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The Kingdom of God

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 27 April 1988 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15). Jesus Christ was sent by the Father "to preach good news to the poor" (Lk 4:18). He was—and remains—the first messenger of the Father, the first evangelizer, as we said in last week's reflection, quoting the words of Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi. Rather Jesus not only announced the Gospel, the Good News, but he himself is the Gospel (cf. EN 7).

In the whole of his mission, by means of all that he did and taught, and finally by his cross and resurrection, he "reveals man to man" (GS 22), and opens up to him the perspectives of that happiness to which God has called and destined him from the beginning. The message of the beatitudes sums up the program of life proposed to those who would follow the divine call. It is the synthesis of the whole Gospel ethos linked to the mystery of redemption.

2. Christ's mission consists above all in the revelation of the Good News (Gospel) addressed to humanity. It is aimed at the human person and in this sense it can be called "anthropocentric"; but at the same time it is deeply rooted in the truth of the kingdom of God, in the announcement of his kingdom which is at hand: "The kingdom of God is at hand...believe in the Good News" (Mk 1:15).

This then is "the Gospel of the kingdom." Its reference to humanity, which can be seen in the entire mission of Christ, is rooted in a "theocentric" dimension which is accordingly called the kingdom of God. Jesus announced the Gospel of this kingdom, and at the same time he made present the kingdom of God in the whole unfolding of his mission. By it, the kingdom is born and develops already in time, as a seed inserted in human history and of the world. This realization of the kingdom comes about by means of the Gospel word and the whole earthly life of the Son of Man which was crowned in the paschal mystery with the cross and resurrection. With his "obedience unto death" (Phil 2:8), Jesus began a new phase of the economy of salvation, whose process will end when God will be "all in all" (1 Cor 15:28). Therefore the kingdom of God has truly begun to be realized in the history of humanity and of the world, even though in the earthly course of human life one continually meets and comes up against another fundamental term of the historical dialectic, namely, the "disobedience of the first Adam," who subjected himself to the "ruler of the world" (cf. Rom 5:19; Jn 14:30).

3. Here we touch the central problem and, as it were, the critical point of the accomplishment of the mission of Christ, Son of God, in history. This is a question to which we shall have to return at a later stage of our catechesis. Whereas in Christ the kingdom of God "is at hand," and indeed present in a definitive way in the history of humanity and of the world, yet at the same time its fulfillment continues to belong to the future. This is why Jesus commanded us to pray to the Father: "Thy kingdom come" (Mt 6:10).

4. We must bear this question in mind while considering Christ's Gospel as the "good news" of the kingdom of God. This was the guiding theme of the announcement of Jesus, who especially in his numerous parables spoke of God's kingdom. Particularly significant is the parable which compares the kingdom of God to a seed, which the sower plants in the earth cultivated by him (cf. Mt 13:3-9). The seed is destined "to produce fruit" by its interior power, undoubtedly, but the fruit depends also on the ground in which the seed is planted (cf. Mt 13:19-23).

5. On another occasion Jesus compared the kingdom of God ("the kingdom of heaven," according to Matthew) to a grain of mustard seed. This "is the least of all seeds," but when it has grown it becomes a leafy tree, and the birds of the air find refuge on its branches (cf. Mt 13:31-32). Again, he compared the growth of the kingdom of God to "leaven" which ferments the dough so that it becomes bread for human food (cf. Mt. 13:33). However, Jesus devoted another parable to the growth of the kingdom of God in this world. It is that of the good seed and the darnel weed, scattered by the enemy on the field sown with good seed (cf. Mt 13:24-30). Thus in the field of the world the good and the bad, symbolized by the good seed and the darnel, grow together "until the harvest time," that is, until the day of divine judgment. This is a further significant allusion to the eschatological perspective of human history. In any event Jesus gives us to understand that the growth of the seed which is the "word of God," is conditioned by its reception in the field of human hearts. On this depends whether it bears fruit and "yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold" (Mt 13:23), according to the dispositions and reactions of those who receive it.

