Christ began his public ministry with the proclamation: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mk 1:15). The kingdom of God is personified in Jesus Christ. One becomes a participant of the kingdom through faith in Christ and by holy Baptism: “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16; see also Jn 3:5). We were created for the kingdom of God: “Whatsoever good things are sown in the human soul, these are the off-spring of the kingdom of God and have been sown by God the Word, who was in the beginning with God.”
- Christ Our Pascha – Catechism UGCC: Theophany
- Christ Our Pascha – Catechism UGCC: The Nativity of Christ
- The Catechism of the UGCC now available online
The kingdom of God is the will of the Father, announced by the Son and fulfilled in the Holy Spirit. This “Blessed … kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” will last “forever and ever.”
The Announcement of the Kingdom: The Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7)
An “icon in words” that portrays the kingdom of God is the Sermon on the Mount, especially the Beatitudes announced by Christ:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and every utter every kind of evil word against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven (Mt 5:3-12)
The Sermon on the Mount reveals life in God’s kingdom and points to the fact that the kingdom of God is God’s gift, not something earned through works of the Law. Only by receiving the kingdom in faith and obedience to the will of God does a human being become the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (see Mt 5:13-16)
Christ does not replace the Law with 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 fulfil them” (Mt 5:17). Christ rather discloses the full meaning of the Old Testament commandments:
You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder;” and “whoever murders shall be liable to judg-ment.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment … You have heard that it was said … But I say to you … Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:21-22; 27-28, 48).
The kingdom of God is a gift of God’s love: “I give you a new com-mandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” ( Jn 13:34). When we receive divine love into our life, we begin to perceive others in a new way—as our neighbours (see Lk 10:25-37). The power of love even conquers hatred towards enemies:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Mt 5:43-45).
The kingdom of God is a kingdom of God’s justice—the will of the Father, as proclaimed by Jesus Christ: “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33). When “sons and daughters of the kingdom” do not live by the word of Christ, they become like salt that has lost its taste, or as light that has been extinguished: “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Mt 6:23). Everyone who does the will of the Father builds his life upon rock: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock ” (Mt 7:24-25).
The Signs of the Coming of the Kingdom
1) The Words of Christ
A sign of the coming of the kingdom of God is the preaching of the Good News (the Gospel): “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the good news of God, and saying: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the gospel’ ” (Mk 1:14-15). The Divine Word, the Son of God, spoke in all his power and with full authority. We read, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” ( Jn 7:46). The word spoken by Christ is not his own, but the word of the Father, who sent him (see Jn 14:24). The power of Christ’s word is professed by the apostle Peter: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life!” ( Jn 6:68).
Christ teaches about the kingdom of God in parables. Using simple yet deep imagery from life, he reveals the mystery of God’s life. The kingdom of God is like a field, where both wheat and weeds grow together, side by side, until the harvest time (see Mt 13:24-30); like a seed, which grows into a large tree (see Mt 13:31-32; Lk 13:19). The kingdom of God is like leaven in flour (see Mt 13:33; Lk 13:21); and like a treasure hidden in a field, a pearl of great value, and a fishing net (see Mt 13:44-50). The kingdom of God is also like a king who forgives the debts of his servants (see Mt 18:23-35), like a householder who generously rewards the labourers working in the vineyard (see Mt 20:1-16), like a king who invites guests to the wedding of his son (see Mt 22:1-14), and like a man who has entrusted his servants with talents that they might increase them (see Mt 25:14-30). The kingdom of God grows in the world, as seeds in the earth, until the time of the harvest (see Mk4:26-29).
2) The Works of Christ
In addition to the words of his preaching, Christ points to other signs that indicate the arrival of God’s kingdom: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up” (Lk 7:22; see Is 35:5-6; 61:1). The works of Christ witness to the presence and action of God among his people. “As a man he fasted forty days and became hungry, and as God he defeated the tempter. As a man he went to the marriage in Cana of Galilee, and as God he turned the water into wine. As a man he slept on the ship, and as God he rebuked the wind and the sea and they heeded him.”
Human ailments, suffering, and death are consequences of the Fall. Christ came to conquer sin, the cause of all our woes. Only Christ, as the God-man, has the power to free us from sin. He accomplishes this by means of forgiveness: “Friend, your sins are forgiven you” (Lk5:20). Quite often, a physical cure or healing—as a result of forgive-ness—becomes the visible sign of a spiritual change (in Greek, metanoia) within a person: “Stand up and take up your bed and go home” (Lk 5:24). Christ heals us by forgiving our sins and restoring our physical health.
Healing is only possible when faith—one’s openness to God—is pre-sent: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Mt 9:28). Faith opens a person to receive God’s gift, whereas unbelief becomes an obstacle to the reception of this gift: “And [ Jesus] did not do many deeds of power [in Nazareth], because of their unbelief ” (Mt 13:58).
As the signs of God’s action in the time of Christ were his miracles, so in the life of the Church the signs are the Holy Mysteries. The grace of God acts in the Holy Mysteries through external signs such as water, oil, bread, and wine, as well as various liturgical gestures and actions. By receiving the Holy Mysteries, a person conquers sinful inclinations and grows in virtue.