The central focus of Jesus’ ministry was his proclamation of ‘the Kingdom of God’. By this, we understand that Jesus saw himself in continuity with the proclamation and teachings of the Old Testament prophets but, in contrast to them, he was not announcing a future event. In Jesus’ teaching, the promises of God are being fulfilled here and now, in him.
This proclamation implied a change of perspective that was very challenging to those who had come to relate to God as being the God of rules, punishment and patriarchal hierarchy. Jesus proclaimed that the sinner could be forgiven. He was not interested in a person’s worldly status but in what was in a person’s heart. And quite counter-culturally, he related to women as the equals of men.
For Jesus, the sick were not to be outcast on the mistaken understanding that their illness was a sign of punishment from God. Instead, he embraced the sick and healed their wounds as a sign of God’s love and care for all who suffer. For Jesus, the poor were not to be neglected on the mistaken understanding that their poverty was a sign of having been abandoned by God. Instead, he embraced the poor and met and talked with them as a sign that through him, God identifies with them. For Jesus, those who struggled morally were not to be ostracised, for he recognised in them those who needed him the most. Instead, he welcomed them, addressed their needs and, only when the time was right, challenged them to think about the way they lived their lives.
Through his encounters with various people, his teachings, his stories and the events of his life, Jesus taught that those who belong to his kingdom seek to…love God…love their neighbour as themselves…forgive without limit…not judge others…treat others the way they would like to be treated…feed the hungry…not return evil for evil…visit the imprisoned…clothe those without adequate clothing…shelter those without proper housing…welcome the foreigner…care for the sick…and learn to love one another as Jesus loves them.
Because Jesus challenged the assumptions of the powerful, he was on a dangerous path. His proclamation that those the religious leaders thought were rejected by God are, in fact, loved by God made them angry. His insistence that God is establishing a new kingdom put him at odds with the Roman Empire and the Religious authorities. That there would be a bloody and devastating end to his ministry became increasingly inevitable.
Original text by Shane Dwyer
Photo of St Damiano cross by James Coleman on Unsplash
Fr Anthony Mellor, 30 October 2019
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, 30 October 2019
30 October 2019