Seeking the Kingdom
Cardinal Wuerl on How to Live as Christians
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By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, MAY 11, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Every time we pray the Our Father we say “Thy Kingdom Come,” but how many really understand correctly what this kingdom is, asks Cardinal Donald Wuerl in a recently published book.
In “Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging The Culture by Living Our Faith,” (Our Sunday Visitor) he notes that in the New Testament we find this kingdom mentioned frequently. The phrase “Kingdom of God” is, in fact, mentioned no less than 122 in the New Testament. By contrast it only appears once in the entire Old Testament.
This kingdom is not just being nice to each other, but neither is it some kind of theocracy, seeking political dominance. Neither is it just some metaphor; it’s something real, said Cardinal Wuerl.
The most basic definition of it, he explained, is that the kingdom of God is the presence of God. God rules everywhere he is present and God is in all places. Yet he is a pure spirit that transcends everything.
“On earth the kingdom is hidden mysteriously and may be encountered anywhere, but only in a spiritual way,” he noted. There are signs of this kingdom but to perceive them we need to sharpen our spiritual senses.
Yet, Cardinal Wuerl added, the kingdom is more than spiritual. We are humans, with a spiritual soul and a material body, both elements are essential to our humanity. “In a similar way, the kingdom is interior, but also has an exterior element or dimension.”
Jesus commanded his disciples not only to announce the kingdom in words, but also be deeds – curing the sick, raising the dead, driving out demons.
Jesus also identified his kingdom with a recognizable society, the Church. He appointed Peter to be the head of the apostles. “The Scriptures are clear on this point: if we wish to find the kingdom, now or in the future, we must first find the Church,” Cardinal Wuerl commented.
Thus, the kingdom was established by Christ, it is here, but it is still growing. And in the meantime while awaiting the end of time, Christ reigns through his Church. If we can’t see the kingdom because it is obscured by the bad behavior of some Christians, then Cardinal Wuerl recommended committing ourselves to it with a still deeper faith.
There are a number of signs of God’s kingdom, but Cardinal Wuerl affirmed that seven stand apart: the sacraments. The sacraments are signs, not just symbols. They do more than teach, they actually give us God’s life.
However, the grace of the sacraments does not end with us, he observed. We are meant to bring God’s love to a world that desperately needs it. This is how Christianity changed the world.
“Our lives must be signs of the kingdom, visible to all who stand outside the realm established by Jesus Christ,” he urged.
Our actions, he continued, set in motion a series of future events. “This is the great dignity of the lay vocation – to take the faith out into the world and give witness everywhere,” he said.
Lay Catholics can go to places where bishops cannot – in the workplace, at sporting games, or in shops. Why doesn’t the Church do more, some people ask. Maybe, Cardinal Wuerl observed, the real question all Catholics should ask themselves is “Why don’t I do more?”
The vocation of the laity to build the kingdom of God is not some kind of second-class vocation, he observed. The mission of the laity is to do all things as Christ would.
The Christian tradition has much to offer society. Its teaching on human dignity, deeds of mercy, the common good, solidarity, freedom of conscience, etc., enrich society. Promoting such ideas is a way laity can help promote the kingdom.
In some very influential circles, Cardinal Wuerl noted, opinion based on religious conviction is no longer welcome. The danger is that freedom of religion and conscience will be reduced to freedom to worship within church, and convictions have to be left at the door of the church upon leaving.
What were once considered valid ideas are now condemned as hate speech and any challenge to the re-definition of institutions such as marriage or health care is labeled as discrimination.
All of us at some stage will have moments when we will have to choose whether or not to stand up for what we believe, Cardinal Wuerl observed. While we do not seek to impose your views by force and we speak them with love, we must not remain silent.
“We must stand up when the kingdom is attacked, belittled, misrepresented, or ignored,” he argued. “Individually and collectively, quietly or insistently, Christians are called to stand for Christ and his kingdom,” he said. Given the direction in which many countries are moving today those opportunities to stand up will not be lacking.
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On the Net:
“Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging The Culture by Living Our Faith”: https://catalog.osv.com/Catalog.aspx?SimpleDisplay=true&ProductCode=T1209