What Age Are We Living In?

Dennis Hamm, S. J. has an informative reflection on leadership and power. He contrasts power in the empire to the power Jesus envisioned for the Kingdom


Just happens that my study of mythology led me to Hindu mythology from India. Indian mythology tends to view creation and destruction in cycles as alternating in the eternal cycle. History cycles through various ages. Professor Voth tells us:

The first age is always a golden age in which humans need no shelters; trees provide them with food and clothing and they don’t have to work for it. People are happy and they spend their time in meditation and observing dharma; dharma is that Hindi word that means do whatever is appropriate to your station in life.

Things deteriorate in the succeeding ages until we came to the last age, Kali Yuga:

In this age, people will get their high rank in society on the basis of wealth alone; value will be determined entirely in terms of possessions; sexual passion will be all that holds marriage together; people will succeed with lies and deceit; and the only pleasure in life will be sex. Hunger, disease, war and death will haunt people on every side; only the poor and only a few of them will remain honest, to escape the depredations of greedy kings, virtuous people will retreat to forests and remote valleys to live there as simply as they can.

Voth goes on to cite passages from one of the Puranas [Indian sacred texts] about the last days of the Kali age:

All kings occupying the earth in the Kali Age will be wanting in tranquility, strong in anger, taking pleasure at all times in lying and dishonesty, inflicting death on women, children, and the cows, prone to take the paltry possessions of others, with a character that is mostly Tamas [Tamas as a character relates to darkness].

Does any of this sound familiar? Are we in Kali Yunga?

Contrast how the rich and powerful will rule and oppress in the Kali age with how the Romans ruled at the inception of the Jesus Movement. Consider how Hamm’s comments guide Christians in the Kingdom Age as Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for the Kingdom:

Jesus chooses his words carefully. “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones make their authority over them felt.” “The Gentiles,” of course, are the same Gentiles mentioned in the third passion prediction, the ones who will put Jesus to death–the Roman authorities, like Pilate, and the soldiers acting under the authority of the Emperor. They “are supposed to rule” but in fact (and here come some nasty seven-syllable words in the Greek) they katakyrieuousin (“dominate in an oppressive way”) and their megales (“Great Ones”) katexousiazousin (“tyrannize”) them. This is a quick way of characterizing how the Romans achieved what they called the pax romana, “the Roman Peace”—actually a kind of social order that is achieved by violent domination. “But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be a great one among you must be your servant”–clearly another way of achieving community. And to further characterize the kind of relationships entailed in that kind of ruling, Jesus boldly proceeds to use the language of the slave market: “And whoever should be first among you must be slave of all (yes, the word is doulos, the ordinary word for the lowest person in Roman society, a slave). “For the Son of man”—the mysterious self-reference Jesus has been using in the three passion predictions –“did not come to be served (like Emperor) but to serve and to give his life as a ransom (lytron, the price paid to acquire, or liberate, a slave) for many.”

So the way of life that comes from following Jesus is the opposite of the Pax Romana [or the Kali Age]. Rather, the Pax Christi, the peace that Jesus teaches, is achieved through service and nonviolence.

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