6. In his announcement of the kingdom of God, Jesus informed us that it is not destined for one nation only, or merely for the "chosen people." Many will come "from the east and the west" and "recline with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (cf. Mt 8:11). Indeed, it is not a kingdom in the temporal and political sense. It is not "of this world" (cf. Jn 18:36), although it is found in the midst of "this world" and herein it must develop and grow. For this reason Jesus fled from the crowd that wished to make him king. ("Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone," Jn 6:15). On the eve of his passion, in the upper room, he prayed to his Father to grant his disciples to live according to that same understanding of the kingdom of God: "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, any more than I belong to the world" (Jn 17:15-16). Again, according to Jesus' teaching and prayer, God's kingdom must grow in the hearts of the disciples "in this world"; however, it will be fulfilled in the world to come, "When the Son of Man will come in his glory...and all the nations will be assembled before him" (Mt 25:31-32). It is always in an eschatological perspective!

7. We can complete the notion of the kingdom of God announced by Jesus by emphasizing that it is the kingdom of the Father to whom Jesus taught us to turn in prayer in order to obtain its coming, "Thy kingdom come" (Mt 6:10; Lk 11:2). The heavenly Father in his turn offers humanity (through Christ and in Christ) the pardon of their sins and salvation. Full of love he awaits their return, as the father in the parable awaits the return of the prodigal son (cf. Lk 15:20-32), because God is truly "rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4).

The whole gospel of conversion announced by Jesus from the beginning is situated in this light. "Repent, and believe in the Good News!" (Mk 1:15). Conversion to the Father, to the God who "is love" (1 Jn 4:16), is linked to the acceptance of love as a "new" commandment: love of God, "the greatest and the first commandment " (Mt 22:38), and love of neighbor, "like to the first" (Mt 22:39). Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another" (Jn 13:34). Here we are at the heart of the "kingdom of God" in humanity and in history. In this way the whole law, that is, the ethical heritage of the old covenant, must be fulfilled, and must reach its divine-human fullness. Jesus himself said so in the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill" (Mt 5:17).

If anything, he frees the human person from the "letter of the Law," to introduce him into its spirit, since, as St. Paul says, "the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6). Fraternal love, as a reflection and participation of God's love, is therefore the animating principle of the New Law, which is as it were the constitutional basis of God's kingdom (cf. Summa Theol., I-II, q. 106, a 1; q. 107, aa. 1-2).

8. Among the parables in which Jesus used similes and allegories in his preaching on God's kingdom, there is one of a king "who prepared a wedding feast for his son" (Mt 22:2). The parable tells that many of those invited declined the invitation, finding various excuses and pretexts for their absence. The king then had his servants call in people from the streets to sit at his table. However, among those who came, not all showed themselves worthy of the invitation, because they were without the prescribed "wedding garment."

This parable of the wedding feast, compared with that of the sower sowing the seed, leads us to the same conclusion: if not all the invited guests will take their place at the wedding feast, nor all the seeds produce a harvest, this depends on the dispositions with which one responds to the invitation or receives the seed of God's word in one's heart. It depends on the way we receive Christ who is the sower, and also the king's son and the bridegroom, as he frequently presented himself: "Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?" (Mk 2:19). He asked this on one occasion when questioned in reference to the austerity of John the Baptist. He himself supplied the answer: "As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast" (Mk 2:19).

The Kingdom of God is therefore like a wedding feast, to which the heavenly Father invites all who are in communion of love and joy with his Son. All are called and invited to it, but each one is responsible for accepting or refusing the invitation, for his conformity or lack of conformity with the law regulating the feast.

9. This is the law of love. It derives from divine grace in those who welcome and observe it by living Christ's paschal mystery. It is a love which is realized in history, notwithstanding every refusal on the part of the invited, and notwithstanding their unworthiness. On the Christian there smiles the hope that love will triumph in all the "invited," precisely because the paschal measure of the bridegroom's love is the cross. Its eschatological perspective is opened in history by Christ's resurrection. Through him the Father "has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (cf. Col 1:13). If we yield to the call and attraction of the Father, in Christ we all have redemption and eternal life.


After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini francesi 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

JE SALUE CORDIALEMENT les personnes de langue française présentes à cette audience. En particulier, je suis heureux d’accueillir les membres du Comité exécutif de l’Union internationale chrétienne des dirigeants d’entreprises. Je me réjouis, chers amis, de ce que des responsables chrétiens réfléchissent ensemble, dans les divers continents, et cherchent à prendre toujours davantage conscience du poids des facteurs humains dans la vie économique. L’Eglise se félicite de voir que votre mouvement partage son souci de promouvoir une authentique solidarité, un des thèmes de la récente encyclique sur la question sociale. Puisse votre présence a Rome donner à vos engagements chrétiens toute leur dimension évangélique et ecclésiale! Je vous offre mes meilleurs vœux pour vous-mêmes et pour l’ensemble des membres de l’UNIAPAC.

