The message that “the kingdom of God is near” has been the message since the days of John the Baptist. The Baptist proclaimed it to the crowds who came to the Jordan. Jesus taught it at His first appearance; and now (in this Sundays’s Gospel passage) the disciples are sent out to spread this as the keynote of their teaching (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20).
Unfortunately it took a long time even for the disciples to understand what “the Kingdom of God” really means. They wanted some sort of visible power and were naively thrilled at having the power of exorcism. A priest (Alfred Loisy, 1857-1949) who was a Biblical scholar once put a negative spin to idea of the Kingdom by saying: “Jesus preached the Kingdom, but the Church happened!”. His was a time when several people/scholar got caught up with the erroneous idea of drawing a dichotomy between what they called “the Jesus of History” and the “Christ of Faith” – i.e that the ‘real Jesus’ was something else the Church has been teaching throughout the centuries. That path led many to old heresy of reducing Jesus to another mere mortal (ie an old heresy re-packaged!). Loisy ended up with espousing many many heretical positions and was eventually excommunicated! There is no dichotomy between the ‘Jesus of History’ and the ‘Christ of faith’. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, in his books, ‘Jesus of Nazareth” (Parts I and II) bring the two beautifully together.
So what should we take ‘the Kingdom of God’ to mean? One should be able to make the connection that the ‘Kingdom of God’ can be taken as Jesus Himself: the expected Messiah, but one who is also Divine, God incarnated man. It wouldn’t be wrong to substitute ‘the Kingdom of God’ with ‘Christ’. Thus, even when we pray ‘Thy Kingdom come….” we could think of it as the hope of the decisive moment of the full manifestation of God’s Kingdom at His Second Coming.
Perhaps it is precisely when God’s Kingship, when the true God Himself, is fully recognised by humanity that the Kingdom will manifest itself fully on earth, as it is in heaven. There is much praying to do, and much witnessing to do before that happens. And, as Our Lord said, we must ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.
The Kingdom of God is near…..for God is near…..