The central message of Jesus: The Kingdom of God

Some Thoughts on the Justice and Peace Ministry of the Church
in the Setting of the Kingdom of God

Fr. John Fuellenbach, SVD
Rome, 15. February 2012

The central message of Jesus: The Kingdom of God

There is a unanimous agreement today among all theologians and exegetes that the main topic and the central message of Jesus was the Kingdom of God. A brief look at the Gospels will immediately show that Jesus was driven ( so to speak) by a vision, which he expressed in the following words: AI came to throw fire on the earth and I want to see it burning (Luke 12:49). This vision contains two basic concepts or symbols. The first is the word Abba, the human expression, Jesus used for God whom he experiences so intensely that he called the Father's will his food. The second is the symbol: Kingdom of God which he defined as God's plan or vision for the whole of creation. Jesus himself used this >Kingdom' symbol 92 times. Most of his parables are about his vision of the Kingdom that is coming to earth with him. The phrase Kingdom of God, therefore, contains in a nut shell all he wanted to bring and to communicate. We could say: in order to bring us God's Kingdom he came down to earth, he became one of us so that we could share with him the life of God's Kingdom for ever.

His vision which Saint Paul called the the unfathomable mystery kept hidden through all the ages in God, the Creator of everything (Eph ff. 3:3-11), is to be conceived as both christo-centric and all embracing.

First, Christo-centric means: in view of Christ everything was created, everything will be re-created and everything will find it fulfillment in him. The incarnation is the starting point and the endpoint of creation: in the words of Saint Paul:

He is the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible, ...all things were created through him and for him. He exist before all things and in him all things hold together, and he is the head of the Body, that is the Church. He is the Beginning, the first born from the dead, so that he should be supreme in every way; because God wanted all fulness to be found in him and through him to reconcile all things to him, everything im heaven and everything on earth, by making peace through his death on the cross.( Kol 1:15-20)

Secondly, all-embracing, meaning embracing everything ever created Ain heaven and on earth.

This symbol is therefore not just any vision. As many scholars have pointed out: it is the grandest vision the world has ever seen This vision can replace the discredited ideologies of the past century. It is this vision [for] which Jesus lived, labored, suffered, and died. And it is this vision he entrusted to his disciples and the Church. It is this vision which discovers the central theme of the Bible. It is this vision which is the Aconsummation of historyCthe accomplishment of God's own intention for his entire creation. It is this vision which provides the Amost powerful symbol of hope in the history of humankind And it is this vision that provides the believer with a calling and a purpose that is higher than oneself. Indeed, it is a vision worthy to work for, to live for, to suffer for and even to die for.

Kingdom as belonging to this world as well as to the future world to come

Jesus did not envision the Kingdom that he preached as something that belongs totally and exclusively to the world to come. His Kingdom-vision leaves room for interpreting it as belonging to this world as well as for proclaiming a future that cannot be deduced from the circumstances of present history. The future, as the Bible understands it, is something qualitatively new. It lies beyond human planning and capability, something we can only allow to be given to us. While this symbol takes the world and human effort in history seriously, it does not surrender openness to a transcendent future in the fullness of God. Only God can ultimately guarantee the fulfilment of humankind's deepest aspirations. Yet, it is equally important to realize: the Kingdom of God is incarnated in history, in human society and in the world. Although it is not purely and simply identical with the world, it is identifiable in the world. We could also say that the Kingdom shows itself in society and is encountered in society, but this society is not the Kingdom. This aspect finds its expression in the only definition of the Kingdom which we find in Rom. 14:17.

The Kingdom of God is a matter of justice, peace and joy in the holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).

With justice, peace and joy, Paul describes the content of the Kingdom of God, which he sees as already concretely present in the eschatological community. We might call these three characteristics the fundamental values of the Kingdom. Albert Schweitzer called Paul's definition a Creed for all times. The phrase could be seen as a rule of faith or of Christian conduct.

