Home » Blog » Catholic Church » Christ’s Kingship – “on Earth as it is in Heaven”

Christ’s Kingship – “on Earth as it is in Heaven”

Part 1

According paragraph 9 of a “Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization,” published in 2007 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “The growth of the Church in history, which results from missionary activity, is at the service of the presence of God through his Kingdom: one cannot in fact detach the Kingdom from the Church.” It seems to follow from that inseparability that the Kingdom of God arrived on Earth when Our Lord founded the Church, more than two thousand years ago. Did it? Let us consider this interesting subject.

In his book entitled “Making Senses Out of Scripture,” [1] Mark Shea commented that some people “dream of a happy earthly destiny for the Church… They hope that, as the Church spreads out across the world, then perhaps little by little and bit by bit, every day in every way, the world will get better until the Kingdom of Heaven comes in the Great Rosy Dawn. Others, most notably in [the twentieth] century, have tried to tinker together a man-made heavenly kingdom and have given it names like National Socialism, Communism, Maoism, Hedonism, Materialism, the Playboy Philosophy, the Triumph of Reason, etc. All these schemes,” he wrote, “share in the common hope of achieving the happiness of the resurrection without having to go to the trouble of dying,” and the Church warns us against this counterfeit idea. The whole of mankind, including the Church and its members, will, like Our Lord, “not get to take a shortcut [but] must pass through death to resurrection.” [2]

Icon of the Resurrection of Jesus

St. Paul wrote that if Christ is not risen our preaching is in vain.[3] That seems to depend on what it is that we are preaching. There is not enough time now to consider that point fully, but think of it in regard to the kingdom of God and this world. Our Lord has risen, but much of what the Church (at least, ‘on paper’) preaches is rejected completely. There seems no evidence that most Catholics are troubled by that.  In their defence, they can point out that Our Lord said “Let not your hearts be troubled” [4] and that although “[i]n the world you have tribulation,…be of good cheer – I have overcome the world.” [5] Being of good cheer feels better, and makes you more popular, than being depressed, and our religious leaders very rarely (if ever) mention adverse circumstances. As far as I know, it was Cardinal Hume who said “We are an Easter people, and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.” Father Julian Large, the Provost of Brompton Oratory, wrote that “the triumph of the Resurrection is definitive. It means that the outcome of the final conflict between good and evil, which will reach its denouement when Our Lord returns in majesty to judge the living and the dead, is already decided. The Devil and his angels are to be cast into hell forever.” [6] Hooray!        

Meanwhile, what judgment should we make about whether there is any connection between this passing world and the Kingdom of God? Does what happens in this passing world matter? It certainly matters to Satan, the arch-enemy of God, and it should matter to people who wish to be God’s friends. The followers of paganism, opponents of Scripture and God’s will, “know that they must secure all levers of power and influence, in order to succeed” in bringing the world under their control and making anti-God policies the ‘new normal’. [7] Their success has been helped by a dearth of John the Baptists (who was beheaded for candidly declaring the truth), including bishops who “remain mostly silent” about anti-God policies, rebuke priests who speak up, and “stand on the edge of the pasture watching the wolves” ravage the sheep. [8]  

In line with the overwhelmingly-‘low-key,’ diffident atmosphere maintained consistently by our religious leaders, Father Large [9] recommended “humility,” and wrote that although “at times it looks as if we are losing ground” (a considerable understatement) “[w]hat matters in eternity…is not that we have been seen by the world to be victorious, but rather that we ally ourselves with the side to which we know the ultimate victory has already been granted.” In his opinion,[10] “[e]very battle which occurs between now and [the end of the world] is a skirmish.” The implication seems clearly to be that even if there is a connection between this passing world and the Kingdom of God it is not very important, even if we should concern ourselves with it at all.

St Anthony of Padua
Francisco de Zurbarán  (1598–1664)

I was interested to read that my patron Saint had taught something rather different: that “time was short and that we must create the Kingdom of God while we have the opportunity”;[11] so apparently he believed that there is a connection between this passing world and the Kingdom of God and that we are obliged to try to help to make it materialise.

St. John’s Gospel tells us that just after the ‘feeding of the five thousand,’ Our Lord saw that the awe-struck crowd “were about to come and take him by force to make him king,” and (apparently because of that) He “withdrew again to the hills by himself.” [12] Did He do that because He would have been made king by force, or because He simply did not want to be king? In the Garden of Gethsemane, when Peter had attacked the high priest’s slave, Our Lord told him to put away his sword, adding “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” [13] So, despite being able to assert His power over His Earthly enemies, He chose not to do it. On that basis, it could seem that He simply did not want to be king. Although that could suggest that what was going to happen to Him was unimportant, we know that that would be a mistaken conclusion; He added that if the angels were sent to defend Him from arrest, it would obstruct fulfilment of the scriptures.[14] Soon after that incident, He said to Pontius Pilate, “My kingship is not of this world,” and added that if it were “my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews,” [15] and of course He had stopped such a fight in Gethsemane.[16]

If that provides a clear answer to the question of what judgment should we make about whether there is any connection between this passing world and the Kingdom of God, it raises other questions. I list them in random order, and – initially – rhetorically:

Why do we pray that His “will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”? If this world has nothing to do with His kingship, why bother about what happens here? Wouldn’t it be logical to let the world ‘go to Hell’?

Is Christianity a wholly cerebral matter of focusing on God and the aspects of theology, by comparison with which all practical applications of it are unimportant inevitably-transient distractions? When El Salvador was going through a civil war between supporters and opponents of the Government, were the bishops there mistaken to comment on it, and on factors contributing to it, and to say in a statement that “We would be false to our mission as shepherds if we were to reduce evangelization to mere practices of individualistic piety and…sacramentalism”? [17]

If we should consider only what is ‘up there’ and of the coming of God’s kingdom after the Last Judgment, why has the Church bothered to produce any teaching about what goes on ‘down here’ in the meantime?

Did Our Lord teach about how to think and act only to enable us to save our souls, as distinct from encouraging us to affect temporal circumstances? Similarly, is the reason for God’s disapproval of sin the fact that it simply contravenes His wishes, as distinct from its effect on other people and/or ourselves?

If effects on temporal circumstances and on other people are unimportant to Him, why did He teach that (for example) what we do or fail to do to others is done or not done to Him? [18] Do I need to produce any other evidence for a proposition that God is pleased when we do good to other people? He is pleased by that, even though His kingdom is not of this world, so – and now I move from rhetorical questions to firm statements – what happens in this world matters to Him.

to be cont’d…

[1] Basilica Press, 1999, p.234.

[2] Ibid., p.235.

[3] 1 Cor. 15:14.

[4] Jn. 14:1 & 27.

[5] Jn. 16:33.

[6] “Catholic Herald,” 29th March 2018.

[7] “The Pagans Have Moved In – Where are the John the Baptists?”, by Fr. Richard Heilman, “Catholic Voice,” Issue 365, 24th

  March – 5th April 2023, p.18-19.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Op. cit.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Anthony of Padua,” CTS Great Saints series; Catholic Truth Society, 2004, p.34.

[12] Jn. 6:15.

[13] Matt. 26:52-53.

[14] Matt. 26:54.

[15] Jn. 18:36.

[16] Matt. 26: 51-52; Lk. 22: 49-51; Jn. 18: 10-11.

[17] Quoted in “The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A ComprehensiveWorld History,” by Robert Royal; The Crossroad Publishing Co., New York, 2000, p.277.

[18] Matt. 10:40; 18:5; 25:31-46.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *