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The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Christ

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 4 September 1991 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. We read in Lumen Gentium that God "planned to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ.... [The Church] was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the old covenant. In the present era of time the Church was constituted and, by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest" (LG 2). We dedicated the preceding catechesis to this preparation of the Church in the old covenant. We saw that in Israel's progressive awareness of God's plan through the revelations of the prophets and the facts of her history, the concept of a future kingdom of God gradually became clearer. This concept was loftier and more universal than anything foreseen regarding the fate of the Davidic dynasty. Today we will consider another historical fact, one which is rich in its theological significance. Jesus Christ began his messianic mission with the proclamation: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:15). Those words indicate the start of "the fullness of time," as St. Paul says (cf. Gal 4:4). They prepare the way for the new covenant, which is based on the mystery of the Son's redemptive Incarnation and destined to be an eternal covenant. In Jesus Christ's life and mission the kingdom of God is not only "at hand" (Lk 10:9), but is already present in the world, already at work in human history. Jesus himself said: "The kingdom of God is among you" (Lk 17:21).

2. The difference in standard and quality between the time of preparation and that of fulfillment--between the old and new covenant--was made known by Jesus himself when he spoke about his precursor, John the Baptist, saying: "Amen, I say to you, among those born of woman there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Mt 11:11). From the banks of the Jordan (and from prison), John certainly made a greater contribution than anyone else, even more than the ancient prophets (cf. Lk 7:26-27), in preparing the immediate way for the Messiah. Nevertheless, in a certain sense he still remained on the threshold of the new kingdom which entered the world with Christ's coming and became manifest through his messianic ministry. Only through Christ do individuals become true "children of the kingdom," that is, children of the new kingdom which is superior to the one to which Jews at the time considered themselves the natural heirs (cf. Mt 8:12).

3. The new kingdom has an eminently spiritual character. To enter it, it is necessary to repent and believe in the Gospel, to be freed from the power of the spirit of darkness, to submit to the power of God's Spirit, which Christ brings to human beings. As Jesus says: "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mt 12:28; cf. Lk 11:20).

The spiritual and transcendent nature of this kingdom is also expressed in the equivalent term we find in the Gospel texts: "kingdom of heaven." It is a wonderful image which allows us to glimpse the origin and purpose of the kingdom--"heaven"--and the same divine-human dignity of him in whom the kingdom of God is made historically concrete through the Incarnation: Christ.

4. The transcendence of God's kingdom results from the fact that it takes its origin not only from human initiative, but from the plan, design and will of God himself. Jesus Christ, who makes it present and realizes it in the world, is not merely one of the prophets sent by God, but the consubstantial Son of the Father, who became man in the Incarnation. The kingdom of God is thus the kingdom of the Father and his Son. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of Christ; it is the kingdom of heaven which has begun on earth to allow men to enter this new world of spirituality and eternity. Jesus stated, "All things have been handed over to me by my Father.... No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt 11:27). "For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man" (Jn 5:26-27).

Along with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is also at work, realizing the kingdom in this world. Jesus himself reveals this. The Son of Man "drives out demons by the Spirit of God," and for this reason "the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mt 12:28).

5. But although the kingdom of God is realized and develops in this world, it has its purpose in "heaven." It is transcendent in its origin and also in its goal, which is reached in eternity, on condition that one is faithful to Christ in this life and throughout the course of time. Jesus informed us of this when he said that, in conformity with his power of "judging" (Jn 5:27), at the end of the world the Son of Man will give the command to collect "out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin," namely, all the iniquities committed even in the confines of Christ's kingdom. Jesus added: "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Mt 13:41, 43). Then the full and definitive realization of the "kingdom of the Father" will occur, to whom the Son will hand over the elect who have been saved by him in virtue of the redemption and by the work of the Holy Spirit. The messianic kingdom will then reveal its identity with the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 25:34; 1 Cor 15:24).

There is, then, a historical cycle to the kingdom of Christ, the incarnate Word. But the alpha and omega of this kingdom, and one would even say, the basis on which it begins, lives, develops and reaches its fulfillment, is the mysterium Trinitatis. We have already said, and we will see again later, that the mysterium ecclesiae takes root in this mystery.

6. The point of transition and connection from one mystery to the other is Christ, who was already predicted in the old covenant and awaited as a Messiah-King with whom the kingdom of God is identified. In the new covenant Christ identifies the kingdom of God with his own person and his own mission. He not only proclaims the fact that with him the kingdom of God is in the world, but he teaches that one should give up everything which is humanly most valuable "for the kingdom of God" (cf. Lk 18:29-30), and at another point, to leave all this "for the sake of my name" (cf. Mt 19:29) or "for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel" (Mk 10:29).

The kingdom of God is thus identified with the kingdom of Christ. It is present in him; it is realized in him. It passes from him, on his own initiative, to the apostles, and through them to all those who will believe in him: "I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me" (Lk 22:29). It is a kingdom which consists in the spread of Christ himself through the world, through human history, as a new life which comes from him and is communicated to believers in virtue of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, whom he sends (cf. Jn 1:16; 7:38-39; 15:26; 16:7).

7. The messianic kingdom realized by Christ in the world is revealed and shows its precise and definitive meaning in the context of his passion and death on the cross. During Christ's entrance into Jerusalem an event occurred, which he had planned and which Matthew presents as a fulfillment of a prophetic prediction made by Zechariah about the "king who comes to you riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden" (Zech 9:9; Mt 21:5). In the prophet's mind, in Jesus' intention and in the evangelist's interpretation, the ass means meekness and humility. Jesus was the meek and humble king who entered the city of David, where he fulfilled the prophecies about the true messianic kingship by his own sacrifice.

