Redemptoris Missio 17ab: The Kingdom, Christ, and the Church

In our discussion of John Paul II’s document on Jesus’ mission of redemption, we come to the topic: The Kingdom in Relation to Christ and the Church

Nowadays the kingdom is much spoken of, but not always in a way consonant with the thinking of the Church. In fact, there are ideas about salvation and mission which can be called “anthropocentric” in the reductive sense of the word, inasmuch as they are focused on (people’s) earthly needs.

I think there is a danger of church operations becoming like an “NGO” as Pope Francis has opined. Clericalism is another manifestation of this: the creature comforts of the clergy, and the adoption of anthropomorphic models of hierarchy. To be sure, many aspects of hierarchy are godly and appropriate. But secrecy, intimidation, and other sins have infected Catholic clergy in many places.

John Paul II’s skepticism focused on matters associated with liberation:

In this view, the kingdom tends to become something completely human and secularized; what counts are programs and struggles for a liberation which is socio-economic, political and even cultural, but within a horizon that is closed to the transcendent.

I think the burden of proof is on those who perhaps fail to see instances of where the Church’s efforts are indeed transcendent. Certainly we’ve seen clergy who persist in going through the motions of faith leadership, but the focus is on balanced budgets, warm bodies in seminaries, and less on the good of the entire people of God.

Without denying that on this level too there are values to be promoted, such a notion nevertheless remains within the confines of a kingdom of (humankind), deprived of its authentic and profound dimensions. Such a view easily translates into one more ideology of purely earthly progress. The kingdom of God, however, “is not of this world…is not from the world” (Jn 18:36).

This is true. But it’s also undeniable that the kerygma of Jesus himself in the Gospels was that he came to address human needs of the poor, the blind, prisoners, and many others. In fact, he preaches explicitly that his presence is to be known in the service of the needy. (Cf. Matthew 25:31ff) We’ll pick up this topic a bit more with the next post. Meanwhile, any commentary from the readers? Have I been unfair in my mild criticism so far?

This document is available online here and is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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