Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Kingdom of God

  We Catholics are near the beginning of the liturgical year.  The Advent/Christmas cycle is over and we are in what the Church now calls Ordinary Time.  Ordinary here does not mean regular or common.  It rather refers to an ordered presentation of the Gospel message, the Christian Mystery as we go through the weeks that are not related to Christmas and Easter.

   I this particular year the Gospel of Mark will be the principle one used on Sunday, though because Mark is so short there will be occasional use of the Gospel of John.  Mark, the first Gospel to be put in writing, is brief and to the point.  Today the Gospel text is from Mark 1:14-20. Mark gives us no nativity story, as Matthew and Luke will later do, and no great prologue as John does.  He gets right to the point of Jesus ministry and so near the beginning of this passage Jesus has come to Galilee after being presented to us by John the Baptist, and He extends His basic invitation, "This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15). 

   What are we to make of this call to repent?  We get off on the wrong foot if we think that it means simply to feel sorry for your sins and change your behavior.  It does mean that, but so much more.  A little example might help us to get at what Jesus is inviting us to do.   Today we live in a new reality called the high-tech age.  Statements that we can make today such as "I took a picture this morning with my cell phone," or "I posted on Facebook," made no sense just a few years ago, but in this new reality they make perfect sense.

   When Jesus invites us to repent He is inviting us to accept a new reality, a new way of going about in the world, a new way of seeing God.  In many ways this new vision makes no sense to those who are outside of it. This new vision is called the Kingdom of God, a kingdom which is not a place in this life or even a place to go in the next  but a radically different way of doing things.  Some modern biblical scholars suggest changing it to a verb--the reigning or ruling of God.  The Kingdom is among us already when God is ruling our lives.  It is not yet here in its fullness, but is always breaking forth among us.

   The Scriptures use various words to describe this God ruling way of life, words such as peace, justice, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation.  Jesus' Himself goes on to describe it in parables.

   The challenge for us is this.Have we really bought into God's different reality, a reality which is foundational and which directs all of our thoughts and actions, or are we still trying to fit God's ruling, God's reality, into the many kingdoms of today's world.

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