After all, peace means primarily the opposite of war, the tranquillity of order, social order; justice means justice, the virtue proper to social relations; and joy, although it has an individual dimension to it, can mean a rejoicing precisely in the blessings brought by peace and justice. These are realities which are meant for this world already and not just something that will come at the end. It is because of the fact that God's Kingdom means the transformation of this earth into the fullness of the Kingdom still to come in the future, that it is the Church's obligation to stand up and promote the true values of the Kingdom already on earth. After all, it was this insight since Vatican Two that created the Justice and Peace commissions in the Catholic Church as an integral Part of Evangelization.

The New Heaven and New Earth are understood as being this world transformed, renewed, cleansed and made new. It is this old, sin-permeated, corrupt world, a world in which there is so much hatred, egoism, oppression, despair and suffering, that will be the object of transformation. It will become something totally new. Our world is the arena where God's ultimate plan for creation unfolds. The 'Kingdom of God' happens here, in the midst of human affairs. It is meant for this world here and now. It has happened already in our presence although the fulfillment is still to come. This aspect of the Kingdom as belonging to this world was expressed in Vatican Two most pointedly as follows:

Hence, while earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ's kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God. For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.(24) On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower (Gaudium and Spes 39)

The Two ways of how to perceives the plan of God for our salvation

One reason why so many Christians are still feeling somewhat Auneasy with the justice and peace issues in their faith perception originates (at least in my opinion) from a spirituality in the past, which still determines their faith conception in daily life. Even at the risk of belaboring the obvious, it needs constant attention and reflection. What it comes to is: the spirituality of Vatican Two has hardly changed the way how many people perceive their salvation. Even among religious one finds still a considerate number of members who hold on to a past spirituality without being conscious of it. This might also be the reason while so many who are in the ministry of justice and peace encounter in their own communities often not great appreciation and support. In order to clarify the matter I would like to present briefly the main outline of the two basic understanding of the concept of salvation which are found in the Church.

(1) Individualistic view of salvation (Common view before Vatican II)

The plan of God for creation is here primarily conceived as totally otherworldly and transcendent with no connection to this present world and its social dimensions. We could describe such a view in this way: God created human beings with the intention of leading them here on earth to their final destiny which we usually call heaven. The individual human being, however, must prove himself or herself worthy of such calling. For this reason he or she is put into this world which is sin-permeated, corrupt and therefore, dangerous. This world resembles a huge testing-ground created to provide for human beings the perfect occasion for gaining or losing his or her eternal salvation. If the person stands the test, God will reward him or her with eternal life. The individual is regarded as a self-contained unit, a Robinson Crusoe, to whom God's call is addressed as to someone on an island, whose salvation takes place exclusively in terms of a relationship with God. What is overlooked, is the fact that no individual exists in isolation. It is not possible to speak of salvation without reference to the world of which one is part.

Such a picture is, of course, accompanied by a corresponding spirituality concerned only with the salvation of one's own soul. In such a view salvation is easily conceived of as being totally individual and deprived of any connection to one's fellow human beings, to this world and its destiny. The present world does not matter at all. It is totally unimportant whether one is rich or poor, sick or healthy, of high esteem or low caste. The only thing that matters is that I will stand the test and get to heaven, no matter what else I or we accomplish here on earth. Such an understanding reveals a decidedly pessimistic view of history and its unfolding through the centuries. There is no future for it. The world will only get worse and its end will be total destruction in order to give way to something absolutely new. In this interim period, the community of faith experiences God's Kingdom personally, inwardly, spiritually and vertically. ( Most Pentecostal or Free Churches operate out fo this model still today).

Universal view of salvation (The view that emerged in Vatican II)

In contrast to the above view, the view that emerged in Vatican ll reaffirmed what the Early Fathers held, namely that this creation is the arena of God´s redemptive plan. Creation was conceived in Christ, brought about by Christ and redeemed though Christ and will find its ultimate fulfillment in Christ. The incarnation of Jesus demonstrates salvation happens here and now, in our concrete world. Salvation is not out of this world but experienced in and for this world (Col 1:15-20). This is God´s ultimate plan for the entire creation.

