Vol.5 No.43 DoM Gospel Reflection
14th Sunday Ordinary Time—June 28, 2016
Luke 10: 1-9
In Sunday’s Gospel, we see Jesus sending out disciples to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God to the Jewish people. We all know that the Jews expected a messiah to come and lead them out of bondage and establish Israel as a sovereign nation once again. However, in hindsight, we know that is not what Jesus message was. I was surprised to learn that the phrase, “Kingdom of God” occurs 122 times in the New Testament.
Did you know that 99 of these are found in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? Did you know that 90 of those 99 occurrences are said by Jesus? With these statistics, I thought that examining the three historic interpretations of the words “Kingdom of God” would shed light on this important concept. The first interpretation is considered a “Christological” interpretation. In this perspective “the Kingdom” is not a thing, it is not a geographical dominion like worldly kingdoms. It is a person; it is Jesus, Himself. The term ‘Kingdom of God’ is itself a veiled Christology. By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in Him, God Himself is present among them, that He (Jesus) is God’s presence.” (Pope Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth, Part 1)
Church Father, Origen wrote, “those who pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God pray without any doubt for the Kingdom of God that they contain in themselves, and they pray that this kingdom might bear fruit and attain its fullness.” In this interpretation, the Kingdom of God is within the hearts of the people. (Mystical Interpretation)
In the third interpretation, the Kingdom of God is present in the world today in the Church. This interpretation is quick to point out that the Kingdom is not complete. It will only be perfectly realized at the end of history when Christ returns in His glory. He tells us in Matthew that He will tell the reapers to “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned. But gather the wheat into my barn”. (Ecclesiastical Interpretation)
This instruction to the reapers and our reading for Sunday, suggest we must respond or act to be considered a member of the Kingdom: “But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, “Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.” This nearness is clearly either a glorious gift or an horrific loss. People who are looking for the Kingdom of God— who are open to it—will have an opportunity to experience its nearness and enter into it. But others will only be near to it. Because they refuse to respond, they will be excluded from entering.
Looking at the Gospel, the response the disciples instruct the people to give is to “repent”. When Jesus as with John the Baptist preached repentance, they preached “metanoia”. This idea of repenting is more than just sorrow for sins or a promise to avoid sin in the future. It requires changing your life. Changing our lives also requires changing our perspective, a spiritual revolution, a spiritual paradigm shift (Catholic Online, Andrew M. Greenwell). The New Testament also tells us that in order to enter the Kingdom, we must be “justified”. We are only justified through Christ’s death and resurrection. (Romans 5:9: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”). Once that was accomplished, we were able to enter the Kingdom, that is have Christ present in us (Mystical Interpretation) through the reception of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Jeff Mirus states “Indeed, the Trinity itself actually takes up a kind of residence in our souls. The first mark of entering the Kingdom of God, then, is a rootedness in Christ, a confidence and conviction that He is, as He said, the way, the truth and the life. And with this comes an ongoing reordering of both our perceptions and our passions.”
For the early Christians as it is now, the first step in entering the Kingdom of God was typically through the sacrament of baptism. This is, for most of us, the initial reception of the Holy Spirit. Baptism gives us the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, which are actually the actions of God Himself in our souls. We call them supernatural virtues because we do not merely believe in God, but we believe by means of God. The same is true of how we hope and love.. To put this another way, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
As we receive the Holy Spirit, we also receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If we perceive we are not growing in these gifts then we need to consider the progress we think we are making in the spiritual life. This progress involves a radical reordering of our perceptions and of our passions, a prioritization radically different than those based in the world. For those grounded in the Kingdom of God, it is a constant growth in seeing reality as God Himself sees and responding to reality as God Himself responds. To those based in the World, these responses seem strange and even foolish. This is why the rejection of self-serving motives in favor of seeking God and holding ourselves open to Him is what it means to be “looking for the Kingdom of God.” Wanting and trying to avoid the traps of the world, traps of the flesh and the devil is what it means to be willing and open to enter the Kingdom when it comes “near”. Only then can the Holy Spirit bestow His gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
Pope Francis offered a series of catechesis on these gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Pope has reminded us that possessing the gift of wisdom “is to see the world, to see situations, circumstances, problems, everything through God’s eyes.” In the same way, the gift of understanding “is a grace…which awakens in a Christian the ability to go beyond the outward appearance of reality and to probe the depths of the thoughts of God and his plan of salvation.” By the gift of counsel, “it is God himself, through his spirit, who enlightens our heart so as to make us understand the right way to speak and to behave and the way to follow.” It is through the gift of fortitude that “the Holy Spirit liberates…our heart, he frees it from sluggishness, from uncertainty and from all the fears that can hinder it, so that Our Lord’s Word may be put into practice authentically and with joy.” And the gift of knowledge “allows us to grasp, through Creation, the greatness and love of God and His profound relationship with every creature.” Pope Francis tells us that “Piety is not mere outward religiosity; it is that genuine religious spirit which makes us turn to the Father as his children and to grow in our love for others, seeing them as our brothers and sisters, members of God’s family.
Through the fear of the Lord, we become, as Jesus asks us, like little children, trusting in the goodness and the protection of our heavenly Father. The Spirit enables us to persevere in loving obedience to the word of God.
Fear of the Lord is also a kind of “alarm”, awakening us to the presence of sin in our lives and reminding us that we will one day be held accountable to the just Judge.
When we begin to use other people, to live for money and empty pleasure alone, blaspheming God’s name and allowing ourselves to be corrupted, this spiritual gift comes to our aid and directs us to the right path.”
The differences made by entering the Kingdom of God are innumerable and unmeasurable differences in how we see and respond to the world as a result of our growth in the supernatural virtues and all these gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are nourished by the sacraments of the Church and come to full bloom through frequent prayer. They are nurtured through our own serious attention and effort, including regular reflection before God on how we speak and act, and especially on how we think and how we perceive. This reflection on the Kingdom of God has given me new appreciation of the Lord’s Prayer. As we say Thy Kingdom Come, we are actually praying “Let thy kingdom come, let the gospel be preached to all and embraced by all; let all be brought to subscribe to the record God has given in his word concerning his Son, and to embrace him as their Savior and Sovereign Lord. Let the church be enlarged, the kingdom of the world be made Christ’s kingdom, and all men become subjects to it, and live as becomes their character.” (Matthew Henry).
Catholic Answers Blog: What is the Kingdom of God?, Matt Fradd
June 11, 2013, National Catholic Reporter: The reign of God is a treasure, Thomas Gumbleton
Matthew Henry’s Commentary The Lord’s Prayer http://www.lords-prayer-words.com/commentary/thy_kingdom_come.html#ixzz4CRtvUUoT
Catholic Culture.Org: The Discernible Features of the Kingdom of God…in Us By Dr. Jeff Mirus | May 29, 2014
http://totus2us.com/vocation/gifts-of-the-holy-spirit/; Pope Francis Address to General Audiences