Today's Gospel is all about the “kingdom of God” – one of the most misunderstood terms in the Scriptures. The heart of Jesus' message to us is this classic Hebrew dream of the kingdom or the reign of God. If we intend to be responsible and mature followers of Jesus, we must clearly understand what Jesus means by using this term. He clearly doesn't mean that there be a literal kingdom with an actual king like Louis XIV or like Saudi Arabia has today. In fact the very word “king” is problematic since it implies that God is male – and God is not! God is pure Spirit, which of course means God is neither male nor female.
Also, Jesus in today's Gospel is not speaking of the afterlife, where good people go after death. Jesus believed in eternal life. He spoke of it many times, but this was not what Jesus was talking about when he said, “The kingdom of God is within you!” Let me use this example: Suppose you are a loving parent of several children. You are dying of cancer and have but a few days to live. You gather all your adult children around your bed to say goodby. Perhaps one of them is disabled, another is troubled and has been in and out of prison, and a third is a single parent struggling to raise three children. The others have good marriages, healthy children and are in decent financial shape.
What dying wish might you express to them all. You might say, “Love each other. Be good to each other, especially to those of you who need more care. Forgive each other. Don't give up on each other. Stay together as a family. This is my final wish and desire for you.”
So it is with the reign of God. If you as a human parent want good things for the ones you love, would that not also be the desire of a God who, Jesus taught, is most like a loving parent? It is truly the will of God that we live here and now as members of the same human family, forgiving each other, sharing what we have, taking care of those who need it most, considering all members of the family precious and dear to us.
This is what Jesus means by the kingdom of God, and that is why he says it has already begun on earth with him. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom, lived the kingdom and died for the kingdom. And he asks his followers, he asks you and me, to proclaim it, to live it and to give our lives for it when necessary. Whenever we pray Jesus' prayer, the Our Father, we say “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In today's Gospel Jesus declares the precious beauty of his kingdom on earth. We don't have to dig up a field to find it. We don't have to haul fish ashore. We don't have to wait till we die. The kingdom is already here, within each of us. We have Jesus' own words for this! We simply need to acknowledge it and act accordingly. Amen.