If we accept this view of God's plan for creation, our whole understanding of salvation will change. Being saved does not mean being taken out of this world and being transferred elsewhere. Being saved means remaining part of the whole of creation that has been transformed into the New Heaven and the New Earth. I will be saved because creation as a whole will be saved. My salvation is imbedded in the salvation of all human beings. Because my brothers and sisters will be saved, I will be saved since I am one with them. Strictly speaking, we cannot talk about individual salvation since we are tied with a thousand strings to each other and to creation as a whole. The salvation offered to us in Jesus Christ is universal in scope.

God wants all people to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).

The first view seems to envision the number of those to be saved as rather limited and almost an exception. They are saved by being taken out of a world that is doomed to be destroyed and will vanish into nothing. The second view envisions salvation as embracing all no matter of their religion or faith. God's saving grace is to be found everywhere and not limited to the Church.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) has reaffirmed this doctrinal stand in unambiguous terms in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium, nn. 16-17), as well as in its declaration on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions (Nostra Aetate), its Decree on the Church's missionary activity (Ad Gentes), and its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). A celebrated passage of the last document, after stating how Christians come in contact with the paschal mystery of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, affirms clearly that the same applies C 'in a way known to God' C for members of the other religious traditions. It says: 'All this holds true not for Christians only, but also for all men of goodwill in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery' (G.Sp. 22). (Jacques Dupuis, AReligious plurality and the Christological debate Sedos Bulletin 28 (1996) pp. 329-333 )

One could also say: Since the values of the Kingdom (justice, peace and joy) are at the heart of every human being, it is in following these values that they will come in contact with God who want to save them all. In working with them for the realization of these values we will guide them to the source of all salvation, the Kingdom of God.

The final goal of creation can be envisioned as the great gathering of all human beings that have ever lived, live and will live together with all creatures of any kind celebrating an eternal feast, Athe great banquet pictured by Isaiah 60. Here everyone will know everyone and know him/her intimately as an enrichment, a gift to be immensely enjoyed. The possibility of exclusion of some (hell) is possible and cannot be denied as a real possibility. However, if some will really be excluded from the banquet, it is not ours to know nor decide who they will be. Only God will make this decision. That means to say, following the New Catechisms, about the existential reality of hell we cannot say anything.

Church and Kingdom
Most important for any basis concerning justice and peace ministry is the fact, that the Kingdom of God present in history now is not identical with the Church but reaches beyond it borders since it is intended for the whole of creation. The alignment of these three important concepts is essential: Kingdom - world - Church. The Church is not an end in herself but is seen in the service of the Kingdom which aims at the transformation of creation. In the Word of Vatican Two: AIn the Church the eternal plan of the Father is realized and manifested in Jesus Christ: to bring humanity to its eternal glory. Here the Church is seen in connection with the bringing about the secret hidden for ages in God (Col 1:16; see Eph 3:3-9; 1 Cor 2:6-10). Therefore, the Church has to be seen in this broad perspective of God's plan of salvation, which includes all human beings and creation as a whole (1 Tim 2:4; Rom 8:22 ff).

Church and Kingdom not identical

Jesus' message of the Kingdom is indeed addressed primarily to his disciples. To them the Kingdom belongs: they will celebrate it and be in it. But this group's special proximity to the Kingdom does not turn them into a closed society. In the same way, the Church has no monopoly on the Kingdom of God. Citizenship in the Kingdom is not so much a privilege, but rather a summons to carry on Jesus own ministry in solidarity with people, particularly with the excluded and discriminated against.

