The Our Father, Part III
Thy Kingdom Come
by Father Reginald Martin, O.P.
The Gift of Piety
Among the Holy Spiritís Gifts is Piety, which Perfects us in
our Relations with Others. Piety is a Disposition of Devotion toward a Parent, and of Friendliness
and Compassion toward those in Need. The very first words of the "Lordís
Prayer" express our desire for a Proper Ordering of our Affections; this Second Petition
asks God to make things Right in our Relations with Him, and in
our Relations to One Another.
We properly approach God with Awe and Reverence, but the invitation to call
Him "Father" is an invitation to approach
Him in Piety, with Confidence and Love. This invitation also
calls us to identify our desires with Godís; and since God can
want nothing more than to share with us the Joy of Life in His Kingdom, we naturally
Pray for the Kingdom to be made Manifest in our midst.
What is a Kingdom?
We may be tempted to picture Kingdoms as Castles, Romantic Buildings with Turrets and Battlements, but the word is far more subtle.
The suffix "-dom" indicates a 'Condition' or 'State-of-Being'.
"Thralldom", thus, is a Condition of Slavery;
"Freedom", as the word suggests, is the Opposite. To speak of the
"Kingdom" of God is to name a way-of-life in which
God is the Ruler.
Here we should remark that when we speak of Godís Kingdom, we are not speaking in the
Political Terms we ordinarily associate with kings. God is an 'Absolute Monarch';
He does not Reign at our Pleasure. Rather we Live and Serve at His. History
provides numberless examples of Flawed, or even Wicked, Kings,
whose Kingdoms have been characterized by Terror, Greed, and
Bloodshed. These should not diminish our appreciation of Godís Kingship.
Instead, they should remind us what God is not, and how our "Father
in Heaven" does not behave toward His Subjects on Earth.
Why Pray for Godís Kingdom?
Saint Thomas Aquinas asks, "Since the Kingdom of God always was, why must we ask for it to
come"? He provides Three (3) Reasons:
So that all things may be subject to Him,
Because the notion of "Kingdom" signifies the Life we look forward to in
And because Sin at least occasionally holds sway in the World.
In other words, although Godís Kingdom is always Present, it is not always Visible.
Saint Augustine provides a Vivid Illustration, the word "Come", he writes,
is to be understood in the sense of "Manifested to Men". For in the same way ... as a Light ... is
absent to the Blind, and to those who Shut their Eyes, so the Kingdom of God, though it never departs from the Earth, is yet absent to
those who are ignorant of it.
Subjection to Godís Will
God by His Nature is Lord of all
Things, so He has the Right to Rule all Creation. However, experience demonstrates that
not all of Godís Creatures acknowledge His Sovereignty.
Thus, the Reality of Godís Kingship will only be Fully Visible at the End of the World. In the
meantime, Saint Paul tells us, we enjoy Godís Kingdom in Stages. "He
must Reign until He hath put all His Enemies under His feet ... last of all, the Enemy, Death, shall be Destroyed"
When we Pray for the coming of Godís Kingdom we do not express a
mere Hope that the World will continue to Run Smoothly; Saint Paulís Words remind us that when we
Pray for Godís Kingdom, we Pray
specifically for the Safety of the Just,
Punishment of the Wicked, and the Destruction of
Perseverance of the Just
To Pray that Godís Kingdom will
"Come" is to Pledge our Willingness to Embrace the Consequences
of Citizenship in the Kingdom. Saint Cyprian wrote, "What we Pray for
is that ... we who formerly were Slaves of this World will Reign from now on under the Dominion of Christ". He adds,
"... it could also be that the Kingdom of God ... is Christ Himself, since it is His Coming that we long
To Pray for the "Coming" of Godís
Kingdom is to Pray that we will be Completely Subject to Godís
Will, living lives befitting individuals whom Christ has
Redeemed by His Death and
Punishment of the Wicked
If we Pray for an "End", or Goal, we
Pray for the Means by which that End will be achieved. To Pray
that God will Reign over all Creation is to Pray not only
that the Righteous will remain Faithful, but for
Punishment on those who Resist embracing
Godís Will. We may reasonably shrink from wishing to Punish others - however
Wicked they may be - but we must acknowledge that the possibility of such
Punishment is one Manifestation of Godís Justice. Moreover, we must never forget the
Lordís Prayer is a Challenge to look within; when we ask for the Manifestation of
Godís Kingdom, we are asking for our own Just
Punishment if we Fail to Surrender to God.
The Destruction of Death
Because Christ is Life, Death
has no place in His Kingdom. In the Resurrection at the End-of-Time,
"He will transform the body of our lowliness, that it may be made like to the Body of His Glory"
(Philippians 3:21). To Pray for the "Coming" of
Godís Kingdom expresses our Belief in His Victory over
Death, and our Trust in what our Funeral Liturgy calls "the bright
promise of immortality", that day when "every tear will be wiped away".
The Glory of Righteousness
We do not have to be very old before we realize the World offers many Challenges to our Salvation.
