Monday, December 19, 2011

My Father's Kingdom

We draw closer to the celebration of Jesus' birth.  Once he has finished his own personal "formation" with Mary and Joseph, he will begin his ministry ... preaching the Kingdom of God, aka the Kingdom of Heaven.  As mentioned in a prior posting, the phrase "kingdom of God" are New Testament terms.  Only once in the Old Testament, in the Book of Wisdom, chapter 10, verse 10 can you find this phrase.

As Jesus began his days of preaching and teaching, the people of Yahweh were longing for this new kingdom.  They were no different from their ancestors.  As Cardinal Wuerl writes in Seek First the Kingdom of God, little did the people have any notion of what this kingdom would be like.  An interesting side reading is a history of the kings of the Jewish people.  Google, of course, can be somewhat helpful here.

The prophet Samuel, recognized as a holy man, close in his prayer with Yahweh, became for the people of Yahweh after "Adam's reign ended rather badly" (Wuerl, p 25), a means to seeking divine assistance in securing a king.  Unfortunately the kind of king the people wanted was what we would call the warrior king.  This man was to be a ruler over nations.  Power and prestige were to be this king's brand.  Samuel acceded to their requests and ultimately "anointed" several kings because power and greed brought down the kingdom of Israel.

Eventually the House of David came into being.  David was consider by the people to be the longed-for messiah.  In fact, David "provided a prototype" for  later generations of the faithful in Israel.  A study of the history of the Jewish people puts forward an interesting reality:  hope is a major character trait of the Israel people despite the periods of pain and exile endured over the years.  It was the words of the Prophets describing the hoped for kingdom that encouraged the Jewish people.

Once preaching, Jesus taught (Luke 7:22) the people about the wonders of the kingdom of God, his Father.  To clarify for the people what his words meant, one Sabbath day Jesus spoke out about himself and how God had anointed him to be the person who would bring about the realization of the kingdom.   Cardinal Wuerl refers to Jesus' words in Luke 4:18-21 as his "inaugurating the kingdom of the Messiah (p.26).

As we many did follow Jesus but there were those who could not accept his teachings.  Jesus told them of his messiahship in words and events not easily accepted.  No one had raised anyone from the dead before!  The people continued in their desire for the warrior king.  This kingdom of God Jesus was teaching was a new and unheard of power.  It was in his ministry that he daily taught about the new kingdom would surpass any of their dreams.  Why?  Because it would be a spiritual, supernatural power that Jesus was giving to them.  Again, it would be only understood with the "eyes of faith."

So as you look at creche scenes in these days of Christmas celebration, think about this kingdom that Jesus was bringing to the people, to us even today.  It is a very different power that God has offered you and me for our lives.  It is a kingdom where weapons are traded for acts of kindness and love.  It is a kingdom where the King is more concerned about the subjects than about himself.  This is the Kingdom of God.  This is the kingdom that is offered to you and me each day of our lives.