A tous les pèlerins, je souhaite une heureuse expérience de foi à l’occasion de leur venue à Rome, et je leur donne volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique. 

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I OFFER A WARM WELCOME to the international group of Oblates of Mary Immaculate engaged in religious formation. I also greet the members of the Australian Legion of Mary Pilgrimage.

It is also a joy to welcome the numerous visitors from the United States of America, in particular the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the group of priests from the North American College celebrating their Fiftieth Anniversary of priestly ordination, as well as the group of priests from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I extend a special greeting to the Marian Year Pilgrimages from the Archdiocese of Newark and the Diocese of Metuchen.

My cordial greetings also go to the group of musicians from Sri Lanka. To all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims I extend a very warm welcome, in particular to those coming from Sweden, Thailand and the Philippines.

As we rejoice in the Easter message of the victory of our Risen Lord, may God bless you with hope and peace. To all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing. 

Ai pellegrini di lingua giapponese 

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

CARISSIMI PELLEGRINI giapponesi, accompagnati dai Padri Carmelitani. La Madonna, che voi venerate sotto il titolo del Carmelo, vi protegga sempre nel vostro cammino quotidiano e vi aiuti a raggiungere, un giorno, il Paradiso, come Ella stessa ha promesso manifestando lo “Scapolare”.

Con questo augurio vi imparto di cuore la mia Apostolica Benedizione.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai fedeli tedeschi 

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

LAßT UNS, liebe Brüder und Schwestern, unserer Berufung durch Christus in seine Kirche wieder neu froh und dankbar bewußt werden. Das wünsche und erbitte ich euch als Gnade eurer Rompilgerfahrt. Von Herzen grüße ich euch alle und heiße euch willkommen bei der heutigen Audienz: die genannten Gruppen und auch alle einzelnen Pilger und Familien aus Deutschland, Österreich, der Schweiz und Südtirol. Ein besonders herzlicher Gruß gilt darunter den zahlreichen Jugendlichen. Gott segne und beschütze euch und schenke euch allen wieder eine glückliche Heimkehr!

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

ME COMPLACE SALUDAR ahora a los peregrinos de lengua española, venidos de España y de América Latina. De modo especial saludo al grupo internacional de Hermanos Maristas y a los Religiosos de la Obra de Don Guanella, así como a la numerosa peregrinación española organizada por los Hijos de la Sagrada Familia. También saludo al coro “Camerata Alter” de Buenos Aires, junto con otro grupo argentino. Asimismo, saludo a los grupos provenientes de Madrid, Badajoz, Cartagena y Granada. Igualmente a los estudiantes venidos de Madrid y Málaga.

El Reino de Dios está cerca, pero aún no se ha realizado plenamente; por eso, unidos a Cristo pidamos todos al Padre: “Venga a nosotros tu reino”,

A todos os imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai pellegrini polacchi 

POZDRAWIAM WSZYSTKICH pielgrzymów: księdza biskupa administratora apostolskiego z Warmii; pielgrzymów z parafii i sanktuarium św. Krzyża z Nowej Huty-Mogiły; z parafii Narodzenia Matki Bożej w Krakowie Bieżanowie; z dekanatu i sanktuarium Matki Bożej w Bielsku-Białej; rzemieślników z archidiecezij warszawskiej; pielgrzymkę z parafii św. Maksymiliana Kolbe z Łodzi - ojcowie franciszkanie konwentualni; z dekanatu Czarnokowskiego - archidiecezja poznańska; prócz tego pielgrzymkę Polaków z Górnej Austrii - duszpasterstwo księży zmartwychwstańców; wreszcie innych pielgrzymów zarówno z Polski, jak i z emigracji, nie objętych tymi grupami. 

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana 

DESIDERO ORA PORGERE il mio saluto ai gruppi di pellegrini di lingua italiana, sempre molto numerosi, ed anzitutto al pellegrinaggio dell’Arcidiocesi di Catania, guidato dall’arcivescovo Monsignor Domenico Picchinenna. Carissimi! Siate i benvenuti! Vi auguro che dalla visita all’antica Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, principale mèta del vostro pellegrinaggio, nasca in tutti il vivo desiderio di imitare nella fede la Madre del Redentore e di tradurre tale fede nelle opere, specialmente nella costante partecipazione alla vita della Chiesa mediante la preghiera liturgica e le opere di carità.