To Pray for the "Coming" of
Godís Kingdom expresses our Confidence in the Future and a New Order of Creation, in which nothing is opposed to
Godís Will for our Well-Being. Saint John Chrysostom suggests that this
Second Petition of the Lordís Prayer "is the language of
a Right-Minded child, not to be riveted to things that are seen ... but to hasten unto our Father, and to long for the things to
The Glory of Liberty
Because Piety is the Perfection of our Relations with others, the Supreme Act of
Piety is Freely Offering ourselves to God. Human experience
demonstrates how Difficult this can be, how often our Free Will
is Compromised, and how Seldom we fully achieve our Goal. When Godís Kingdom is fully revealed,
however, we shall be "delivered from the slavery to corruption" (Romans 8:21), and enjoy
Perfect Freedom to embrace Godís Will.
The Wealth of Godís Kingdom
Saint Thomas reminds us that the Good Things we enjoy in our Lives on Earth are a mere Reflection of what
God has laid up for us in Heaven. At the same time, the
Pain we Suffer in this Life has no place in Godís Reign.
The Kingdom we Pray for is a Reign
in which we not only enjoy the Fullness of Everything that is Good, but one in which no
Evil interferes with our Joy. 'Complete Abundance' and 'Absolute Excellence' - we might think of these qualities as the
Perfection of Quality and Quantity - are characteristics of Godís Kingdom. The Prophet Isaiah
exclaimed, "You shall see and your hearts shall rejoice"! (Isaiah 66:14), a reminder that
when we are Blessed with the coming of Godís Kingdom the
'Excellence' and 'Abundance' that Delight us - and Frustrate us, if we cannot possess them - will be
ours to enjoy without measure.
Here is perhaps a Good Place to mention that many of the Material Examples Jesus employs in the
Gospel are an Invitation to look beyond the here-and-now realities of life. Obviously, we will have no need of Food or Drink in
Heaven, but the value we place on these Necessities helps us evaluate the Spiritual Riches
God has stored up for us. At the same time, the Immaterial Realities that Enrich us on Earth - our
Friendships, the Love we share among our Families, the Joy we feel at anotherís success - are precisely
the same Relations we may look forward-to in Heaven.
An Alternative to Sin
The Gospel relates that Jesus often cast-out Demons. This
Act of Mercy not only provided Relief for the individual whom the
Demon Tortured, it gave a Sign that Godís Kingdom had
extended itself a little further into the World. When we Pray the Our
Father we say, "Thy Kingdom come", words that express our Willingness to
Surrender our Will to Godís. At the same time these words are
also a Plea for God (and not Sin) to Reign in our Lives. We
shall realize this fully only in Heaven, of course, but every time we turn away from
Sin - each time we Choose Godís Will over our own - we touch the
World, as Our Savior did, with an additional Sign of Godís Rule.
Each Victory over Sin on Earth is a Tribute to the
Everlasting Triumph over Sin God
has promised us in Heaven.
Godís Kingdom and the Beatitudes
In the Gospel, the Lordís Prayer and the Beatitudes
are part of Jesusí long 'Sermon on the Mount' (Matthew 5:1-7:28). When he considers the
Beatitudes, Saint Thomas writes "... one is said to Possess the End ... when one hopes to possess
it ... and a man is moved towards and approaches the happy End by Works of Virtue"
(ST I-II, 69.1). When we Pray for
Godís Kingdom, the very Act of our Prayer allows us to enjoy
potentially the reality for which we Pray. Our Uttering the Words of the Lordís
Prayer lets us touch - however imperfectly - the Good Things of Godís Kingdom. Our Good Works then
cooperate with our Prayer, to make Godís Kingdom more and more a
Reality in the World.
The Beatitudes and Piety
We began this discussion by considering Piety, the Gift that
Perfects us in our Relations with Others. Because the Beatitudes govern our attitude toward Creation,
they are among the Chief Ways in which we grow in Piety. The link between
Piety and a Longing for Justice is very easy to see; likewise, the connection between
Piety and Mercy i.e., Compassion for anotherís
Misfortune, coupled with Action to relieve the Distress. However, the most important link
between the Beatitudes and Piety - and a connection that is not
immediately apparent - is the Union of Piety to Meekness.
Blessed are the Meek
We commonly think of Meekness as a personís inability or unwillingness to impose himself upon others.
While this is true, our Theology teaches that Meekness is much more: it is the
Virtue that moderates Anger, which is a Desire for
Vengeance. At first glance, we may not see the connection between
Meekness and Piety, but further investigation reveals that the
Lordís Prayer is a Powerful Quest for the Meekness Our Savior commends.
Reliance on God
The Meek are those who Surrender their Desire "to win at all
costs". When we ask God to let His Kingdom Come
among us, we Pray that all Creation will be Subject to His Will.
This means we must lay aside our Personal Notions of Judgment and Punishment, and leave these matters to God.
Meekness not only describes an Attitude that ought to characterize our dealings with others, it
describes the Way by which we Attain the things we Desire. Because Meekness governs our
Irascible Impulses, it Moderates our Desire to lay hold of what we want by
Force. To Pray for the coming of Godís Kingdom is to
allow God to determine what we Need; as our Prayer becomes more
Perfect over time, we should no longer regret a lack of Material "Things" because our hope becomes more firmly fixed on the
Blessings God promises in Heaven.