Lesson 23- The Coming of the Kingdom
As I ended my last program, I was at the point where I was getting ready to draw this series of talks to a conclusion. This is the twenty fourth program in a series that began in January when I interrupted the replay of my regular programs to address the economic collapse that we are now facing because I believe that we have reached a pivotal time in history. The decisions that we make now will be critical in determining whether God’s plan for Humankind will finally be attained or whether we, and the entire world, will collapse and God will have to wait for those who follow us to pick up the pieces and once again begin the struggle to create His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
St. Paul says the whole creation groans, like a woman in childbirth, waiting for the revelation of the children of God. And so, what we do now will determine whether we are about to experience a birth or whether we, like previous great civilizations of the past, will choose the wrong path and once again miscarry and terminate the birth of God’s Kingdom. Whether it is a birth or miscarriage depends first on whether we have a vision that the world is waiting to receive and second, whether we are willing to make a commitment to it by repenting and reforming ourselves and then the world. Pope Benedict XVI seems to be sensing the same thing since his latest encyclical, “Charity in Truth”, addresses the necessary role that the Church must play in the formation of the international New World Order.
Years ago when I did similar programs for the Archdiocese I had entitled them the Sane Society, which I equated with the Kingdom of God. For you see, that is what the Gospel is all about. Jesus, God’s Wisdom, had come to declare a Kingdom that had been promised since the earliest of time by the Old Testament prophets. I have referred to this in previous programs as the Judeo/Christian Linear Utopian View of History which simply means that both Jews and Christians have a linear, left hemispheric view of history, based on the belief that God is using it as a stage for taking us to the Promised Land where the “lion and the lamb will lay down together, justice and peace will kiss, and men will take their weapons of war and beat them into tools for farming.”
The Old Testament first set us on this path through the Ten Commandments based on the “rule of law” but it was merely a quick fix that tried to change behavior through threats of punishment or promises of reward. It was a typical destructive parent/child relationship that is necessary because of the immaturity and lack of understanding by the child. But in the long term it was inadequate for the goal that God had set for us and that is why it was necessary for there to be a New Testament. Already in the Old Testament, we hear God complaining about the inadequacy of the law because although it might change behavior, it couldn’t change the heart. Therefore, in John I, St. John ends his introductory paragraph with “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
God’s Plan “B” was, and had always been, to replace the law of the Old Testament with the spirit of the New Testament. The New Testament was based on love and spirit and was intended to move us from the destructive relationship of the Old Testament, which is necessary when we are immature children, to the productive relationship of the New Testament, which is the natural outcome when children become adults. As St. Paul says:
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love…”
So that means that God wants us to grow up and move from a relationship based on the fear of punishment and replace it with one based on love.
Father Chardin, a French Jesuit priest who developed a Catholic view of evolution, said that the Mental Level of evolution, that began when Jesus, the Logos of God, entered the left hemisphere of our brain and became a reflective agent on the creative, intuitive right hemisphere, would eventually reach a level of complexity when it too, like previous levels, would make a qualitative leap on to a new level” the Spiritual Level. When this happens, according to Father Chardin, the human race will discover fire for the second time: only this time it will be the spiritual fire of love. Law, which dealt only with behavior, would diminish or disappear and love, which deals with attitude, will replace it as the major motivating force behind human behavior. Then the “lion”, our violent animal nature, will “lie down” or become reconciled with “the lamb”, our peaceful rational nature, and “justice”, which is the major foundation for coexistence with others, will “kiss with peace”, which is the harmonious result of justice. This is what the protesters in the ‘60’s meant when the chanted the slogan, “No justice! No peace!”.
However, justice is the minimum requirement for the establishment of the Spiritual Level of evolution, which, by this time, it should be clear is simply another name for the Kingdom of God. The Old Testament was built upon the Ten Commandments but the New Testament is based upon the Eight Beatitudes of Jesus.
