The following is the complete version of an article, HUMAN EFFORTS, GOD´S GRACE, published in the Catholic Worker, June-July 2009:
THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE --
Meditating on the “Our Father” in Jail
Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J.
The following is from my journal written while I was in two county jails from late January to late April, 2004, serving a 90-day sentence for “crossing the line” onto Ft. Benning, Ga., in a November 2003 protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. The School, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), has trained thousands of Latin American soldiers, some of whom have returned to their countries to be notorious torturers, assassins, and other human-rights violators.
“Thy kingdom come”
May human society be transformed into a loving and just community for all peoples,
and may nature and all the universe continue to evolve into their fullness in Christ.
We are delivered into your Kingdom
when we live and build the world in a way
that demonstrates that you are indeed King,
not that you force us to obey, like earthly tyrants,
but that your principles and values hold ultimate sway in our daily living
and in our political and economic relations,
when we love one another as individuals
and as citizens of sister nations and races in the community of all peoples.
May your Spirit change our hearts and world structures
so that peace with justice will reign.
St. Matthew used “kingdom of heaven” out of reverence for your name; he meant the same as Mark and Luke did when they wrote “kingdom of God” -- not some incredible fantasy of a spiritual realm filled with disincarnate souls floating around, but this universe and this earth transformed into the garden for all which you intended at the origin.
Jesus himself proclaimed that this Kingdom is at hand, among us, not merely within, as some translations put it, as if it were a kingdom of interior consolation, warm feelings, and nice intentions in our heart and mind.
The Kingdom is larger than that: Jesus is Lord of all -- of our hearts and minds and interior values, certainly, but also Lord of the work of our hands and of the structures we create to live socially, politically, and economically.
The federal magistrate conducting the trial of those who protested against SOA/WHINSEC, after listening to our testimony and hearing of our dreams for a peaceful society, delivered his opinion that what we were describing sounded like the Kingdom of heaven but that we should know that it is not of this world. Perhaps Matthew’s “kingdom of heaven” is foremost in the judge’s mind, or perhaps he has other reasons for holding his opinion.
Yes, your honor, Jesus did say that his kingdom is “not of this world “ (in a very specific situation in his life), meaning that he would not rely on the world’s violent methods of self-defense such as armies when the police came for him: “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (Jn 18:36).
Similarly, before the start of his public ministry, he had rejected domination and coercion as his method for helping the Kingdom to come. In the desert he rejected political power over others, any kind of miraculous spectacle which could coerce people´s will, and the power which comes from distributing bread and other necessities (Mt 4:1-11). His sword would be the one that Paul later took up: “the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God” (Eph 6:17).
But throughout his ministry
he courageously denounced evil, corruption, and injustice
in this world
and sketched the outlines of the Kingdom
inaugurating it by his way of living and struggling
here on earth.
That is why he was jailed and executed as a trouble-maker, criminal, social critic,
but in his resurrection he conquered death
and the injustice which had condemned and crucified him;
he is proved, for those with faith, to be the innocent party in the trial,
while his executioners are shown to be guilty of judicial murder.
He is the first-born of the New Creation, of the Kingdom,
which is present in seedling
and, as he proclaimed, is coming here and now.
Yes, the Kingdom is “utopia”
in the literal sense
that in its fullness it is “nowhere” on earth, in history.
That is all too obvious
in our criminal-justice system
as well as in the increasingly unjust distribution of the world´s resources
and in the military domination and exploitation
of the world by the U.S. and other powers.
But there is some justice and peace,
and we keep struggling for more.
The seeds of the Kingdom are planted and are growing,
even if in a fragile and quiet way as the parables indicate.
The risen Christ is with us in the struggle,
keeping our hope alive,
nourishing our love and commitment,
accompanying us and strengthening us in our wavering moments,
and assuring us that his Abba’s project will not ultimately be defeated.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
“The people united will never be defeated”
has been a popular slogan of struggle in Chile and other Latin American countries.
“Nicaragua won; El Salvador will win”
was chanted in El Salvador in the 1980s,
where revolutionaries found hope in the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua.
“We shall overcome,” proclaimed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
along with those who organized, marched, and went to jail with him.
“Yes, it can be done” (“sí, se puede”) chanted César Chavez and the United Farm Workers.
“Don’t mourn, organize” was the message of labor songwriter Joe Hill and other union activists.
These encouraging messages show us how to cooperate with God
in bringing about the coming of the Kingdom and the implementation of God’s will.
It couldn’t be clearer that God’s will for the Kingdom
is to be carried out on earth,
not just among the departed souls and angels.
How? By using our God-given intelligence and freedom to solve our problems,
working together with her for a better world.
We must let God’s will be done in our lives, families, and communities
and organize so that God’s will for justice and freedom
may become a reality for all
in social, political, and economic structures.
In these structures and systems, it is people’s power, united and smart,
which makes change,
for the entrenched power of the ruling class
does not yield without a struggle.
As Dr. King said, “We know through painful experience
that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor;
it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Organized Truth-force, speaking truth to power,
non-cooperation, boycotts, marches, sit-ins,
draft resistance, tax resistance, and other forms of civil disobedience,
organizing unions, neighborhood groups, and political parties,
voting and getting out the vote, especially when the stakes are significant --
these are some of the methods of exerting power non-violently at our disposal.
is not that women and children be beaten,
that more people be unemployed or exploited,
that millions suffer malnutrition or AIDS,
that the prisons and jails of the U.S. contain over 2 million inmates,
that the U.S. invade other countries at will.
These evils happen
because we misuse the freedom and potential God has given us.
Problems made by humans,
can be solved by humans.
In this seemingly impossible and overwhelming task, we may feel alone,
even if we organize millions to act in unison.
But we are not left to our own devices, limited energy, and propensity toward despair.
Moses and the prophets were always assured of Abba’s presence and strength
even in the face of fierce opposition.
Jesus often told his disciples: “Do not be afraid; I am with you.”
United to the Vine, we will produce much fruit.
It was not God’s will that Jesus suffer cruelly and perish ignominiously on the cross
“for our sins,”
to assuage some divine wrath,
to make a sacrifice of expiation,
to save us.
These are Old Testament images which were applied to Jesus after his death and resurrection. In retrospect, Christian theology sees that they were fulfilled in a magnificent way by Jesus.
It was God’s will that Jesus
announce the Kingdom of justice and love and inaugurate it by his work,
that he denounce hypocrisy and corruption in high places
that he be faithful to this dangerous mission
in face of the intense persecution it would unleash against him,
and that Jesus and his cause be vindicated in the resurrection.
“Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want”(Mk 14:36). Jesus’ will was one with Abba’s; he was the faithful prophet and courageous liberator to the very end.
All biblical quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition (Catholic Bible Press, 1993).