The Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas – THE SECOND PETITION
“Thy Kingdom Come.”
The Holy Spirit makes us love, desire and pray rightly; and instills in us, first of all, a fear whereby we ask that the name of God be sanctified. He gives us another gift, that of piety. This is a devout and loving affection for our Father and for all men who are in trouble. Now, since God is our Father, we ought not only reverence and fear Him, but also have towards Him a sweet and pious affection. This love makes us pray that the kingdom of God may come: “We should live soberly and justly in this world, looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God.”
It may be asked of us: “Why, since the kingdom of God always was, do we then ask that it may come?” This, however, can be understood in three ways. First, a king sometimes has only the right to a kingdom or dominion, and yet his rule has not been declared because the men in his kingdom are not as yet subject to him. His rule or dominion will come only when the men of his kingdom are his subjects. Now, God is by His very essence and nature the Lord of all things; and Christ being God and Man is the Lord over all things: “And He gave Him power and glory and a kingdom.” It is, therefore, necessary that all things be subject to Him. This is not yet the case, but will be so at the end of the world: “For He must reign, until He hath put all His enemies under His feet.” Hence it is for this we pray when we say: “Thy kingdom come.”
WHY WE PRAY THUS
In so doing we pray for a threefold purpose: that the just may be strengthened, that sinners may be punished, and that death be destroyed. Now, the reason is that men are subject to Christ in two ways, either willingly or unwillingly. Again, the will of God is so efficacious that it must be fully complied with; and God does wish that all things be subject to Christ. Hence, two things are necessary: either man will do the will of God by subjecting himself to His commands, as do the just; or God shall exert His will and punish those who are sinners and His enemies; and this
will take place at the end of the world: “Until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool.”
It is enjoined upon the faithful to pray that the kingdom of God may come, namely, that they subject themselves completely to Him. But it is a terrible thing for sinners, because for them to ask the coming of God’s kingdom is nothing else than to ask that they be subjected to punishment: “Woe to them that desire the day of the Lord!” By this prayer, too, we ask that death be destroyed. Since Christ is life, death cannot exist in His kingdom, because death is the opposite of life: “And the enemy, death, shall be destroyed last.” “He shall cast death down headlong forever.” And this shall take place at the last resurrection: “Who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory.”
In a second sense, the kingdom of heaven signifies the glory of paradise. Nor is this to be wondered at, for a kingdom (“regnum”) is nothing other than a government (“regimen”). That will be the best government where nothing is found contrary to the will of the governor. Now, the will of God is the very salvation of men, for He “will have all men to be saved”; and this especially shall come to pass in paradise where there will be nothing contrary to man’s salvation. “They shall gather out of His kingdom all scandals.” In this world, however, there are many things contrary to the salvation of men. Hence, when we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we pray that we might participate in the heavenly kingdom and in the glory of paradise.
WHY WE DESIRE THIS KINGDOM
This kingdom is greatly to be desired for three reasons. (1) It is to be greatly desired because of the perfect justice that obtains there: “Thy people shall be all just.” In this world the bad are mingled with the good, but in heaven there will be no wicked and no sinners. (2) The heavenly kingdom is to be desired because of its perfect liberty. Here below there is no liberty, although all men naturally desire it; but above there will be perfect liberty without any form of oppression: “Because the creature also shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption.” Not only will men then be free, but indeed they will all be kings: “And Thou hast made us to our God a kingdom.” This is because all shall be of one will with God, and God shall will what the Saints will, and the Saints shall will whatsoever God wills; hence, in the will of God shall their will be done All, therefore, shall reign, because the will of all shall be done, and the Lord shall be their crown: “In that day, the Lord of hosts shall be a crown of glory and a garland of joy to the residue of His people.” (3) The kingdom of God is to be desired because of the marvellous riches of heaven: “The eye hath not seen O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee.” And also: “Who satisfieth thy desire with good things.”
Note that man will find everything that he seeks for in this world more excellently and more perfectly in God alone. Thus, if it is pleasure you seek, then in God you will find the highest pleasure: “You shall see and your heart shall rejoice.” “And everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.” If it is riches,
there you will find it in abundance: “When the soul strays from Thee, she looks for things apart from Thee, but she finds all things impure and useless until she returns to Thee,” says St. Augustine.
Lastly, “Thy kingdom come” is understood in another sense because sometimes sin reigns in this world. This occurs when man is so disposed that he follows at once the enticement of sin. “Let not sin reign in your mortal body,” but let God reign in your heart; and this will be when thou art prepared to obey God and keep all His Commandments. Therefore, when we pray to God that His kingdom may come, we pray that God and not sin may reign in us.
May we through this petition arrive at that happiness of which the Lord speaks: “Blessed are the meek!” Now, according to what we have first explained above, viz., that man desires that God be the Lord of all things, then let him not avenge injuries that are done him, but let him leave that for the Lord. If you avenge yourself, you do not really desire that the kingdom of God may come. According to our second explanation (i.e., regarding the glory of paradise), if you await the coming of this kingdom which is the glory of paradise, you need not worry about losing earthly things. Likewise, if according to the third explanation, you pray that God may reign within you, then you must be humble, for He is Himself most humble: “Learn of Me because I am meek and humble of heart.”
(For “Questions for Discussion” see Chapter 6.)
1. Tit., ii. 12.
2. Dan., vii. 14.
3. I Cor., xv. 25.
4. Ps. cix. 1.
5. Amos, v. 18.
6. “Since . . . Kingdom” in Vives edition; not in Parma.
7. I Cor., xv. 26.
8. Isa., xxv. 8. This is in Vives edition: not in Parma.
9. Phil., iii. 21.
10. I Tim., ii. 4.
11. Matt, xiii. 41.
12. Isa., lx. 21.
13. Rom., viii, 21.
14. Apoc., v. 10.
15. Isa., xxviii. 5.
16. “Ibid.,” lxiv. 4.
17. Ps. cii. 5.
18. Isa., lxvi. 14.
19. “Ibid.,” xxxv. 10. These two citations in Vives edition are omitted in Parma.
20. “Confessions,” II, 6.
21. Rom., vi. 12.
22. Matt., v. 4
23. “Ibid.,” xi. 29. “Finally, we pray that God alone may live, alone may reign, within us, that death no longer may exist, but may be absorbed by the victory won by Chrisl our Lord, who, having broken and scattered the power of all His enemies, may, in His might, subject all things to His dominion. . . . Let us, therefore, earnestly implore . . . that His commands may be observed, that there be found no traitor, no deserter, and that all may so act that they may come with joy into the presence of God their King: and may reach the possession of the heavenly kingdom prepared for them from all eternity” (“Roman Catechism.” “Lord’s Prayer,” Chapter xi. 14, 19).