In Matthew 5:1-48 Jesus outlines the principles for the Kingdom of God, which is the Christian’s vision for the New World Order. St. Matthew writes:
“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him and he began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth…
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy…
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God…
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God…
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is
the Kingdom of God…
The ultimate criteria for the Kingdom of God is love, which, I should point out is not a feeling. “Like” is a feeling and it is connected to our natural affinity for those who are beneficial to our own self-interest. And, as I mentioned in a previous program, “feelings don’t count” because they are automatic and spontaneous and they impel us to act in a certain way. In other words, there is no rational component to a feeling. Love, on the other hand, is, as Brother Elifus Lewis of LaSalleUniversity said, “an appreciation for the object loved independent of how it makes you feel.” Love always acts in ways that are beneficial to the object that is loved. “Like” is from the flesh… “Love” is from the sprit. “Like” is a feeling… Love is a decision for if it was a feeling, we could never love our enemies. Yet, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says:
“You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven,. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”
In other words, “Like” is natural… Love is supernatural and when it says that “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” it is talking about something far beyond what most of us mean when we talk about love. It is not talking about Erotic Love, which is based on feelings. It is talking about Agape Love which, according to the New Testament, is the very nature of God, Himself. In Romans 13:9-10, St. Paul writes;
The commandments, “Do not commit adultery.” “Do not murder.” Do not steal.” Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” And in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6, he gives a detail description of Agape Love, which is a description of the personality of God, Himself. He writes:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”
So what will the Christian New World Order be when it arrives if the “law of love” replaces the “law of the commandments”? Well, according to what the scriptures say, it won’t be any different except for our attitudes and motivations. Jesus said that He had come to fulfill the law not to replace it. So the law still remains. However, instead of it being an external force compelling us to obey it, it will become an internal attitude that has become part of our natural being. In other words, God will write His “law of love” on our hearts and, as the scriptures say, it will no longer be necessary to teach it to our children because it will become part of their nature. In the words of the Baltimore Catechism, we will finally reach the purpose for which we were created: “to know Love; to love Love; and to serve Love in this world so that we may be happy with Love forever in heaven. In fact, according to the scriptures, in the end there are only three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love because it alone is eternal. Faith will pass away when that in which we believe is seen; hope will pass away when that for which we hoped is attained, but love, which is the glue of the universe that bonds things together, will last forever. Again, according to the scriptures, in the end, everything will be shaken, and only those things grounded in love will remain standing. Is it any wonder, that Fr. Chardin concluded that it will be the discovery of the “fire of love” that will cause the Mental Level of Evolution to leap qualitatively over into the Spiritual Level.
So what will the Spiritual Level be like? That depends on how one interprets the scriptures. Some Protestants see it as the rapture when those who have been saved will be lifted off the earth and those who haven’t will be left behind. In fact, there is a book and movie that portrays this scenario. This view seems to indicate that the Spiritual Level will be unearthly in that we are transported to heaven immediately. Yet, the scriptures say that God’s will is that His Kingdom will be established on “earth as it is in heaven.” Another version is, according to the scriptures, that God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth. In my previous series, I described the dream of my five-year-old son in which a New Earth came down out of the clouds and, those who had accepted the “law of love” were transported to it while those who refused it remained on the Old Earth where they continued to maim and kill each other. Or, as my brother believes, after the Apocalypse, Jesus will physically return to the earth and head a government in Israel where He will be available for personal consultation whenever we become confused. Then, of course, there is the possibility that the New Earth is this earth that will be transformed into a New Earth when “the law of love” transforms us and we begin to live out the precepts of Jesus. The Church’s position is “wait and see” because, during its long history it has seen good intentioned false prophets lead people astray by predicting the time, place, and manner. It knows that in the end, it really doesn’t matter which one, if any, is the true version because whichever one it is, our role at the present moment remains the same. We are called to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk.” Whether the coming of God’s Kingdom is a supernatural act performed by God or simply the logical results of our behavior doesn’t matter because we already have been given our marching orders by Jesus: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”
Thus, we must “live the Kingdom to go to the Kingdom.” If it’s not in our hearts, then it will never be our reality because it will be foreign to us and our hearts will reject it. In other words, the Kingdom of God begins in the heart and, like all things in our hearts, begins to manifest itself in reality through our actions. By the way, the same is true of hell. Hell also is just a manifestation of what is in our hearts and that is why both heaven and hell, instead of being a reward or punishment, are simply the logical consequences of “reaping what we have sown.”
The idea that at a split second before our death we are suddenly going to have a change of heart that will eradicate a lifetime of choices is possible but highly improbable. God, who can read hearts, knows the difference between a person who has had a real change of heart because of sincere sorrow for his sins and one who is simply trying to save himself from the just consequences of his evil deeds.
Jesus knew that the Kingdom began in our hearts when He was asked by the Apostle where the Kingdom was. His answer was one of those inscrutable statements that He was fond of making. He said, “The Kingdom is already here and it is yet to come.” In other words, He had already planted the “seeds” of the Kingdom in their hearts, but it was up to them to plant the seed in others until the whole world had received and acted upon the “Good News” of the Gospel.
So how do we know when the seed has been planted in our own hearts. The first sign is a growing discontentment with the world “as it is.”. More and more we begin to feel like strangers in a foreign land and a yearning begins for the “world as it ought to be”. In other words, we are, as the scriptures say, “in the world but not of it.” As the hymn “One Spirit; OneChurch” puts it:
We are a Pilgrim People, We are the Church of God
A family of believers, disciples of the Lord.
