Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

As we begin this account in Matthew’s Gospel of the public life of Jesus, at the very beginning, we are challenged directly by Jesus: “Change your lives, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand — change your lives.” The word is one that means a profound reordering of our lives — a 180-degree turn, a change in our value systems. The reign of God or the kingdom of heaven — this is something that Jesus is beginning to proclaim.

It’s important that we get a sense of what Jesus means by this kingdom of heaven. First of all, it has nothing to do with the afterlife. We might think, “The kingdom of heaven — that’s where we go after we die.” No; what it refers to is the reign of God, the reign of God throughout all of creation — on our planet, on our earth, in our lives. It refers to God working effectively in our everyday lives right here and now.

It has to do with our relationship to God that we enter into God’s ways, God’s thoughts. As the prophet Isaiah puts it in one of his proclamations, “My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.” God’s ways are totally different. If we enter into the reign of God, then we begin to deepen this relationship of God so that we learn his ways, understand God’s thoughts, make them our own insofar as we can, so that we live according to what God’s will is for us and for all of creation.

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