The kingdom of Christ

Easter is high season for the sacraments. First Communions, Confirmations, weddings, and Ordinations fill our spring calendars. And there's good reason for that. The Resurrection of Jesus signals the beginning of an entirely new life for us, one lived completely in and with Christ.

Because the Lord is risen, death is no longer a wall, but a door to eternity. Those who have died won't just pick up where they left off. They will be ushered into the presence of God and enter into a completely new mode of being. As St. John puts it, "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when it is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2). After his resurrection, the Gospel writers tell us that Jesus appeared and disappeared, walked through locked doors, ate and drank, and after 40 days, ascended into heaven. If we are faithful to him, we, too, can hope to follow him into an eternal union of love with him.

Imagine not only seeing God but becoming like him! And yet that is the "good news" at its best, the news of life in the kingdom Jesus came to plant within us and among us. This is the realm Jesus is speaking of when he tells Pontius Pilate that his kingdom "does not belong to this world" (Jn 18:36).

But most of us think that our transition from this world to the next only happens when we die. It doesn't. Instead, we pass from this life to eternal life at baptism. We see this when Jesus answers a Pharisee who asked him when the kingdom of God would arrive. He says, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' Or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you" (Lk 17: 20-21). In other words, heaven is here and now. We are already living eternal life -- not yet in fullness -- but still in truth.

It shouldn't surprise us, then, that when Jesus prayed for his disciples on the night he was betrayed, he asked the Father to protect them because "they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world" (Jn 17:16). Baptism changes everything. Those who follow Christ already live in his kingdom.

The problem is that we don't often act that way. Sometimes, it's because we just want to fit in. When we try so hard to belong, we forget that we don't -- belong, that is -- and never will. We lose sight of our King and the kingdom that is hidden within and among us. And when that happens, the passing world we live in is deprived of the vision of Christ.

That's why God calls us to live in a way that makes his kingdom visible. And because God knows we certainly can't muster that on our own strength and ingenuity, he gives us the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and the power of the sacraments. Sanctifying grace makes it possible for us to become more like Christ well before our earthly expiration date. And sanctifying grace enables us to let Jesus Christ live his life in and through us. Because he lives, because we have been baptized into his death, our earthly existence is swallowed up by the very life of God himself.

Our God is not merely the Lord of the dead. He is primarily the God of the living, so much so, that he raises the dead to new life. Christ is King of all: the living and the dead, of those who believe and those who cannot, do not, or adamantly refuse to receive the gift of faith. His reign is everlasting. And because his kingdom is not of this world, it will never end.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.