In the eleventh chapter of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew we not only read where Jesus confirms for John the Baptist that He is the One for whom the way was being prepared, but also we hear Jesus speak of violence being done to the kingdom of heaven.
"Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli’jah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Mt 11:11-15).
To hear Jesus speaking about the kingdom of heaven suffering violence and how the violent take heaven by force is not merely clouded language, it is a rather significant and (quite frankly) jarring statement about the relationship man should have with God.
What does this mean? Through the centuries there are those who claim that the violence committed against heaven refers to the strident opposition to Jesus and the Gospel. Others claim that the violence against heaven refers to how the kingdom of heaven broke into the world with great power and force. There are still others who claim that the reference to the kingdom of heaven is about God Himself, who came into the world during the time of John the Baptist and who will suffer the violence of the cross.
These are all excellent explanations, of course, which in and of themselves could cause us to reflect quite deeply on our relationship to God. But there is an even more important aspect of this passage, which is mentioned in a commentary by St. John Chrysostom.
The violent in this passage refer to the faithful. In other words, there are those among us who have such a deep and abiding faith that they refuse to allow anything to take them away from not only the call of the Lord, but also the Lord Himself. Think about that. There are those in this world – past, present, and future – who will battle with everyone and everything in order to fix their gaze and all of their activity on God. Contrapositively, these same people are so in love with God that they incessantly pound on the door of heaven so that they can be as close to God in this life as humanly possible.
Are you one of those people? Will you decide to take heaven by force? Will you finally decide to become one of the violent pounding on the door of heaven? Are you willing to take on the violence the world has for those who place God’s will above all other things?
Let us pray for each other so that we may all decide to live our lives in this way.