Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 5, 2009
Embrace Christ and you also embrace his Church
ScriptureFest speaker Edward Sri says Jesus dwells in his heart and is manifested on earth
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - "Are you the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked Jesus. Jesus answered: "My kingdom does not belong to this world."
Maybe yes, maybe not. "Certainly, the kingdom (of God) is something that manifests itself here on earth and it is something that dwells in our hearts," said Edward Sri, this year's Scripture-Fest guest speaker.
However Sri also hinted strongly that the kingdom of God is perhaps the Church, with the pope as the caretaker.
This year's ScriptureFest was held at St. Theresa Church Sept. 25-26. Some 400 people attended the event each day.
Sri is professor of theology and Scripture at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colo. He is the author of several Catholic best-selling books, including The New Rosary in Scripture and Mystery of the Kingdom: On the Gospel of Matthew. He gave two lectures at the conference under the theme The Promise and Coming of Christ.
YES TO CHRIST, NO TO HIS CHURCH
A woman once told Sri that she loved what he had said about Jesus but made clear she did not really care about what he had said about the Church. That raised a red flag in Sri's mind.
"(Jesus) came to build the kingdom so I told this woman 'You can't say you love the King but you don't want his kingdom,'" he told his audience. "'You can't separate the kingdom from the King.' You cannot say, 'I love Christ but I don't want his Church.' The two go together."
Sri admitted there is a lot of confusion about what kind of kingdom Jesus announced. While some Christians imagine the kingdom as up in the clouds, others think of it as a political structure. One Catholic theologian who became a heretic once said, "Christ promised a kingdom but all we got is the Church."
"Sometimes I have a sense that the kingdom is purely spiritual - is in my heart," Sri said. "Jesus is dwelling in my heart; that is the kingdom."
The kingdom of God is mentioned hundreds of times in both the Old and New Testaments and it was an important theme in all of Jesus' teachings. The evangelists who wrote the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - quoted Christ often as referring to his kingdom.
With a Bible on hand, Sri took his audience back to the time of Jesus when he announced that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
"In the Old Testament the kingdom of God was the kingdom of David," he explained. "The kingdom of God was entrusted into the hands of men, so it is also a human, physical reality. It is both fully divine and human."
God's intention is revealed in 2 Samuel 7.12-16 where he makes it clear he wants to establish an everlasting kingdom.
Second Samuel 7.12 states: "When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels and I will establish his kingdom."
"He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever," reads the following paragraph.
"So there is a prophesy about this everlasting kingdom," Sri noted. "Take a look at verse 7.16: 'Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before you; your throne shall be established forever.'"
Added Sri: "So this great kingdom is founded on David himself. David and his descendants are going to have this everlasting dynasty."
In the Davidian kingdom, the king ruled through his right-hand man, just as Jesus would do with Peter later on. In the Davidian kingdom, the queen mother shared in the rule and served as advocate for the people.
"Mary is our queen. That's why we use her as our intercessor," Sri said.
When Jesus announced his decision to go to Jerusalem to establish his kingdom, all his disciples could think about was revenge, violence and political opportunity.
But Jesus told them if they wanted to be part of his kingdom, they had to take up their cross and follow him.
"He said, 'You guys, let's get this clear; if you want to be part of my kingdom, you have to be humble like a child,'" Sri said. "This kingdom is going to be about forgiveness."
Jesus left the keys to the kingdom with St. Peter and, through him, to the Catholic Church till the end of time with the promise "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
FAITH EARNED THE KEYSPeter earned the keys through faith. When Jesus asked the disciples what men thought of him, Peter answered correctly when he said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
It is no coincidence that Peter delivered the first Gospel sermon after Christ's ascension. Those who heard that sermon said, "What must we do?" and Peter, using the keys of the kingdom, said, "Repent and be baptized (immersed) in the name of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." (Acts 2.37-38)
By handing Peter the keys, Jesus established Peter as master of the palace, just like the Davidian king had a master of the palace who operated the kingdom on a day-to-day basis.
With the keys to the kingdom in safe hands, Jesus could now go ahead and die, Sri said.
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