One of the chief temptations for the Church in history is to claim the Kingdom for herself, to take over the management of the Kingdom, and even to go so far as to present herself as the realized Kingdom of God vis-a-vis the world. The Kingdom of God is not the Kingdom of the Christians (cf. Lochman, Church and World, p. 69).

The majority of theologians (although not all) today hold that the Catholic Church in Vatican II did distance herself from any identification with the Kingdom in history now. The theological basis for doing so is seen in the Council's definition of the Church as a Sacrament of the Kingdom (LG 9). Since God's saving grace can never be bound exclusively to a sacrament, one has to accept that the Kingdom is still broader than the Church. Such a separation is indirectly expressed in article 5 of Lumen Gentium and in article 45 of Gaudium et Spes. McBrien sees in this separation of Kingdom and Church a major achievement of Vatican II. He comments:

The nature and mission of the Church are always to be understood in relationship and in subordination to the Kingdom of God. This principle is expressed in article 5 of Lumen Gentium and again in article 45 of Gaudium and Spes. It replaces what was perhaps the most serious pre-Vatican II ecclesiological misunderstanding, namely, that the Church is identical with the Kingdom of God here on earth. If it is, then it is beyond all need for institutional reform, and its mission is to bring everyone inside lest salvation elude them (Catholicism, p. 686).

While one can still argue as to whether or not Vatican II really made this distinction, it is clear that in Redemptoris Missio (RM) and in the Document Dialogue and Proclamation (DP), a joint statement of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Congregation for the Evangelization of People, this distinction is clearly made. Both documents confess that the Kingdom of God is a broader reality than the Church.

RM and DP appear to be the first two documents of the recent central doctrinal authority to distinguish the pilgrim Church from the reality of the reign of God in history; both documents profess that the reign of God is a broader reality than the Church which is present and operative beyond her boundaries among the members of other religious traditions (Dupuis ADialogue and Proclamation, p. 150).

Equally significant is the fact that these documents not only clearly distinguish Church and Kingdom, recognizing that the one larger reality of the Kingdom cannot be encompassed by and contained within the Church, but the documents also unambiguously subordinate the Church to the Kingdom by affirming that the Church is meant to be a servant of the broader and more important Kingdom of God.

It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered towards the Kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument (RM18).

The Church is effectively and concretely at the service of the Kingdom (RM 20).

The Church's mission is to foster the AKingdom of the Lord and his Christ (Rev 11:15) at whose service she is placed (DP 35; see also 59).

The Kingdom present in the Church

Although the Kingdom may not be identified with the Church, that does not mean that the Kingdom is not present in her. The word Church may not appear often in Jesus' teaching but the very concept of the messianic community, intrinsically bound up with the Kingdom, implies the same thing as the concept of Church. It is, therefore, correct to say:

The Kingdom of God and the Church are two key New Testament concepts, both are crucial for the understanding of God's plan for humanity. They are central to the fulfillment of his redemptive purpose. While the Church cannot be identified with the Kingdom, for the latter is a larger and more comprehensive term, the two are nevertheless in such close correlation that they cannot be separated either (Kuzmic, AChurch and Kingdom, p. 49).

It is the Kingdom now that creates the Church and keeps her constantly in existence. Therefore, we can say that the Kingdom makes itself present in the Church in a particular way. The Church is an initial realization or a proleptic anticipation of the plan of God for humankind; or in words of Vatican II, She becomes on earth the initial budding forth of the Kingdom (LG 5). Secondly, the Church is a means or sacrament through which the plan of God for the world realizes itself in history (LG 8; 48).

Kingdom Consciousness

The identity of the Church depends, therefore, ultimately on her Kingdom consciousness based on Scripture. She is to reveal this through her alertness to the priority of the Kingdom. A commitment to the justice and peace ministry in the Church depends thoroughly on such consciousness. We are called first to serve the Kingdom and do that secondly, as members of a Church which received her Identity from the Kingdom and not the other way around. Such consciousness includes the following five aspects:

1. Kingdom consciousness means living and working in the firm hope of the final triumph of God's reign. In the face of contrary evidence, Kingdom Christians hold on to the conviction that God will eventually swallow up all evil, hate, and injustice. It is their firm belief that the leaven of the Kingdom is already at work in the dough of creation, to use Jesus' own parable. This gives Christians an unworldly, audacious confidence that enables them to go right on doing what others say is impossible or futile.