United in one Spirit, ignited by the fire.
Still burning through the ages; still present in our lives.
Thus, as Pilgrim People, whose hearts are set on the world to come, how should we live in this world? Our role, according to the scriptures is to be a living example. Jesus said:
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put I on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let you light shine before men, that they may see the good you do and praise your Father in heaven.”
Therefore , we should be a living example of the Kingdom of God that people can see. Too often we act like Jesus said that we are suppose to be megaphones that people need to hear rather than lights that they are suppose to see. St. Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel everyday and sometimes use words.” Or, as some of our Protestant brothers are fond of saying, “We gotta ‘walk the walk’ and not just ‘talk the talk.’” Faith without works, as St. James noted, is empty. So with my remaining time, I would like to begin to attempt to describe what I think the Kingdom of God is all about.
First, it is a place of ‘moral anarchy’ where there are no laws. There are no laws against murder, stealing, adultery, child molestation, drug addiction etc… because they have become unnecessary since God has written His laws on our hearts. Laws are, and have always been, the outward expression of what is in the human heart. If our hearts didn’t desire to do these things, then there wouldn’t be any reason to have a law prohibiting them. When we finally reach the level of spiritual maturity where we no longer are attracted to evil , then we will have reached the goal that God had for us: the freedom that comes when “self control” has replaced “other control.” Realistically speaking, there will always be laws, such as traffic lights, even in the Kingdom of God, simply for the sake of order but the need for them will diminish or disappear to the extent that Wisdom, who is Jesus, and free choice replaces ignorance and compulsion.
Second, it will be based on the Principle of Subsidiarity through which the smallest unit in society that is capable of handling a problem will assume responsibility for it. Problems, as I pointed out in previous programs, are the antithesis or crosses that God uses to actualize our hidden potentials and anyone who avoids them inhibits his own actualization. Whoever accepts the responsibility grows and whoever avoids it remains the same or deteriorates. Or, as Neitsche once said, “Whatever doesn’t kill me, strengthens me!” However, there are times when the problem is too large and might kill us. Then, according to the Principle of Subsidiarity, it should be moved to the next level of responsibility. For example, your family, friends, neighbors, church etc..
In this way, we avoid one of the greatest threat to our freedom: the concentration of power resulting from the unnecessary transmission of responsibility from lower to higher levels. Power has a corrupting influence and therefore, as our Founding Fathers knew, the best way to minimize and defuse it is to “divide it” among many agents. Only in this way, do we avoid the horror of Brave New World where Ten World Controllers have enslaved everybody through the process of “soft slavery” by assuming the responsibility for making everybody’s life easy. This is what John Paul II and Benedict XVI meant when they warned about the super-welfare states resulting from Socialism and Communism. They weren’t saying that people shouldn’t be helped when the problems facing them were too large. Rather, they were saying that the help should come from those agents who are closest to them and the problem. Practically speaking, this is far more efficient and effective but even more important is it impact on our souls. Actions motivated by human love and concern are always preferable to bureaucratic programs based on entitlement. In the former both the giver and the receiver are edified. The “giver” because he is learning to love and the “receiver” because he is experiencing love and, since according to the scriptures, God is love, then the growth of love is the growth of God in us and our community. However, even here one must be careful because misguided love, as our own experience with welfare has shown, often debilitates those it seeks to help. Wisdom knows when to help and when to allow the person to grow by struggling with the crosses that life or his own decisions have created. My final advice to my students is “Let your motives be loving, and you methods be wise.”
Third, the Kingdom of God is a community based on love and wisdom. It recognizes the value of both cooperation and competition and, therefore, incorporates what is best in both Communism and Capitalism. We might say that it incorporates Communism on the micro, or personal, level, and Capitalism on the macro, or societal level. Let us begin to compete to see who can find the most loving ways to solve the problems of life. Once again we see that God’s and the Church’s ways are based on “both/and” rather than “either/or.”
The Church, from it beginning, was communistic in that it acted as a community. In the Act of the Apostles, we are told that everyone sold what he owned and donated it to the community. Obviously, this is a very radical act and it probably goes too far because while it demonstrates our commitment to the group, it ignores our rights and needs as individuals to have, in a capitalistic sense, private property. And that, perhaps, is why it didn’t last except for those exceptional people who belong to religious communities, and, even there, it is imperfectly observed. The Church, as always, knowing that Truth is the tension between a “union of opposites”, seeks the mid-ground between two extremes. So how do we, as the Church, bring about on the Spiritual Level of evolution a New World Order that incorporates what is best in both of these systems?
