by Fr. Francis Martin
As we come to the end of the Church year, we begin to look at the prophecies of the End of Times (Mark 13:24-32). It is important that we focus on our end goal, eternity with God in Heaven. There are many who would deny that this world as we know it will cease to exist, that time as we know it will cease to exist. Proponents of establishing a Utopia within the context of a historical existence seek to remove God and any memory of God from our life. They seek to establish a world order guided by a “savior”, who would provide for the needs of the people in return for our money, our loyalty, and abdication of any individual decision-making. If we bury ourselves in our daily lives without ever looking up toward heaven, we might miss opportunities to grow in holiness and prepare for eternity.
We must realize that the grace to live a Christian life is not something we do for ourselves, but first and foremost something God does for each of us individually. It is a pure gift of his love and mercy which we could never earn. Our goal is to build the strongest foundation possible in our lives so we can stand on it when the trials and weights of life come; a foundation of truth deeply imprinted on our minds. ‘How does God want me to live today if I’m in his kingdom?’ A med student studies his brains out for 8 years—to become a rookie! We need to have that attitude. We are babies in Christ, we have so much to learn about him. Many things in our minds have been formed by the world. A saint has a mind filled with light, the perfections of God burning like lamps in his mind.
There are two distinct realms. We have been transferred from one to the other. We were once wholly in one, now we are wholly in the other. There is no in-between! ‘He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’ (Col 1:13-14).
Paul calls it the ‘dominion of darkness’ (also called the ‘kingdom of the world’ and ‘kingdom of the beast’ in Rev 11:15, 16:10) because Satan has acquired a certain authority in this world; a consequence of our sin. ‘The beast was given authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation’ (Rev 13:7). In 2 Cor 4:4 he calls Satan ‘the god of this world.’ Eph 2:2 says ‘you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.... so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.’ Do we recognize the fact that in a certain sense the world is under Satan’s domination? But all Satan’s power is completely subject to the authority of God, nothing he does is outside God’s control (Ps 22:28: ‘dominion belongs to the Lord’).
The Kingdom of God is a personal and communal life where Jesus is King, where he reigns supreme, where his will is loved, honored and surrendered to. ‘Thy kingdom come.’ It will only be complete at the Second Coming.
These two realms are not equal! There is only one king, Jesus! But we speak of two ‘kingdoms’ to remind ourselves that there are only two realms. There is no kingdom of the middle, no mushy in-between! You can, however, be nearer to or farther from the kingdom of God (Mk 12:34).
The dominion of darkness, ruled by Satan, is characterized by loneliness, emptiness, immorality, confusion, scandals, vengeance, rage, lust, wars, ultimately DEATH. The kingdom of God, ruled by God, is characterized by love, repentance, humility, peace, hope, patience, joy, forgiveness, faith, clarity, service, brotherhood, mercy, prayer, LIFE. The kingdom of God is infinitely bigger! As C.S. Lewis pictures it in The Great Divorce, the entire kingdom of Satan can fit inside a single blade of grass in the kingdom of God.
We are all like royal princes and princesses who have been rescued from the evil realm of the Enemy and brought back to our Father’s kingdom. Not escape but rescue. Rescue is something you cannot do to yourself. No one would say, ‘I rescued myself from drowning.’ We did not get into the Kingdom by ourselves, we were delivered! Deliverance by Christ brings life and leads to total dependence on him. We humble ourselves before Christ and acknowledge that he is our only salvation. We cannot earn grace on our own. A deep human tendency is auto-salvation – we want to be worthy and earn God’s favor, not receive it freely. But the truth is that everything is the result of his pure mercy and grace.
Having been rescued, we all make a choice each day to live under the kingship of Jesus or to try to be our own king – going back to the ways of the dominion of darkness. But we have to recognize that we still belong to the kingdom of God! We are protected, honored, cherished, made holy by God. Do we seem to live one foot in, one foot out? We need to lay hold of the truth that we have been transferred into Christ’s kingdom. We belong there, it is our home. We do not go back and forth between the kingdoms. We are not second-class citizens. Even when we feel far from God, we are still just as much in his kingdom (apart from the situation of mortal sin, deliberate and serious sin, which cuts us off from the life of God).
The good news is that Satan’s authority has been completely overthrown, plundered! For those in the kingdom of God, his power is zero. The only thing he can do is deceive us and make us think he still has control in certain areas of our lives. He wages guerrilla warfare through deceit, fear and temptation. ‘Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows his time is short!’ (Rev 12:12). But we can prevail over him with the armor of God (Eph 6:10-20).
Are we well-grounded in the truth that we have been rescued and transferred to the kingdom of God? Is our experience built on truth? If we do not live on it, we open ourselves to temptation. We allow Satan to plunder us, to steal away the treasures that belong to us, like our trust in God and our ability to recognize that we have been forgiven and set free. Satan will deceive us into thinking we are back in his kingdom. Whenever Satan tries to plunder us and make us feel like second-class citizens, or that we have to earn God’s favor, we must stand on the truth and deny the lie!
Jesus, our King, is our strength. We must strive to enter truly into the sacrifice of the Mass, the act of love in which Jesus died, to give our whole selves, to give of our substance, so that moved by the Holy Spirit, we can offer a living service to God. Then, aided by the Holy Spirit, we will be free to see and walk the path, to follow the wise counsel spoken of in Daniel's vision (Daniel 12:1-3). And finally, to be one of those gathered in by Christ himself, who is the way, the truth and the life, and enter into eternity with him.
Edited by Bernadette Harmon