Kingdom Consciousness: Why Christians look to the ‘not yet’

Jesus himself creates some confusion, if you listen closely and note the contradiction. At times he speaks of the kingdom—that place and time in which God’s justice and mercy combine to create the life we are meant to receive—as something yet to come in the, perhaps distant, future:

But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Mt 24: 36).

 

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And then there are times when he speaks as though the kingdom were already here, and we are just too slow to see it:

The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, “Look, here it is,” or, “There it is.” For behold, the kingdom of God is among you” (Lk 17: 20-21).
 

Truth is, Christ chooses the contradiction. He wants it both ways. The kingdom is yet to come, and in a manner quite undeniable. Yet it’s seeding within our hearts. There, its presence should already be seen.

The rich man amid his grain bins, surprised by death, is more than a warning about greed. It’s a parable about kingdom consciousness. Which is what?

It’s the awareness of three kingdoms, or, better, the kingdom in three times and places: within, without and whither. Kingdom consciousness is living in this world with our eyes fixed upon the whither, the one yet to come. It is acknowledging the painful gap between what Christ promised and what we have yet attained. To forget the whither, the kingdom to come, is to make ourselves at home in the world. The kingdom within us acts as a leaven without. It challenges and changes the world in which we live.

The three kingdoms—the whither, the within, and the without—are inseparable. If we don’t live, trying to ready this world for the one to come, the kingdom within us dies, and, if we don’t nurture the kingdom restlessness, which Christ planted within us, we soon find ourselves settling in among our grain bins, doing nothing to ready the world for the kingdom.

The world isn’t changed by placards or pews alone. The “within” and “without” depend upon each other. Prayer without social consciousness whispers in the wind. A social agenda without prayer spits into it. Neither can thrive without a longing for the whither, for what is to come.

This past Tuesday morning, right after the nine o’clock Mass, in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a working-class town in Normandy, the kingdom of God broke into our world. Two armed men burst into the parish church, shouting ISIS slogans. When Father Jacques Hamel, the assistant pastor, 85, refused to, or couldn’t, kneel before them, they slit his throat and briefly took others hostage until the police arrived.

The New York Times reports that Father Hamel’s people loved him because he kept on celebrating sacraments and visiting the faithful, long after he could have retired.

Another priest in the Rouen archdiocese, the Rev. Aimé-Rémi Mputu Amba, told the newspaper Le Figaro: “Even in his old age, he was still just as invested with the parish life. We used to joke around and tell him ‘Jacques, you’re doing too much! It’s high time you retire!’ And he would always laugh it off and say, ‘Have you ever met a retired priest? I’ll work until my last breath.’”
 
Father Mputu Amba added: “To leave us just as he was celebrating Mass must have been some kind of blessing for him, despite the tragic circumstances.”

 

This past Tuesday morning, the three kingdoms briefly aligned, in bitterness and in blessing. Christ’s kingdom found Father Jacques at Mass. Celebrating Eucharist is an act of kingdom consciousness, a living within the whither. It is essential to the Christian way of life. When we revel in the Word of God and the sacramental presence of Christ, the kingdom of God grows within us. From there, it break outs, into the world.

In the world’s eyes we accomplish nothing at Eucharist, and we dare not try. Liturgy is a presence, not a program. Turn liturgy into pedagogy, and it quickly becomes little more than propaganda.

Dominique Lebrun, the Archbishop of Rouen, wrote in response to the death of Father Jacques, his cleric, “L’Eglise catholique ne peut prendre d’autres armes que la prière et la fraternité entre les hommes.” The Catholic Church can take no arms other than prayer and the fraternity of peoples.

What is within us, and what is to come, can change the world, but we mustn’t take kingdom consciousness for granted. We can’t presume that it is strongly seeded within our hearts. Even the Lord Jesus withdrew each day for prayer. How right that, when Christ came for him, old Father Jacques was found, just having finished another recitation of the kingdom and its promises.

Repetitio mater studiorum est. Repetition is the mother of learning. That’s true of the kingdom as well. Christ commanded us: “Do this in memory of me” because, when he changes us, he changes the world.

Ecclesiasticus 1: 2, 2: 21-23  Colossians 3: 1-5, 9-11  Luke 12: 13-21

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William Rydberg
2 years 2 months ago
Its Catholic Truth that Jesus Christ-God come in the flesh IS the Kingdom. He is God Incarnate. When reading Scripture it helps to interpret from a Catholic hermeneutical perspective. At least, in a Catholic magazine. May Pere Jacques' soul and all of the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 2 months ago
As I read “Kingdom Consciousness” by Father Klein, I could feel “mystery”, the Mystery that is God. But there is a problem. When speaking of the Mystery that is God, one feels restrained by the inadequacy of human words, looking for a little light seeping through tiny cracks in the wall of human verbal imprisonment, allowing for some cogency. So I move on, hopefully. I think, the Kingdom of God as we await its “unfolding,” is like a Divine “Wrap-around” allowing full human revelation at the end of time, however and whenever that comes. To understand it better one must somehow move beyond the limitations of time and place. Not easy! Jesus who certainly knows, gave three indicators, each sinewed to the other by the word “of.” That word has many definitions, the first defined as “coming from” in the case at hand, “God.” For us as Jesus indicates, the “Kingdom of God” is “coming” and from God’s point of view as Jesus also says, “is at hand,” demonstrating that for God, whatever is to come already is. What “is” and what “will be” one and the same. Does this apply to the Last Judgment? Has it happened already? Within the human dimension is it happening all the time? Mystery! So, leaving that diversion behind, like chicks taking shelter under the “wrap-around” wings of “Mother Hen” Jesus, let’s relish with heaven’s reality the wisdom of the Kingdom of God “at hand.” In that shelter, things unfold – the “wrap-around” falls away, “transubstantiates” if you wish as never before. Or more accurately exactly as before, in Sacrificial Blood, as it did for Jacques Hamel, priest and Martyr now relishing the Kingdom, up front and close. Blessed Father Hamel pray for us!

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