As committed to this ministry we should let ourselves be reminded what M. Buber once said: The word success is no word used for God in scripture. The Bible put in that place the word faithfulness. If we, who are called to carry on the Kingdom mission of Christ, should forget this, we will easily fall into frustration and discouragement in our spiritual life and pastoral work. God has called us to carry on his mission in faithfulness and trust and we should not worry neither about success nor failure but just go on doing our work for God´s Kingdom. After all, it is not our mission we are called to proclaim but his. We are only his faithful representatives or his ambassadors as Saint Paul puts it. We have to expect that at times me may not feel well accepted in this ministry even among our confreres and co-sisters.

2. Understanding God's Kingdom means that the line between sacred and secular does not exist in concrete reality. God's Kingdom means that all things are in the sphere of God's sovereignty and, therefore, are God's concern. All spheres of life are Kingdom foci.

He who works for the ministry of justice and peace is an evangelizer not withstanding what others may think.

3. Kingdom awareness means that ministry is much broader than Church work. Christians who understand the meaning of God's reign know they are in the Kingdom business, not just Church business. They see all activity as ultimately having Kingdom significance.

4. In Kingdom perspective, concern of justice and concrete commitment to the Word of God are necessarily conjoined. An awareness of God's Kingdom, biblically understood, resolves the tension between these two vital concerns. Those committed to the Kingdom want to win people to personal faith in Jesus Christ, since the Kingdom is the ultimate longing of every human heart. They are also committed to peace, justice, at every level of society because the Kingdom includes all things in heaven and on earth (Eph 1:10) and the welfare of every person and everything God has made.

Those who dedicate themselves to the justice and peace ministry are not just human develop agents, they want to serve the mission of Christ and to bring Christ through their ministry closer to God's saving will for all.

5. The reality of the Kingdom of God can be experienced now through the Spirit who gives the believer the first fruits of the fullness of the Kingdom in the here and now. Kingdom people, particularly in their liturgy, anticipate the joy of the Kingdom. The JPM is biblically speaking a charism, that means, a gift given by the Holy Spirit to witness concretely to the Kingdom present. As such it ought to be appreciated by all members of the Church as a clear manifestations of the powerful presence of the Kingdom in the midst of their daily life ( cf. Marcus Bork, Models of the Kingdom, pp. 154-155).

Cautions and fears voiced by the official Church

The official Teaching Authority in the Church has fully admitted the distinction between Kingdom and Church and defined the Church as being a servant of the Kingdom. Yet the official documents are worried that this view easily leads to two pitfalls. The Kingdom-centered approach seems to stress the Kingdom to such a degree as to leave out the Church almost entirely. Additionally, in so doing it forgets to bind the Kingdom to Jesus Christ. These are clearly the worries the Pope voices in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio:

One may not separate the Kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered towards the Kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet while remaining distinct from Christ and the Kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united with both (RM18).

The many qualifications voice themselves by constantly insisting that whatever Atraces of the Kingdom may be found outside the Church must be seen and related to the Kingdom that Christ proclaimed and brought. There cannot exist any AKingdom revelation in the world that is not related to or independent of Christ. AIt must be remembered nevertheless that this is indeed an inchoate reality, which needs to find completion through being related to the Kingdom of Christ already present in the Church yet realized fully only in the world to come (DP 35).

There remains the unsolved theological problem: How to relate a Kingdom outside the Church to the Kingdom that Christ proclaimed and gave to the Church. Should one assume that there are other revelations of the Kingdom not related to Christ? While such views are voiced today by a number of theologians, the official Church has so far steadfastly refused to allow any such propositions to be even considered.

