09 September 2021, The Tablet

‘Thy Kingdom come’: what does it mean and how is God's will to be fulfilled?

‘Thy Kingdom come’: what does it mean and how is God's will to be fulfilled?

The Parable of the Sower, an engraving from a History of the Bible, 1883
illustration: alamy/Old Books Images


Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom – a notion alien to many today. What does it mean? And how do Jesus’ followers fulfil God the Father’s will that his Kingdom may come here on earth as in Heaven?

Mgr James Sullivan was unforgettable. Born in Halifax in 1903 and dying in January 1999, he was the last president of the English College in Lisbon. It was a post that he held from 1948 till 1973. After that, he lived at the English College in Rome from 1977 to 1997, which is where I occasionally met him. He had been ordained in 1929, so he was a priest for almost 70 years. At his ­diamond jubilee, he remarked: “I spent the first 30 years of my priesthood trying to bring people into the Kingdom. I’ve spent the last 30 years trying to bring the Kingdom into people.”

How do we bring the Kingdom into people? How do we help them to become Kingdom? Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom. “The Kingdom,” he declared, “is close at hand.”

And there is a sequence of parables in St Matthew’s Gospel that offers images of the Kingdom (Matthew 13). Their teaching depends largely on rural images, such as ­sowing seed and going fishing. Jesus is ­speaking to country people in terms they could readily understand, a method that is the essence of wise catechesis.

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