Redemptoris Missio 18: The Kingdom Is A Person

Speaking of inclinations within the Church that lack a focus on Jesus. Not just the facts and knowledge about him. But the person:

This is not the kingdom of God as we know it from Revelation. The kingdom cannot be detached either from Christ or from the Church.

By Revelation, I think we are talking about the whole of received grace from God, not the view of the Church and the Reign of God in the last biblical book.

As has already been said, Christ not only proclaimed the kingdom, but in him the kingdom itself became present and was fulfilled. This happened not only through his words and his deeds: “Above all,…the kingdom is made manifest in the very person of Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, who came ‘to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mk 10:45).” (Lumen Gentium 5)

By this definition, the Reign of God in its fullest form, balances word and deed. To be sure, individual disciples might lean to a stronger charism on one side or the other, or shift between the two, based on need. With fallible souls, that seems inevitable. The quality of unity in the Church would be one level of assurance the entire project (whatever it might be, micro- or macro-) is more balanced than if it were run by a lone ranger. Lacking unity, it’s not impossible. Just made more difficult. The citation from Lumen Gentium informs us that the orientation is to serve others in sacrifice. Not preserve institutions.

Pope John Paul II rightly identifies the Reign of God as a person:

The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. (Cf. Gaudium et Spes 22) If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into a purely human or ideological goal, and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor 15:27).

And this criticism naturally applies to the so-called ecclesiocentrist tendencies in organized religion. John Paul II didn’t do well by minimizing this trend during his papacy. It can be very difficult to recognize a person when the focus is on his words only. And worse, when the focus is on the words others have written about him, his goals, his morals.

Likewise, one may not separate the kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both.

This is true. Yet it is possible for people in the Church, even those elevated to leadership, to separate themselves from the Church’s mission and the accompaniment of Christ. As such, they give contrary witness to the values of God. And most dangerously, they do so while claiming the mantle of faithfulness.

The obvious example in our times would be the cover-up of abuse by predators and the scandal in which we have invested so much hand-wringing. One certainly can’t say the attempt to preserve institutions from scandal is aligned with the Kingdom.

But in our better moments, when we have embraced the qualities endowed to us–unity, holiness, etc., we can experience as much of a fullness in the fruits of the Lord’s mission:

Christ endowed the Church, his body, with the fullness of the benefits and means of salvation. The Holy Spirit dwells in her, enlivens her with his gifts and charisms, sanctifies, guides and constantly renews her. (Cf. Lumen Gentium 4) The result is a unique and special relationship which, while not excluding the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries, confers upon her a specific and necessary role; hence the Church’s special connection with the kingdom of God and of Christ, which she has “the mission of announcing and inaugurating among all peoples.” (Ibid., 5)

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.
This entry was posted in evangelization, Redemptoris Missio. Bookmark the permalink.

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