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Reflections on the Daily Readings
from the Perspective of Creighton Students

September 3rd, 2013
Ann McMahon
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[432] 1 Thess 5:1-6, 9-11
Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14
Luke 4:31-37

As hopeful and encouraging as today's first reading is, it covers a subject that makes a lot of people nervous. 

It seems to me that a fearful, superstitious outlook on "the end times" is pretty common among otherwise faith-filled people, and I think most of us have a very primitive understanding of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Socially, we've been conditioned to see it strictly as a one-time event of cataclysmic destruction, when this world ends and God come to punish all of us who have been caught napping. It's why all the mainstream hype surrounding Y2K, 6-6-06, and the end of the Mayan calendar gained such massive commercial popularity. The commercial industry has learned to prey upon our fear of the world's inevitable end, and all the predictions that have come and gone telling when and how the world will end attest to this. But I digress. When we treat the idea of God's Kingdom that way, our relationship with God and the life we are meant to share with him (both on earth and beyond it) seem more like the stereotypical frat boy, who wakes up one morning to realize he has a final that day for a class he never attended. A lot of us do procrastinate our spiritual life with God (myself included), and the realization that one day we'll run out of time to build that relationship is naturally terrifying. 

Let me clarify, I'm not trying to scare anyone into a get-with-Jesus conversion experience. It just seems that this is the way a lot of people see the coming of God's Kingdom, so it's only natural to find today's first reading, well, scary. I think taken alone, this viewpoint is unhealthy and inaccurate. It makes for a very limited description for the Kingdom of God. It also makes for a very unhealthy idea of who God is, and what our relationship with him is meant to be.

It is true that the Catholic Church professes that the present world we currently occupy will end with Christ's second coming. This is what many people mean when they refer to the coming of the Kingdom of God, and correctly so. However, that is only one description among a few. The "Kingdom of God" means more than just that heaven will remain after this world has passed away. The core message of the four Gospels is that with Christ's first coming into the world, the Kingdom of God was already at hand. It is in the domain of human hearts, in the community of believers, and in Christ himself that the Kingdom of God is found. (Josef Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth). God's dominion is, by its nature, one of love, and includes those who seek to love him with all their hearts, wherever they may be in life.

The return of Christ to the kingdom he established will be so much more than the fire-and-brimstone we've been taught to envision from popular interpretations of the Book of Revelation. In fact, in the same book, Christ's return is described as one of triumph and love. The Bridegroom (that's Christ) is eternally and joyfully reunited with his Bride (that's us). The coming of God's Kingdom is not the vindictive decimation of earth by an angry God. It's a wedding feast (Revelation 21:9-21). When we realize that God's kingdom is more like a heartfelt, long-distance engagement that finally ends with a beautiful, joyful (and dare I say, fun?) wedding celebration, the reaction of the terrified frat boy doesn't seem appropriate anymore. We'd be running in fear from the love of our life.

When we live more deeply the life of Christ, we help bring about the coming of the Kingdom on earth. The Kingdom of God is most present among us when we live out the two great commandments to love God above all things, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is done when we give to the poor, visit the sick and imprisoned, teach those who thirst for knowledge and truth, and all other works of love and mercy. It is done when we immerse ourselves in the grace that comes through the sacraments, and when we deepen our loving relationship with Christ the Bridegroom. 

May God bless you with the deepest consolation of his love and mercy.

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