The official response of the Catholic Church to this question of how the Kingdom of God, which Jesus brought irrevocably into this world through his life, death and resurrection, is now also to be found outside the Church is this: God's Kingdom entered this world finally and definitely with the incarnation of Jesus but took on a more comprehensive presence in the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. In the resurrection the limitations of Jesus' earthly existence are gone. The Kingdom was definitely present in the Jesus who walked this earth but its presence was - so to speak - restricted to the physical body of Jesus. This is to be concluded from the fact that John could speak about the Spirit who Awas not yet because Jesus was not yet glorified (Jn 7:39). But in his death and resurrection the Kingdom he had proclaimed as having arrived with him took on a new dimension: it now embraced the whole of creation. In the risen Christ matter has been transformed into the state of the New Creation. Christ is, in his risen body, the cosmic Christ, the world to come. He, therefore, assumes a new global relationship with reality as a whole: he is present in creation in a new way.

Those who maintain a distinction between Kingdom and Church argue as follows: Pope John Paul in Redemptoris Missio (RM 10) asserts that Afor those people (non-Christians), salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ.

This text is seen as a clear rejection of ecclesiocentrism. The necessity of the Church for salvation does not mean that access to the Kingdom is possible only through the Church. One can partake in the Kingdom of God without being a member of the Church and without passing through her mediation (cf. Dupuis, Jesus Christ and the Encounter of World Religions, p. 6).

Theologians who take this stand in no way deny that the salvation of any human being is based on Christ's death and resurrection. For them all grace is christo-centric. That means that any involvement in justice and Peace Ministry should always remind itself that the engagement is Kingdom work equal to proclamation in word and sacrament.

The threefold mission of the Church

Once the Church is no longer seen as the sole holder of the Kingdom, the Church does not have to define herself anymore as Athe Kingdom of God under siege by the powers of this world. Since Vatican II she sees herself more as leaven of the Kingdom or in the service of the Kingdom that is broader than herself. In other words, a theology of transcendence gives way to a theology of transformation. Out of such a view of Church and Kingdom the mission of the Church has been outlined as follows:

1. To proclaim in Word and Sacrament that the Kingdom of God has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Sacrament means that, the Church symbolically opens up the everyday world to the ultimate, the Kingdom of God. But, in doing so, the Church is also forced to accept her provisional character. In the words of Schillebeeckx:

The Church is not the Kingdom of God, but bears symbolic witness to the Kingdom through word and sacrament, and her praxis effectively anticipates that Kingdom. She does so by doing for men and women here and now, in new situations (different from those in Jesus' time), what Jesus did in his time: raising them up for the coming Kingdom of God; opening up communication among them; caring for the poor and outcast; establishing communal ties within the household of faith and serving all men and women in solidarity (cf. Church: The Human Face of God, p. 157).

2. To create Church communities everywhere and to offer its own life as a test-case which demonstrates that the Kingdom is present and operative in the world today. By concretizing, in the Church's own life justice, peace, freedom and respect for human rights. The Church should offer herself as a contrast or a countersign to society at large.

Vatican II, being fully aware of the mystery of the Church, shunned definitions and fixed concepts. The Council Fathers, however, were very concerned with correcting a Church image that was generally conceived as being too rigid and in many ways out of touch with the reality of the present world. They wanted to present a vision of the Church that showed a real concern for the massive problems of justice and peace in the present time by relating these matters to the values of the Kingdom of God.

3. To challenge society as a whole to transform itself along the basic principles of the Kingdom now present: justice, peace, brotherhood/sisterhood and human rights. Interreligious dialogue, as the second element of evangelization, must be added to this. These are constitutive elements of proclaiming the Gospel since the ultimate goal of the Kingdom is the transformation of the whole of creation. The Church must, therefore, understand her mission in the service of the imminent Kingdom.

