The Word Among Us

Advent 2007 Issue

“Thy Kingdom Come”

We really can see God’s will be done "on earth as it is in heaven."

Every day, thousands of Masses are said around the world—and the Lord’s Prayer is recited in every one of them. Millions of rosaries are also prayed around the world every day—and the Lord’s Prayer is recited with each decade.

This prayer is also recited during morning and evening prayer, and often at Eucharistic Adoration. It’s prayed spontaneously at countless other times, and may well be the most memorized prayer among all Christians.

As simple as this famous prayer is, it also contains profound words of praise and petition. In this article, we want to focus on one petition that often gets less attention than the others: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

We tend to link these words with the Second Coming—and rightly so. We should pray that the Lord’s kingdom will come in its full glory. However, there is more to this petition than a prayer for a future event. Implicit in these words is Jesus’ desire that we all come to learn what is going on in heaven right now. After all, we are asking that whatever is happening in heaven will also happen on earth—right here and right now.

Every year around this time, we begin to turn our attention toward Jesus’ miraculous coming to earth—what we are calling his "invasion" of our world. But even as we recall this glorious event, the Advent liturgy reminds us that this world is just a temporary home for us. Our true home is in heaven. Jesus will come to the earth once more—and this time in glory. But he will come to transform the earth so that what is happening each day in heaven will also happen here—completely and perfectly.

So let’s take a look at a few dimensions of life in heaven. Let’s see how we can open the doors for heavenly life to invade our church, our homes, and even our hearts this Christmas.

What Is Life in Heaven Like? Scripture doesn’t tell us much about heaven. On the contrary, it tells us that "eye has not seen" and that "ear has not heard" what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). But neither are we left completely in the dark. The Bible does give us a few clues—just enough to spark our imagination and enkindle in us a thirst for this kingdom to come.

So what can we say about heaven? First, we know that everyone there knows God and lives in loving obedience to his ways. There is not one voice of objection. There is not one point of opposition or resistance. Peaceful unity is the norm—all day, every day.

But unity isn’t the only thing. Scripture tells us that heaven is a place where God will wipe every tear from our eyes: "There shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away" (Revelation 21:4).

Can you imagine a world without temptation, sin, or death? Can you imagine a world without murder, sickness, or poverty? Can you imagine a world without sadness, depression, or hurt? A world where everyone knows Jesus, accepts him as Lord, and lives as he told us to live? Can you imagine what it will be like when all of creation is dominated by peace and love? This is the way it is in heaven right now, and it is the way Jesus wants it to be here on earth. It’s why he came to us on Christmas!

An Impossible Standard? Not only does Scripture tell us what heaven will be like; it also gives us a sense of those who will not be able to enter into heaven. If we were to make a list, it might include those who have not been "born from above" in the waters of baptism and by the power of the Spirit (John 3:3); the selfish who neglect the poor (Luke 16:19-31); "fornicators, idolaters, and adulterers" (1 Corinthians 6:9); "the unchaste, the murderers, . . . and all who love and practice deceit" (Revelation 22:15). It’s a depressing list, isn’t it? It can leave us wondering, along with the apostles, "Who then can be saved?" (Matthew 19:25).

But Jesus tells us: "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). The same can be said about the way we live each day. Without God, heaven’s way of life on earth is impossible; but with God, the story is very different. With God, all things are possible—including both life in heaven after we die and life on earth here and now as it is in heaven. With God it is possible to find heaven’s beauty and heaven’s magnificence even here on earth.

The Perfection of Love. In perhaps one of the greatest chapters in Scripture, St. Paul speaks about love (1 Corinthians 13). After he gives a very moving description of what love is meant to look like, Paul goes on to make two important points. First, he says that when perfection comes, our imperfections will disappear. In other words, when Jesus comes again with his perfect love, our imperfect ways of loving will fall away, and we will be perfected in him. And second, Paul urges the Corinthians to put away their own childish and imperfect ways (13:10-12). These two points can help give us some insight into how we can see the possibility of heaven’s joy come into our homes right now.

Jesus is perfect, and through baptism we have been raised up with him. He has made it possible for us to be "perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). It sounds impossible, yet the more we experience his grace healing us and empowering us, the more encouraged we will be—and the more possible it will actually become!

In this chapter dedicated to love, St. Paul makes it clear that we are capable of loving each other perfectly as we allow ourselves to be taught how to love by the One who loves perfectly. In essence, our imperfect ways of loving can decrease as we experience Jesus’ love for us. And even when we fail to love perfectly, we can always get up, regroup, repent, and try to cooperate with Jesus a little bit more.

In heaven, childish ways like moodiness, attention seeking, and irresponsibility are a thing of the past. The immature forms of childish love have disappeared. Here on earth, however, the Holy Spirit wants to help us grow up so that we can gradually put every immature and sinful way behind us. We may never attain truly perfect love here, but we can get closer to that perfection day after day, year after year.

With God’s grace, each one of us can increase our love—and mature in the way we love—substantially. What’s more, as we see our desire to love increase—and our desire for self decrease—we will have greater and greater proof that we are being transformed into spiritual men and women, proof that heaven’s love really can be found on earth.

God’s Perfecting Light. Scripture tells us that heaven has "no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb" (Revelation 21:23). When he was on earth, Jesus called himself the "light of the world." He went on to say, "Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). In other words, Jesus wants his light to radiate in us, giving us guidance and wisdom for our lives as well as helping us be reflections of his light in a darkened world. St. Paul confirms this by calling those who believe in Jesus "light in the Lord," and urging them to "live as children of light," trying to learn "what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8,10).

When we try our best to find out what pleases the Lord and then put it into practice, our lives will be increasingly illuminated by God’s presence. We will find ourselves living in the light of Christ, the same light that illuminates all of heaven. And that means that we will experience God’s light burning away our imperfections, leaving us refined, like pure gold.

It Really Is Possible! Brothers and sisters, God wants us to know that the beauty and radiance of heaven is possible for us here on earth. He wants our Advent and Christmas to be times of rejoicing over the light that is "coming into the world" (John 1:9). He wants us to remember that Jesus called the church to live in the light and be his light—even now, on earth, as it is in heaven.

So let’s ask Jesus to make this dream a reality. Together, let’s all pray: "Jesus, I want to live in your light. I want to radiate your light to others in what I say and what I do. Jesus, let your light shine on me, and let it purify me in every way so that I can love others as you love me. I believe it is possible for me to be a part of your heavenly invasion of earth. Come, Lord, and help my unbelief!"

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