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Encountering Reality
Encountering Reality

The Really Real

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Richard Rohr invites us to enter the Reign of God—what he describes as the “Really Real”—even though we face many difficult realities in our lives.

Jesus announced, lived, and inaugurated for history a new social order. He called it the Reign or Kingdom of God, and it became the guiding image of his entire ministry. The Reign of God is the subject of Jesus’ inaugural address (Mark 1:15; Matthew 4:17; Luke 4:16–21), his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), and most of his parables.

Once this guiding vision of God’s will became clear to Jesus after his baptism and time alone in the desert, everything else came into perspective. In fact, Matthew’s Gospel says Jesus began to preach “from then onward” (4:17). He had his absolute reference point that allowed him to judge and evaluate everything else properly. [1]

What we discover in the New Testament, especially in Matthew’s Gospel, is that the Reign of God is a new world order, a new age, a promised hope begun in the teaching and ministry of Jesus—and continued in us. I think of the Reign of God as the Really Real. That experience of the Really Real—the “Kingdom” experience—is the heart of Jesus’ teaching. It’s Reality with a capital R, the very bottom line, the pattern-that-connects. It’s the goal of all true religion, the experience of the Absolute, the Eternal, what is. [2]

In order to explain this concept, it may be helpful to say what it’s not: the “Kingdom” is not the same as heaven. Many Christians have mistakenly thought that the Reign of God is “eternal life,” or where we go after we die. That idea is disproven by Jesus’ own prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). As always, Jesus joins earth and heaven.

“Thy Kingdom come” means very clearly that God’s realm is something that enters into this world, or, as Jesus often says, “is close at hand.” We shouldn’t project it into another world. It’s a reality that breaks into this world now and then, when people are like God.

God gives us just enough tastes of God’s realm to believe in it and to want it more than anything. In his parables, Jesus never says the Kingdom is totally now or totally later. It’s always now-and-not-yet. We only have the first fruits of the Kingdom in this world, but we experience enough to know it’s the only thing that will ever satisfy us. Once we have had the truth, half-truths can’t satisfy us anymore. In its light, everything else is relative, even our own life. When we experience the Kingdom or love of God, it becomes ultimate and real truth for us.

When we live inside the Really Real, we live in a “threshold space” between this world and the next. We learn how to live between heaven and earth, one foot in both, holding them precious together. [3]

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Jesus’ Alternative Plan: The Sermon on the Mount (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 1996, 2022), 3, 4.

[2] Rohr, Jesus’ Alternative Plan, 27, 30.

[3] Rohr, Jesus’ Alternative Plan, 117, 119.

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. We learn from the coyote curiosity and exploration. We also learn curiosity about our own perception and projection onto another being: what is the first thing we think when we see a coyote?

Story from Our Community:  

During a recent power outage, I shared a candlelight scripture reading with my parents. My father shared his thoughts on the readings, as did my mother. I spoke about how I related the passages to my life and the world around me. My father said he had never really considered relating scripture to his feelings or reality; he had always interpreted scripture as a set of rules. At the end of our Sunday reflection without lights, he said he appreciated my way of reflecting on the readings. I realized we can become more enlightened when we realize that scripture can illuminate the light within us.
—Jason O.

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