The Readings for the 14th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.Matthew 10:6-7
JESUS SENDS His disciples ahead of him to the towns the plans to visit: let them know the Kingdom is at hand. What is the Kingdom? The odd Greek title for this post, autobasileia, is (for me) the most compelling answer. We’ll get to the meaning in a moment, but first there are some other contenders for the meaning of “The Kingdom”.
Readers are probably very familiar with two very American, or at least Western, ideas of the Kingdom: both are political. First is that Jesus wants us to build the kingdom here and now. Pick your political model, left or right, woke or reactionary, prove that Jesus loves them and get to work. The Kingdom of God needs you to vote, shop, struggle in the political arena in only this way. To do else is to oppose God. The second option is a modification of the first: it assumes that America (or some other empire in the past) actually is the Kingdom and we need only get it right. Bring back the Hapsburgs, or Make America Great Again, or Why did Kennedy Have to Die, or any one of a hundred other political structures that should have been, could have been, can be again the Kingdom here on Earth.
Theses readings tend to provoke cries about the Separation of Church and State, but one rarely objects to political changes one likes in those terms. If my religion teaches no-abortion, but I ignore social justice issues, the Social Justice Warriors will cry about Church and State. But they will never notice my religion also teaches many of their SJW stances. I can work for racial integration because I’m a Catholic and no one will talk about Church and State.
Two other readings are less political: the Kingdom is in your heart. Ironically, this is the most modern and American reading. The Kingdom being “in your heart” means there’s no political reaction needed. You can do whatever you want, but it’s “in your heart” that counts. This is the Sunday Christian who is very pious at Mass and then evicts tenants on Monday, supports the Death Penalty, and abortion. But he is pious. The second non-political reading is “the Kingdom is the Church”. This also tends to result in apolitical non-activism. Just leave the Church alone and let us ride our horse-and-buggies as we avoid any contact with the world. This last reading, though, brings us closest to the meaning of the Greek word, and so we go there next.
Autobasileia is a title for Jesus, used by the Church Father, Origen and cited in this century by Pope Benedict XVI in his exhortation, Verbum Domini (that is, The Word of the Lord) ¶93:
The word and the Kingdom of God
Consequently, the Church’s mission cannot be considered as an optional or supplementary element in her life. Rather it entails letting the Holy Spirit assimilate us to Christ himself, and thus to share in his own mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21) to share the word with your entire life. It is the word itself which impels us towards our brothers and sisters: it is the word which illuminates, purifies, converts; we are only its servants.
We need, then, to discover ever anew the urgency and the beauty of the proclamation of the word for the coming of the Kingdom of God which Christ himself preached. Thus we grow in the realization, so clear to the Fathers of the Church, that the proclamation of the word has as its content the Kingdom of God (cf. Mk 1:14-15), which, in the memorable phrase of Origen, is the very person of Jesus (Autobasileia). The Lord offers salvation to men and women in every age. All of us recognize how much the light of Christ needs to illumine every area of human life: the family, schools, culture, work, leisure and the other aspects of social life. It is not a matter of preaching a word of consolation, but rather a word which disrupts, which calls to conversion and which opens the way to an encounter with the one through whom a new humanity flowers.Verbum Domini 30 Sep 2010
Please note that complete lack of warm fuzzies here: It is not a matter of preaching a word of consolation, but rather a word which disrupts.
The Kingdom of God, that is Jesus, is not something that stays home and minds its own business. The light of Christ needs to illumine every area of human life: the family, schools, culture, work, leisure and the other aspects of social life. When we rest in the kingdom (that is, Jesus) we become his action in the world. The Church, then, is a sacrament of the Kingdom, but not the whole Kingdom: which is Christ himself, the second person of the Trinity, and his action through grace in your life.
In this light, the parsing out of the reading from Hosea is interesting (thinking about the verses skipped).
In the text as provided for reading today (10:1-3, 7-8, 12) it sounds as if God had some trouble with Israel and they saw his anger (v8) and he closed out with some good advice (in v12). But taken all together with the rest of Chapter 10, v1-8 are about how bad Israel has been. Verse 12 is what they were supposed to have done instead. And God’s going to let them suffer the consequences of ignoring him.
I honestly believe we are there right now. God’s beginning to let us experience the consequences of ignoring him. And it’s only just beginning. The Bible Project folks call this “decreation” – an undoing of the blessings outlined at the beginning of Genesis. It’s a natural, logical consequence of ignoring God.
The people who want to keep Jesus in their hearts (but go on doing whatever they want) are leading us all amok. And it won’t be pretty because the Kingdom of God came near – we ignored him by searching for our own kingdoms, by trusting in our own power, making up our own rules, trying to decide on our own what was right and what was wrong.
The only hope is in the Gospel.
Repent – as the Alleluia Verse says – get a new mind, think different. Put your full trust (and all your actions) in the Good News.