone is called and invited: but each one is responsible for their own adherence or their own rejection, their own conformity or non-conformity with the law that regulates the banquet.

9. This is the law of love: it derives from divine grace in the man who welcomes it and preserves it, participating vitally in the Paschal mystery of Christ. It is a love that is realized in history, notwithstanding any rejection on the part of the guests, regardless of their unworthiness. The Christian smiles at the hope that love will also be realized in all the "guests": precisely because the Paschal "measure" of this spousal love is the cross, its eschatological perspective has been left open in history with the resurrection of Christ. Through Him the Father "has delivered us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son " (cf. Col.1, 13). If we accept the call and second the attraction of the Father, in Christ "we all have redemption" and eternal life.

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