Jesus Christ, How Now, My King?

Detail from The Light of the World, by William Holman Hunt (1851-1853).

What exactly is the Kingdom of God? Where is it? Ever since I was a teenager and became immersed in wanting to know more about Jesus, I learned about God’s Kingdom, and it would spur me on to live more and more like a “Kingdom person.” I learned that the qualities of the kingdom are love, joy, and peace; that “Your kingdom come,” in the Our Father, is asking for these blessings in our homes, our communities, our nations; and that Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world”; hence, it is not a kingdom we can see and touch, but live and feel.

I came to know of the Beatitudes that spoke of Jesus’ new Law of Love. I read with great interest the parables that explained what “kingdom of God” means, each story as different from each other as chalk and cheese; and that, like us, his disciples, too, needed them to be explained!

However, my understanding was a bits-and-pieces puzzle; the entire picture still eluded me. Often, in my relationship with Jesus, I would refer to him as my King, and worship him as I thought I ought to, but most of the time, he would be my Master, my Guide, my Comforter, my Brother, my Friend, my Suffering Messiah, and my Redeemer.

Living in these times, we find the concept of king foreign, a thing of the past. Now, most monarchical heads are mere titular figures. Our elected heads, as well: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the premier leader of Canada, but as far removed from my immediate circumstances as the distance from Ottawa to British Columbia.

The Kingdom of God Is Here and Now

It was that wonderful day before the Feast of Christ the King, in November 2012, when it all suddenly made sense to me, while meditating on the day’s reading from the Book of Revelation:

…You were slaughtered, and by your blood,
You ransomed, for God, saints from every tribe and language and people and nation,
You have made them to be a kingdom, and priests serving our God,
And they will reign on earth.

After spending some time in prayer and reading this passage, my mind was illumined in a flood of light and joy, and I came to see and believe from my heart. Yes! The Kingdom of God is truly among us.

We are the people ransomed by the blood of the Lamb for God, from every nation, tribe, and language, and we serve Jesus as our king—here and now! It is not an ethereal concept, floating in the air, and never was. Even when the kingdom was described as a little mustard seed, Jesus said, “Behold the kingdom of God is among you” (Lk17:21).

The Church, beginning as the smallest of seeds with the 12 Apostles around the table, then sown by the blood of martyrs and the evangelization of nations and peoples throughout the centuries, grew “like the largest of plants and put forth branches so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Mk 4:31-32). We are, now, a little over 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide, while one-third of the world’s population is Christian, the largest religious group in the world. All the nations on earth have heard the message of the Gospel, (and for those people who have not heard, we still have work to do.)

How Are We This Kingdom?

In the Old Testament, God called Abraham to be the father of God’s people, and God was to be their King. In the Book of Joshua, after his people had reached the Promised Land, God set judges over them to protect them, and often to deliver them from their infidelity and captivity. God was their King, one who would convey his decrees through his judges to his people.

Later, they saw how other nations had kings, and they pleaded with Samuel (the last of the judges) to ask God for an earthly king to rule over them. Conceding to their request, in exasperation (1 Sam 8:7-8), God told Samuel, “Grant the people’s every request. It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their King.” He then gave them their first king, Saul.

Thus, from what was seemingly not his will, the final stage of his plan of salvation unfolded for the whole world—to send his own son Jesus to become, not only the King of the Jews, but also the King of all future generations of peoples, through the line of King David. Many hundreds of years later, when that bloodline of kings was all but a stump, in “the acceptable year of the Lord,” Jesus came into the world—as a little baby, born to Mary and Joseph of the House of King David. At this most auspicious point in time, God entered humanity and became one of us to redeem the world. When Pilate asked Jesus, “So, are you a King?” (Jn 18:37), Jesus answered, “You say that I am a King. For this purpose, I was born, and for this reason, I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”

The Laws of the Kingdom: Love

Jesus established his kingdom, proclaiming it on the Mount in the Beatitudes, and throughout his ministry on earth, making known his powerful new Law of Love: “A new commandment I give you, love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12), demonstrating it in every moment of his High-Priestly life, and finally in his suffering and death on the cross.

Love God above all things, and love your neighbor, as God has loved you: Every other law emanates from, and is based on, this Law of Love, whether it is honoring the Sabbath by attending Mass every Sunday, or loving the neighbor who ignores or insults you.

When Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” he was pointing to the fact that his values are not of this world, and, in fact, directly oppose them. And so, it is no wonder that the principles of his Law of Love, his Beatitudes, express this: “blessed are the poor,” “blessed are the meek,” “blessed are the peacemakers,” “blessed are those that hunger and thirst for justice’ sake.” But the values of the world say, “blessed are the most beautiful,” “blessed are the rich and famous,” “blessed are the most successful and powerful,” “blessed are the most pleasured and contented.”

The New Jerusalem

2000 years later, this little mustard seed has truly grown into a great, big tree! Our Catholic Church has become the definitive New Jerusalem, God’s people; the pope, and our bishops and priests are the “priests serving our God” (as the judges of the Old Testament); and Jesus is our King, no one else. What’s more, every one of us throughout the world, is called to become a disciple, a member of Christ’s Mystical Body, and a priest, prophet, and king, as we share in the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, our King, who died for us.