Church - world - other religious traditions

The distinction made by the Council between the Kingdom and the Church bore immediate fruits in the development of a post-conciliar theology, at least in two theological fields: in the theology of Liberation and in the theology of Religions and related to both issue of inculturation. The symbol Kingdom of God provides the horizon for a solution of these theological problems.

First, in the context of work for justice, liberation and peace, it provides the bridge between the historical achievement of justice and liberation of the oppressed in this world and the eschatological Kingdom still to come in fullness at the end of time. It shows how work for justice and liberation inside and outside the Church is intrinsically linked with the Kingdom present now, since the ultimate goal of the Kingdom of God is the transformation of all reality.

Secondly, in inter-religious dialogue, the Kingdom symbol furnishes theologians with a broader perspective for entering into dialogue with other religious traditions. If the Kingdom is the ultimate goal of God's intentionality with all of humanity, then the question no longer is how these other religious traditions are linked to the Church but rather how the Kingdom of God was and is concretely present in these religions.

A third dimension of dialogue is related to inculturation. It consists in the Church's obligation to enter into dialogue with any culture since God reveals himself through culture as well, that means, the Kingdom of God is already partially present in every culture and therefore, any culture must be the object of the church's mission to seek the Kingdom there, to bring it out more clearly and to cleanse the culture from all that is not gospel like.

The distinction between Kingdom and Church can help us relate to this world and its destiny more fruitfully and enter into a more open and creative dialogue with other religious traditions, cultures and ideologies.

The Kingdom that Jesus brought has cosmic dimensions that go beyond the confines of the Church. It demands the transformation of all religious, socio-political structures and institutions as well as cultures. Consequently, the Christian community has no other choice than to engage in dialogue with the world, cultures and other religious traditions for the sake of the Kingdom present. The teaching office of the Church in ADialogue and Proclamation takes up this challenge by stating that dialogue constitutes an integral and essential part of the Church's mission. The Church must dialogue with the world, with culture and others religious traditions in order to carry out her mission and realize her identity (DP 2).

Final observations

A theological basis for a Justice and Peace ministry in the Church can easily be found in the Theology after Vatican Two. The often bewailed resistance to this ministry is more related to the integration of this faith dimension into our Christian Spirituality as an essential demand of our being disciples of Jesus and the implementation of this demand into the concrete situation in which we find ourselves. To stand up for justice and peace issues is not a picnic It needs courage and dedication to a entrusted mission.

It should be expected that those who take up this ministry in their respective religious order or dioceses experience at times a lack of appreciation and interest in what they are doing and promoting. Change of spirituality is a long and often painful process. They should not let themselves be discouraged and be mindful (as was said earlier) that not success but being faithful to the mission entrusted to them is what counts in the Kingdom of God. A constant process of consciousness building for the justice and peace issues might be exactly what most communities still need. To provide their communities by their mere presence with an opportunity to gradually becoming more alert to this constitutive aspect of the Christian mission in general might be exactly what is asked for in such communities. Under this aspect their ministry becomes a ministry of growth for the missionary spirituality of their community as well. They become - so to speak - missionaries to their own communities as well.

Our hope for the world to come is not based on purely human optimism but solely on the unshakable belief that Christ, the crucified one, is risen. Our hope is a hope against hope God will make the great vision, the Kingdom of God, come true as the prophet Isaiah 25:6-8 foretold it:

Here on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the Lord Almighty will spread a wondrous feast for everyone around the world--a delicious feast of good food, with clear, well-aged wine and choice beef. At that time he will remove the cloud of gloom, the pall of death that hangs over the earth; he will swallow up death forever. The Lord God will wipe away all tears and take away forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken--he will surely do it . In that day the people will proclaim, ''This is our God, in whom we trust, for whom we waited. Now at last he is here.'' What a day of rejoicing 

A Christian of today is someone who walks behind the crucified Lord
singing the Easter Alleluia.
(Pope Benedict XVI.)
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