Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Jesus of Nazareth, Chapter 3

This chapter is titled "The Gospel of the Kingdom of God". The Holy Father examines what Jesus means by the "Kingdom of God" (and examines several major theories) which ends up cutting to the very heart of His purpose in coming to earth as a man. Here are a few highlights...
In the vocabulary of contemporary linguistic theory, we would say that the evangelium, the Gospel, is not just informative speech, but performative speech - not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform.
He identifies three different interpretations of what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God: that Jesus is the Kingdom in person, that "man's interiority" is the essential location of the Kingdom of God and that the Kingdom of God is at least closely related to the Church.

In the end he seems to most closely identify with the first interpretation, but explains that it doesn't go far enough. A few more highlights...
When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is quite simply proclaiming God, and proclaiming him to be the living God, who is able to act concretely in the world and in history and is even now so acting. He is telling us: "God exists" and "God is really God," which means that he holds in his hands the threads of the world. In this sense, Jesus' message is very simple and thoroughly God-centered. 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.
The pious Jew prays every day the Shema Israel: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might". The recitation of this prayer was understood as the act of taking on one's shoulders the yoke of God's sovereign lordship. This prayer is not just a matter of words: the one who prayers it accepts God's lordship, which consequently, through the act of praying, enters into the world. The one who is praying helps to bear it on his shoulders, and through his prayer, God's lordship shapes his way of life, his day-to-day existence, making it a locus of God's presence in the world.
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. The reason why now is the fullness of time (Mk 1:15), why now is in a unique sense the time of conversion and penance, as well as the time of joy, is that in Jesus it is God who draws near to us. 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.

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