* * * 

SALUTO POI I MISSIONARI e le missionarie convenuti a Roma per un corso di aggiornamento teologico-pastorale presso la Pontificia Università Urbaniana. A tutti assicuro un ricordo nella preghiera, unito all’auspicio del conforto divino nel laborioso impegno dell’evangelizzazione in terre lontane. 

* * * 

SALUTO, ANCORA, il parroco ed i fedeli di S. Maria Assunta di Trevi nel Lazio, e benedico volentieri l’immagine della Madonna di Fatima che essi hanno recato qui. 

* * * 

COME PURE SALUTO i membri dell’Associazione “Alfina Musica e Folklore”, che hanno rallegrato questo incontro con musiche e danze tradizionali, e nel benedire la statua di S. Cecilia, loro patrona, esprimo l’auspicio che si sforzino sempre di ispirare la loro condotta agli esempi delle sue virtù.

* * * 

UN PARTICOLARE PENSIERO va al gruppo dei ciclisti professionisti, che sono presenti all’udienza con i responsabili della Società e con i familiari. Saluto il presidente, e tutti i campioni, ben noti nel mondo dello sport, augurando loro sempre “buona strada”, con la protezione del Signore. 

* * * 

IL MIO PENSIERO va poi al gruppo dei soci e familiari dell’Associazione Nazionale Mutilati e Invalidi del Lavoro della Regione Lazio. A tutti desidero porgere, con il saluto, una parola di conforto e di incoraggiamento, unita all’invito di essere sempre operatori di pace e di promozione umana nel mondo del lavoro. 

* * * 

RIVOLGO INFINE una parola di incoraggiamento e di augurio ai ragazzi del premio “San Donnino d’oro”, ai loro accompagnatori e familiari ed alla corale “S. Margherita”. Li ringrazio per questo gesto di omaggio, nel quale mi piace veder riaffermato l’impegno di una generosa condotta cristiana.

A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica. 

Ai giovani 

Rivolgo ora un saluto a tutti i giovani, i ragazzi e le ragazze che prendono parte a questa Udienza.

CARISSIMI, VI ESPRIMO il mio vivo apprezzamento per il vostro pellegrinaggio al centro della Cristianità, che vi permette di partecipare a questo incontro. Esprimo l’augurio che la visita alle memorie storiche degli apostoli Pietro e Paolo e dei Martiri vi sia di stimolo a crescere nella fede cristiana e nella vostra adesione a Cristo risorto, a cui guardiamo con gioia in questo tempo pasquale.

Testimoniate questa gioia cristiana davanti al mondo. La vittoria di Cristo risorto sul peccato e sulla morte vi sia di sprone nella vostra preparazione all’avvenire e ai compiti che vi attendono nella vita della Chiesa e della Società.

Agli ammalati 

SALUTO POI gli ammalati, che vedo qui accanto a me. Cari fratelli e sorelle, nelle vostre prove guardate al Risorto e alle sue piaghe gloriose: ricordatevi che, come per Cristo, anche per voi alla Passione succederà la Risurrezione, al dolore la gioia, alle tenebre la luce. Ce lo ricorda anche l’apostolo Pietro nella sua prima Lettera: “Nella misura in cui partecipate alle sofferenze di Cristo, rallegratevi, perché anche nella rivelazione della sua gloria possiate rallegrarvi ed esultare”.

Vi assicuro la mia preghiera per la vostra guarigione e perché possiate sempre ottenere dal Signore sollievo e conforto. Vi benedico di cuore.

Agli sposi novelli 

Un saluto particolare va infine agli sposi novelli, ai quali auguro ogni bene nel Signore.

CARI SPOSI, vi ringrazio per aver voluto riservare un giorno per la visita al Papa. Vi esorto ad imitare la Famiglia di Nazareth, in cui risplendono gli esempi luminosi di amore e di fedeltà, di comprensione e di visione soprannaturale della vita. In questo Anno Mariano, invocate particolarmente la Vergine Ella non mancherà di proteggervi e di aiutarvi in ogni necessità. Vi accompagni la mia Benedizione.

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