Living by faith and daily doses of grace, there is no doubt that life has come forth from the stump of Jesse, confirming a promise made to the patriarchs (Isa. 11:1, Rom. 15:8). More wonderful still is the deep-down knowledge that life has come to history from a storehouse of being, a hidden ground of limitless love. God is in the midst of things, in the flesh and blood, in the body and bone, of a Son born, yet not made. God is among the circumcised and the uncircumcised, calling Jews and Gentiles to universal praise: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people” (Rom. 15:10). It is finished. Christ has come. Faith is not an endless, meandering, frivolous question mark. Faith is firm and sure.
Faith is anchored to the past, lives in the present, and moves into an open future directed by prevenient graces no human eye foresees. God is, therefore, always “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13). And hope does not disappoint because it is fed by the promise of God. Thus, while confident in the truth of Christ, the kingdom of Christ has both come and is yet to come. One arrival is complete; another, called the close of the age, is a work to be engaged, a kingdom to be built, a peace pursued for the common good.
So, in union with Christ, a disciple works toward a peaceable kingdom in which the poor are judged with righteousness and the meek with equity (Isa. 11:4). Nature’s transformation is the goal of Christ too: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, … the lion shall eat straw like the ox. … The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,” which “will not hurt or destroy. … [F]or the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:6-9). Is this pure illusion, a dream that fades? Is it better to admit that harm and destruction upon many are a necessary price paid for the comfort of a few? God forbid that the sons and daughters of the resurrection should give themselves to devils of death. Hope lives because Christ lives evermore.
And yet the establishment of God’s peaceable kingdom includes a strange and alien work. “[God] shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked” (Isa. 11:4). Even this is instruction giving life to hope, if and only if interpreted correctly. Wheat will be gathered and chaff thrown to the fire, both of which are mixed in varying degrees in every human life. The great defeat of wickedness is shown in the agony Christ bears and overcomes. “He slew hatred in His own flesh; and, after being lifted on high by His resurrection, He poured forth the spirit of love into the hearts of men” (Gaudium et spes, n. 78). The old Adam is put to death, a new creation called forth.
In this new creation, there is joy and peace in believing (Rom. 15:13) and the forward thrust of hope and struggle and commitment to the work of civility and peace, justice and love, the righteous use of power and the liberal outpouring of mercy. The cross of Christ is the crown of a Christian, a sorrow to be carried and a struggle to accept in full confidence of an irrevocable word of life and resurrection, joy, and peace.
Look It Up: Read Matthew 3:12. Your life is on the threshing floor.
Think About It: Purgation is a train bound for glory.