It is awe inspiring to be a part of this universal family. In spite of the wrongs of the Church over the centuries and the Reformation, in spite of the sins of today and the attacks against the Church, as Jesus told St. Peter, “… the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). Our Church, with all its challenges, is thriving.

The unbroken line of popes providing guidance throughout the centuries; the faithful ministry of religious and lay communities to alleviate poverty and suffering in all nations; the quiet, steady filtering of Gospel values from parishes and schools to every level of society and governance; and the continuous growth in numbers of Catholic converts attests to the Church’s vibrancy. History shows that the Church has effected a civilizing influence on humanity for the last 2000 years, across all disciplines, based on evangelization and the founding of such organizations as monasteries, hospitals, orphanages, and institutes of learning worldwide, just to name a few.

Further, the obedience of the “kingdom” people far outweighs any rebelliousness, discontent, dissatisfaction, or disobedience—and even with all of that, God has his plan, turning every unseemly situation into something fruitful. “In time, we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil caused by his creatures” (Catechism of the Catholic Church §312).

Am I a “Kingdom” Person?

I feel a sense of connection with every lover of Christ. We are all united in this great big tree of life, in heaven, and on earth. We are this great big kingdom of people who are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and the leaven in the dough—all living in the world, not in a separate country or continent. We are very much part of our society, “yet not of this world,” where how I live makes a difference for all of humanity.

We are all connected, first, through our behavior at home, then, in our society, our workplace, marketplace, school, and government, among all our neighbors and down all our roads, in our parishes, and in our cars. We can choose to be citizens of God’s kingdom, and believe that everything we do makes this world a better place, or not—“Thy Kingdom come,” or not.

Jesus talks of the kingdom of God being like a field where both the good seeds and the weeds grow together (cf., Mt 13:24-30). He tells his workers not to take the weeds out, or else, the wheat too will be destroyed, but that, at the time of harvesting, the good crops will be sorted from the bad, and the bad thrown into the fire.

Here, we are assured that even though we see dishonest people, or those who don’t care about God or don’t care about the wellbeing other human beings, we are to continue doing the good that God wants us to do and live our lives like true disciples. We are not to be disheartened, for God “makes his sun rise on the good and the bad, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:45). We all have the opportunity to hear the good news of salvation through Jesus, and to keep the faith, and we must all face final judgement.

Universal Spiritual Healthcare, Food, and Benefits

In God’s kingdom, Jesus has instituted seven sacraments through which his graces flow to us, much like an earthly king who builds roads and public utilities, and who provides schools and health care, etc., in order to help his people flourish. In the same way, Jesus gave us the sacraments, including the Holy Eucharist, as food and nourishment, along with his Word; and the sacrament of reconciliation, which cleanses us and replenishes our needy souls with forgiveness.

We also have the remarkable sacrament of matrimony. How many married couples are missing God-given chances to become better human beings with enriched relationships with our spouses, because we didn’t want to forgive, or see things from the other’s perspective, or let go our will for the other? I have seen, time and again, how grace has flowed into my heart when I decided to forgive my spouse, and sensing the love flowing back in, and all hurt gone. This is grace in action. So many choose the opposite way of unforgiveness, harboring grudges, and seeking revenge, which only causes more hurt and brokenness.

Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus promised us his Holy Spirit, the Advocate. It is he who gives us these graces. He provides for us the gifts of peace, patience, gentleness, and more—how much we need them!

But, in receiving these gifts, we are also aware of his loving presence, and that of the saints and angels. We are not alone. We have not only the promise of eternal life for ourselves, but also in loving community with God and all the blessed in heaven forever. What joy!

What about My Relationship with Jesus?

I have finally made Jesus the King of my heart, my mind, my life. He is not a monarch far away in a palace, who barely knows my name. He is, here and now, my personal King, who cares for my every need, every hurt and joy, for my past, my present, and my future. Not only does he know me inside out, but better than I know myself. As St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions, our God “is higher than my highest, the one deeper than my deepest, the one more intimate to me than my most intimate thought.”

My Brother, Friend, and Redeemer is also Royalty by my side, and I want to worship him every moment of the day. This is a great source of comfort for me. I want to live every moment in complete trust that he will see me through every struggle, no matter how low I feel, no matter how arduous my task. I renew my commitment to choosing to live every day in obedience to God’s will. Living in the freedom of his will, rather than mine, and loving him above all else, is the great mystery that secular society does not believe to be true, or even possible. But it is what I have discovered to be the source of constant joy and peace in my own imperfect world.

Sharmila Rego About Sharmila Rego

MA English, writer and editor, previously journalist in Mumbai, India. Now in BC Canada with her husband a choir director and their 5 children, ages 4 to 18 years. Two eldest are seminarians. While last child goes to full day school, mother goes back to school for a master's in Theology!