A Sign of God’s Kingdom in the World
“The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the good news.”
(Gospel, 1. Sunday of Lent, Mk 1:12-15)
In the person of Jesus of Nazareth the kingdom of God has entered human history and the life of every person. In him something of the boundless love and mercy of God has become visible. In him we begin to understand our own dignity and beauty as human beings when we are, like Jesus, guided by the Spirit of God.
What Jesus lived and taught, we, the community of his disciples, are called to take into the world in which we live in. The Church is meant to be a “sign and instrument” of this kingdom of justice, love and peace on earth. Through us, Christians, people should be able to see and experience the loving, liberating and healing power of God.
Yet, the reality of the Church often was and is quite different. Most people see in the Church an authoritarian institution, which has frequently abused its power and acted as an enemy of human freedom. Even committed Christians sometimes have their difficulties with the Church’s bureaucracy, with the incomprehensible language of the liturgy and scandals among some Church leaders.
Yet, in spite of human weakness and sinfulness among her members, the Church holds a precious hidden treasure, which is worth discovering anew. These “thoughts for Lent” are an invitation to deepen our understanding of the Church’s mystery starting from texts from the Sunday liturgies of Lent. We will recall what the Second Vatican Council had to say about the Church as the pilgrim people of God. We will listen to Pope Francis who has given us many powerful images to grasp what the Church really is and what she strives to become.
- The Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race… The Church, or, in other words, the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world…The Church receives the mission… to be, on earth the initial budding forth of that Kingdom (Lumen Gentium 1.3.5).
- This is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wounds; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy (Pope Francis, Bishop’s Synod 2014).
- Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. This means that we are to be God’s leaven in the midst of humanity. It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way. The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium 114).
– What do I feel when I think of the Church?
– Recall moments in your life when you experienced God’s Kingdom happening within yourself or in communion with others?
– How and where can I be a true sign and witness of God’s love for others in my daily life?
We are grateful for the holy, Catholic Church,
when she strives to make the kingdom of God present in our world.