Tag Archives: Reign of God

The joy of the poor in the reign of God

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Joyful are those who have the spirit of the poor
For theirs is the Reign of God,
For the Kingdom of God belongs to them.


Unlike all the other beatitudes but the last, the second clause is in the present tense. They won’t have the kingdom in the future. It’s there’s now.

That seems so contrary to the facts of life.

The kingdom belongs to the powerful, the mighty, the violent, the rich. How could the kingdom ever belong to the poor in spirit – or, even as Luke puts it, to the very poor? How could it be a blessing to be poor in spirit? How could one who is poor in spirit be joyful?

But that’s what Jesus says.

What could he ever mean?

I don’t think he believes that the destitute are happy; I think he wants to welcome them into his reign, to sit at the banquet table with him.

I think he wants us to be poor, or, at the very least, austere in our living.

I think he wants us to accompany the poor, not just helping them, but being with them in their times of sorrow and pain –  and joys.

I think he wants us to join the poor in their struggles for justice so that we can move toward a world in which the presence of the kingdom of justice and love and peace is more apparent, especially for those at the margins.

I think he wants us to sit down at table with the poor – at the tables in their homes and ours, and above all at the banquet table of the Eucharist, where there are no divisions, but where we are all one in Christ, sharing afflictions and consolations, joys and sorrows, disappointments and hope, where the final word is not death but life and love and resurrection.

Maybe then we can experience the joy of the poor and of the poor in spirit, where the Kingdom of God is present.


Romero and the wide Reign of God

Though Romero was educated in the pre-Vatican II church, he grew to have a grander vision of the workings of God in history than the narrow ecclesiology that branded non-Catholics as “separated brethren” or “sects.”

He connected with Protestants in El Salvador and he received a lot of support from Protestant churches throughout the world. Some attended his Sunday Masses and Romero often acknowledged their presence.

Though he was critical of violence and narrow ideological positioning, Romero was open to speaking with all, even the revolutionaries.


What he said in a December 3, 1978 homily provides the framework for this openness:

Everyone who struggles for justice,
everyone who makes just claims in unjust surroundings
is working for God’s reign,
even though not a Christian.
The church does not comprise all of God’s reign;
God’s reign goes beyond the church’s boundaries.
The church values everything that is in tune
with its struggle to set up God’s reign.
A church that tries only to keep itself
pure and uncontaminated
would not be a church of God’s service to people.
The authentic church is one that does not mind
conversing with prostitutes and publicans and sinners,
as Christ did –
and with Marxists and those of various political movements –
in order to bring them salvation’s true message

God works and the Reign of God is beyond the Catholic Church, as Vatican II also noted.

May Romero’s openness to the Reign of God fill today’s Church with an openness to God working in many ways and through many people.

Really prophets

Let us set a trap for the just one,
for he annoys us
and opposes our way of life.
Wisdom 2: 12

 As we approach Holy Week, the lectionary speaks with urgency about the imminent passion and death of Jesus.

The reading from Wisdom – about the just in general – is here applied in a special way to Jesus, but its significance goes beyond that.

The truly just one is Jesus, but many just persons have experienced persecution and death as he has.

But not all who are persecuted are prophets. Some are persecuted because their style of criticism is too harsh, too accusatory, too alienating.

Today is the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Reading his sermons and talks and remembering what he said, I believe that his message was what caused his death.

He was severely critical of US society and didn’t confine it to the problems of segregation and racism. When he was killed in Memphis he was beginning to work on the Poor People’s Campaign which sought to give a voice to those who were impoverished in a rich nation. A year before he was killed he gave his searing sermon “Beyond Vietnam,” in which he not only condemned the Vietnam war but also the roots of that war in the racism, materialism, and militarism he saw in the US society.

His message made him enemies. But he spoke it in light of a call to become the Beloved Community. He spoke it because he had a dream of solidarity.

Are we willing to speak uncomfortable truths, but in a loving way? Or do we criticize injustice in a way that makes us appear justified, accusing others?

Do we fail to see the roots of war and injustice on our own hearts?

Or, do we take the prophetic message to heart, changing our way of life, and inviting others to join us in this search for the Reign of God?