The Kingdom of Christ
The Catholic Church was founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ to perpetuate the benefits of Redemption among men. Thus, its ultimate end is identical with that of Redemption itself: to atone for the sins of mankind through the infinitely precious merits of the God-made-man; to restore to God the external glory that sin had bereft Him of, and to open the gates of Heaven to mankind.
This purpose is entirely achieved on the supernatural level, aiming at eternal life. It transcends absolutely whatever is merely natural, earthly, perishable. That is what Our Lord Jesus Christ affirmed when he said to Pontius Pilate, “My Kingdom is not from hence” (John 18:36).
Earthly life differs thus and thoroughly from eternal life, but these two lives do not constitute two planes absolutely isolated one from the other. In the designs of Providence there is a close connection between earthly life and eternal life. Earthly life is the way; eternal life is the goal. Though the Kingdom of Christ does not belong to this world, the way to it lies in this world.
Just as the military school is the way to the military profession, or the novitiate is the definitive way to enter a religious order, so is this earth the way to Heaven.
We have an immortal soul created in God’s image and likeness. This soul is created with a treasure of natural aptitudes for good and enriched by Baptism with the invaluable gift of the supernatural life of grace. During our lives we have to develop to their fullness these aptitudes for good. Therewith our likeness to God, still to a certain extent incomplete and potential, becomes full and actual.
Likeness is the source of love. By becoming fully similar to God, we become capable of loving Him fully and of calling down upon us the fullness of His love. Consequently, we are prepared to contemplate God face to face in Heaven for that eternal, totally blissful act of love for which we are called.
Earthly life is therefore a novitiate wherein we prepare our souls for their real destiny, that is, to see God face to face and to love Him for the whole of eternity.
If we present the same truth in other words, we can say that God is infinitely pure, infinitely just, infinitely powerful, infinitely good. In order to love Him, we must love purity, justice, fortitude, goodness. If we do not love virtue, how can we love God who is preeminently Goodness? On the other hand, if God is the Supreme Good, how can He love evil? Likeness being the source of love, how can He love one who is entirely unlike Him, who is voluntarily unjust, cowardly, impure, bad?
God must be adored and served above all in spirit and in truth (John 4:25). Thus it behooves us to be pure, just, strong, and good to the depths of our souls. If our souls are good, all of our actions must be necessarily so, because a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit (Matt. 7:17-18). Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for us, in order to conquer Heaven, not only to love good and hate evil inwardly, but to do good deeds and avoid bad ones.
Yet, earthly life is more than the way to eternal bliss. What are we going to do in Heaven? We shall contemplate God face to face, in the light of glory that is the achievement of grace and we shall love Him fully and forever. Man, however, is already possessed of supernatural life here on earth through Baptism. Faith is a seed of the beatific vision. The love of God man exercises by progressing in virtue and avoiding evil is already that supernatural love with which he will adore God in Heaven.
The Kingdom of God will attain its fulfillment in the next world. For all of us, however, it already begins to exist germinally in this world – just as in a novitiate the religious life is already put into practice, albeit as a preparation, and in a military school a young man trains for the army by living a military life.
The Holy Catholic Church in this world is already an image of Heaven, and more than that, a real anticipation of Heaven. Everything, therefore, that the Holy Gospels tell us about the Kingdom of Heaven applies most properly and exactly to the Catholic Church, to the Faith She teaches us, and to each one of the virtues She inculcates.
This is the meaning of the Feast of Christ the King. He is Heavenly King above all, but a King whose rule is already exercised in this world, and a King Who possesses by right full and supreme authority. A king legislates, rules, and judges. His royalty becomes effective when his subjects recognize his rights and obey his laws. Now, Jesus Christ has all rights over us. He promulgates laws, rules the world, and will judge mankind. It falls to us to make His Reign effective by obeying His laws.
This reign is an individual fact insofar as every faithful soul obeys Our Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, Christ’s Reign is exerted on our souls; therefore, the soul of each of us is a part of Christ the King’s scope of jurisdiction. The Reign of Christ will become a social fact if human societies bear Him obedience.
It can thus be said that the Reign of Christ becomes effective on earth, in its individual and social meaning, when men both in the depths of their souls and in their actions, and when societies in their institutions, laws, customs, cultural, and artistic manifestations comply with Christ’s Law.
However actual, brilliant, and tangible it be, the earthly reality of Christ’s Reign is nothing but a preparation and a prologue. In its fullness the Kingdom of God will be achieved in Heaven: “My Kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36).
by Plinio Correa de Oliveira