Friday, November 20, 2015
The Once & Future King
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We come to the end of the liturgical year in the Church. Next Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent, that time of preparation for the coming of Christ. Advent is both a looking ahead (to the time when Christ will come in glory) and a looking back (to the time when Christ came in the nativity). So it is fitting that before we begin the Advent season the Church celebrates this great feast which reminds us that Jesus Christ reigns as King right here and right now among us.
It may not seem that way when we look at the world around us. ISIS terrorists destroyed more than a hundred lives in Paris and Beirut last weekend. Thousands are fleeing from their home countries and other countries are afraid to take them in. How can we say that Christ is King? People lose loved ones every day. People suffer broken hearts. How can we say that Christ is King?
Is the Kingdom of God something that exists now or something we only hope for in the future? When we pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy Kingdom come," we pray for a future reign of God where justice and mercy will prevail. We pray marana tha because we know the suffering of the world around is not God's kingdom. We long for that perfect reign of God where we will know unending love and peace.
In that respect, the Kingdom of God is a future event. We await the final coming of Christ in glory when His reign will achieve perfection. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that the Kingdom of God is also a present reality. Jesus did not come 2000 years ago in the Incarnation to tell us what He was going to do in some distant future. He came to inaugurate His Kingdom then and there. The Kingdom is not yet fully manifest in this world, because it is not of this world. But God's Kingdom is present to us now and we are called to be citizens of it. It is vital that we understand this.
It is Christ, not King Arthur, who is the real "once and future king," whose reign is both present to us now and enduring through all time. "The Kingdom of God lies ahead of us. It is brought near in the Word incarnate, it is proclaimed throughout the whole Gospel, and it has come in Christ's death and Resurrection. The Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst" (CCC 2816). All those who belong to the Church are citizens of the Kingdom of God here and now. "The Church is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery" (CCC 763, LG 3).
The Kingdom of God is not identified with the world, but with the Church -- yet the Church is called to serve the world and be present in the world. The Church acts as a leaven, infecting the world with the glory of God's Kingdom until that day when Christ comes in glory.
In John's gospel Jesus tells Pilate, a mid-level administrator of the Roman bureaucracy, that His kingdom is not of this world. But He, the King of the Universe, entered into this world to testify to the truth. Christ entered the world, and His Kingdom entered with Him. Wherever the King is, the Kingdom will also be.
"The Kingdom of God means Christ Himself," St. Cyprian said. "For as He is our resurrection, since in Him we rise, so He can also be understood as the Kingdom of God, for in Him we shall reign." The Kingdom of God is not a place, but a Person. To know Christ now is to know His reign in your heart.
So yes, as Christians, we await the fullness of the coming of His Kingdom. We pray marana tha as we look forward with hope to His final manifestation. But that does not mean we are do not live under His reign right here and now. Christ reigns from eternity, which is not some future time, but an ever present time. And so we pray "Thy Kingdom come," into our hearts right now, this day, O Lord, and reign within our lives. To be a follower of Christ is to be a citizen of His Kingdom, both now and for all eternity.