Benedict XVI on the Kingdom of God

As an interlude between Catechism summaries, it’s worth looking a bit more at the concept of the Kingdom of God.

Pope Benedict XVI discusses the Kingdom in the first volume of  Jesus of Nazareth, especially in Chapter 3.

Benedict outlines three ways of interpreting the Kingdom, drawn from the Fathers of the Church:

  • as Jesus Himself;
  • as located deep within the believer;
  • as being in close relationship to the Church.

Then he critiques a few modern theories that fall short: e.g., that the Kingdom is all about the end of the world, or that it is all about our efforts to bring about peace and justice on earth (“the secular-utopian idea”).

After mentioning that both the Hebrew and Greek words for Kingdom are action words — connoting “God’s actual sovereignty over the world” — Benedict goes on to offer his own explication of this richly evocative term, and espouses the interpretation of Jesus being the Kingdom in person:

The new and totally specific thing about his message is that he is telling us: God is acting now — this is the hour when God is showing himself in history as its Lord, as the living God, in a way that goes beyond anything seen before. ‘Kingdom of God’ is therefore an inadequate translation. It would be better to speak of God’s being-Lord, of his lordship (p. 56).

The new proximity of the Kingdom of which Jesus speaks — the distinguishing feature of his message — is to be found in Jesus himself. Through Jesus’ presence and action, God has here and now entered actively into history in a wholly new way (p. 60).

In Jesus, God is now the one who acts and who rules as Lord — rules in a divine way, without worldly power, rules through the love that reaches ‘to the end’ (Jn 13:1), to the Cross (p. 61).

…the Kingdom of God is ‘realized’ in his coming….Jesus, as the One who has come, is nonetheless the One who comes throughout the whole of history…(p. 188).

Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008).

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