“thy will be done, thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Those are the key words. On earth as it is heave.
Before I go any further, let me quickly explain two major trains of thought in Christian theology: millennial and pre-millenialism. Jesus, during his time on earth, spoke frequently about establishing a kingdom of God. But what does that mean? Revelations 20:6 mentions the reign of Christ lasting “a thousand years.” This was largely interpreted literally until the end of the first millennium when the second coming did not occur. Then it was taken to be a figurative statement, with “a thousand” meaning “a really long time.” Biblical scholars suggest that “thousand” was used in the same way we use “a billion,” basically “a really large number, you know, a lot.” Some modern Protestant groups interpret that verse to mean a literal one thousand year reign that has not occurred yet. These groups, called pre-millennials, believe that Christ will come again to establish a literal kingdom on earth. Catholics are millennialists, meaning they believe that the Kingdom of God has already been established and we are living in it today.
I’m not going to debate millennialism (though it is an intriguing topic!), but rather talk about what it would mean if we really are living in the Kingdom of God.
What does Jesus tell us about this kingdom anyway?
It is for the poor, the persecuted, for those seeking righteousness (Matthew 5-6). It is for children (Matt 19). It is for the lowliest (Luke 7). It is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14). It is not darkness (Colossians 1).
It is here (Matt 3).
So if it is here, if it is now, what do we do about it? It is easy to look around at all the pain and suffering in the world and realize that this is not a kingdom. It is a work in progress.
The Catechism (basically a big book that explains Christian beliefs and practices) tells us that we build the kingdom of God:
By living with the mind of Christ, Christians hasten the coming of the Reign of God, “a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.” They do not, for all that, abandon their earthly tasks; faithful to their master, they fulfill them with uprightness, patience, and love. CCC 2046.
The Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst. The kingdom will come in glory when Christ hands it over to his Father. CCC 2816.
It is here and now, and it is coming. It is a work in progress.
I’ve posted this before, but a beautiful poem by Bishop Ken Untener reminds us that we are building God’s kingdom:
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision….
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
So what if this was a literal kingdom that we are living in? The one that we pray for every time we recite the Our Father? What would you build?
Schools? Hospitals? Homes?
How would it be ruled?
With love? Forgiveness? Compassion?
Would we watch while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? Would we speak up for the rights of those who have none? Would we squander our resources or destroy the natural beauty?
What kind of a future can we build?
On earth as it is in heaven.