First, we have to realize that the Church was commissioned by Christ to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. To accomplish this, it portrayed itself as the Body of Christ that became His hands, feet, eyes, and mouth in the world. Thus, using this analogy, it set out to create His Body based on a cellular theory that, just like a biological body, was built and organized around individual cells. This theory, by the way, was adopted by the Communist Party that built its own structure around cells.
The basic cell in the Church is the parish, which, theoretically, should establish the principles of the Kingdom of God over a limited geographical area. The Church is the nucleus, and the school is the DNA factory passing on the social codes and principles upon which the cell is based. As the parish or cell grows, it subdivides and creates new parishes or cells. Within its confines, the parish is suppose to be a haven from the “world system” and a “light on the hill” to those in the world who are dissatisfied with the “world as it is” and yearn for the “world as it ought to be.”
Like organs within the body that operate independent of conscious thought, so the parish, although a part of the international body of the Church, is a decentralized unit that operates according to general principles set by the leadership but is still autonomous in its day-to-day operation. As a self-contained unit within the body, it is responsible for the welfare of its members and, at the same time, through it connection to the larger body, contributes to and is part of the effort to spread the Kingdom of God throughout the world. It is communism with a little “c” because it is a community of believers who have committed themselves to the survival and advancement of each other.
This, of course, is what the parish was meant to be and, in the days of my childhood, it came closer to this model than many of the parishes today. It wasn’t perfect but I still remember how family in the Irish-Catholic ethnic community shared and cared for each other in their time of need. They did it automatically without any conscious thought or direction from above or without any sense that they were contributing to the Kingdom of God. Today, where the close ethnic and families ties are missing in the newer parishes, we have to make a conscious effort to build what they did automatically, and, at the same time, see our efforts as contributing to the creation of a model of a counter-culture that is suppose to be a “light to the world.”
In other words, we need to develop a vision and work towards its practical implementation. And how do we do this? That, I can see from my remaining time, will have to be the topic of my next talk. However, let me end just by throwing a few tibits that you can ponder till next time.
First, in line with the Principle of Subsidiarity, we must learn the principle of “self-taxation.” If we took my present parish that has 4800 households and, assuming that each household generated at least $40,000, had each one contribute !0%, or $4000, towards the needs of the parish community, it would generate $19,200,000 a year. Ten percent of this, or $1,920,000 could be used for the upkeep of the church and rectory and the rest of it could be invested or made available to service the needs of the members of the parish.
Second, if these same homeowners joined together to form a “pool” to insure their homes from fire, theft, and damage at an average rate of $1000 a year, it would generate another $4,800,000 for a total of $24,000,000 dollars a year. I, like others, have insure my own home for over 49 years and I have made only two claims for a total of $4,800 while the insurer made $44,200. Why couldn’t this be the parish community?
Third, if the 10,000 parishioners who live in these 4800 homes were to enter into a life-insurance pool with other parishes, there is no telling how much capital it would generate. The Knights of Columbus, for example, created just such a program for poor Catholic workers and their assets are in the billions. What might happen if every Catholic made their organization the preferred insurance provider and they, in turn, used their excess assets to help the parishes and the Church?
We need to think “outside the box” and to envision a world in which the warmth and closeness of a small community can exist in the midst of the hustle and bustle of large urban areas. And we also have to think of ourselves as “Gentle Revolutionaries” who are called to revolutionize the world by revolutionizing ourselves. That means that we will have to rethink old ways and create our own new institutions based on Wisdom. As I’ve said before, we often agree with secular sources on their ends but disagree on means. Therefore, we must demonstrate that Christian means based on Wisdom are better than worldly ways based on greed and self interest.
It’s about time that we stopped going to the world for these services and began providing them for ourselves. In other words, we have to learn how to be “in the world” but “not of it.” The task before us is best expressed in the hymn “City of God” whose words state:
Awake from your slumber; Arise from your sleep.
A new day is dawning for all those who weep.
The people in Darkness have seen a great Light.
The Lord of our longing has conquered the night.
Let us build the city of God, may our tears be turned into dancing.
For the Lord, our Light and our Love
Has turned the night into day.
(Last Refrain) Has turned the night into day.
We are sons of the morning; we are daughters of day.
The one who has loved us has brightened our way.
The Lord of all kindness has called us to be
A light for His people to ser their hearts free. (Refrain)
God is Light, in Him there is no Darkness.
Let us walk in His light; his children, one and all...
O comfort my people ; make gentle your words;
Proclaim to my city.... the day of her birth...(Refrain)
O City of Gladness, now lift up your voice;
Proclaim the good tidings that all may rejoice. (Refrain).
Well, I see that my time is up.