This regality is clarified during the questioning Jesus underwent before the judgment seat of Pilate. The accusations made against Jesus were that "He misleads the people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king" (Lk 23:2). Therefore, Pilate asked the accused if he was a king. Jesus replied: "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." The evangelist states: "So Pilate said to him, 'Then you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice'" (Jn 18:36-37).

8. This declaration concludes all the ancient prophecies which flow through Israel's history and which become a fact and a revelation in Christ. The words of Jesus enable us to catch the flashes of light which streak through the darkness of the mystery condensed in the three terms: kingdom of God, messianic kingdom, People of God called together in the Church. Along this path of prophetic and messianic light, we can better understand and repeat, with clearer comprehension of the words, the prayer Jesus taught us (Mt 6:10): "Thy kingdom come." It is the kingdom of the Father, which entered the world with Christ; it is the messianic kingdom which develops through the work of the Holy Spirit in man and in the world, in order to return to the heart of the Father in the glory of heaven."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli francesi

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’accueille avec plaisir toutes les personnes de langue française présentes à cette audience. Aux pèlerins venus du Liban, je redis ma sympathie et mon affection en les assurant de ma prière fervente pour leur pays. J’offre mes vœux aux jeunes de Poitiers et je les invite à poursuivre leur chemin à la suite du Christ, dans l’élan de Saint-Jacques et de Czêstochowa.

Je vous souhaite à tous un bon séjour à Rome en espérant que vous rentrerez dans vos pays fortifiés par ce que vous aurez reçu au cœur de l’Église. Que le Seigneur vous bénisse et vous garde!

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience. May your visit to Rome deepen your love of the Church and your desire to bear effective witness to Jesus Christ our Saviour. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings of grace and peace.

Ai fedeli provenienti dal Giappone

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Carissime studentesse del collegio femminile Seibo di Kyoto. So che voi avete la Madre di Dio come vostra Patrona. Perciò vi esorto ad imitarla in tutte le virtù, specialmente nella carità verso il prossimo. Con questo auspicio vi benedico di cuore.

Desidero anche salutare cordialmente il gruppo di monaci buddisti provenienti dal Monte Koya.

Carissimi, auspico che Dio accompagni sempre i vostri propositi e le vostre aspirazioni.

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser Betrachtung grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Gruß gilt den Ordensschwestern aus verschiedenen Kongregationen, die an einem geistlichen Kurs in La Storta teilnehmen; ferner den Teilnehmern an der Pilgerfahrt des Bistumsblattes der Diözese Trier Paulinus, der Pilgergruppe der Pfarreien Astheim, Rimpar, Volkach und Juliusspital Würzburg, dem Chor der Bayerwerke aus Wuppertal sowie der Pilgergruppe des Turnund Sportvereins Pressath.

Aus der Republik Österreich begrüße ich die Alumnen des Priesterseminars in Linz, die Mitglieder der Katholischen Männerbewegung aus Graz und Umgebung sowie die Pilgergruppe der Bewegung ”Für eine bessere Welt“ aus der Erzdiözese Salzburg.

Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Rundfunk und Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Me es grato saludar ahora a los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española, procedentes de España y de América Latina. De modo particular saludo al grupo de formadores Legionarios de Cristo y seminaristas del Colegio Internacional “María Mater Ecclesiae”. Que la Virgen os vaya modelando un corazón semejante al de Cristo, Buen Pastor.

Saludo igualmente al grupo de sacerdotes y cooperadores salesianos de Valencia y a la numerosa peregrinación de la parroquia del Corpus Christi de Zaragoza (España). Que el Señor os mantenga fieles constructores de su Reino. Por último, dirijo mi saludo al grupo de “Nois de la Torre humana” de Torredembarra (Tarragona), que vuestro bello folclore realizado con solidaridad y armonía, os ayude también a levantar vuestro corazón a Dios Padre.

A todos bendigo de corazón.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amados Irmãos e Irmãs,

Uma saudação particular às religiosas franciscanas e aos outros peregrinos do Brasil, vindos de São Paulo, Bahia e Porto Alegre; saúdo cordialmente o grupo de católicos portugueses da cidade de Chaves, aqui presente. Procurai ser fortes e perseverantes nos compromissos por vós assumidos, ao serviço deste Reino de Cristo que cresce no coração da gente. Com este voto, abençoo todos vós, bem como as vossas famílias e as vossas comunidades locais.

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana

Rivolgo ora un particolare pensiero al gruppo di Suore Francescane Ospedaliere della Immacolata Concezione, ai Dirigenti e Giocatori della Squadra di Calcio “Fidelis Andria”, e al Presidente e ai membri dell’Associazione Commercianti di Assisi, che accompagnati dal Sindaco e dal Vescovo, Monsignor Sergio Goretti, intendono organizzare la Prima Conferenza Nazionale su “Sorella Acqua”. Carissimi, vi esprimo la mia gratitudine per la vostra partecipazione e formulo voti perché il Signore accompagni con la sua grazia le vostre aspirazioni e i vostri propositi.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Infine un saluto a voi amati Giovani, diletti Ammalati, cari Sposi novelli. Rinnovate con generosità l’impegno di servire Dio e i fratelli: la freschezza delle vostre energie, il mistero del vostro dolore, la fecondità del vostro amore possano contribuire a realizzare, per grazia divina e con l’ausilio della Vergine Santissima, la nuova civiltà dell’amore, che ogni uomo attende con viva speranza. Con tali auspici vi benedico tutti di cuore.

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