The kingdom of God is at hand

By | February 25, 2009

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Fr. Mark Vander Steeg

“The kingdom of God is at hand.” What did Jesus mean by the “kingdom of God?” We gain some insight from the prayer he taught, “Thy kingdom come… thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of God is wherever the will of God is heeded and established. God’s will is for the perfect ordering of creation to its natural end, and for the free communion in love of all persons with him and with each other. However, with the reality of the Fall of man, this experiencing of the kingdom of God has been blunted.

In Christ emerging from the desert we see God actively entering the fallen situation and even restoring it through his presence. In the person of Jesus, God the Son, the kingdom of God has arrived, it is lived and it is reaching out to reclaim persons and the fallen creation. As Jesus’ ministry proceeds he will restore order to the fallen flesh of lepers, the blind and the deaf. With his cry of “Repent and believe” he will appeal to human hearts for a return to the free obedience owed toward the Father. The kingdom of God is always at hand for those who encounter Jesus. It is but one repentant decision away. “I will return to my Father’s house.”

The kingdom of God’s triumph is present in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Here, full obedience in love will be offered on our behalf, and the fallen order with its greatest sadness, death, will be vanquished. After the resurrection, the kingdom of God will be “at hand” and available to all persons in all times and places through the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

For you and me then, the kingdom of God is in our midst, but it must be freely entered with the grace of God. Paul called it becoming a “citizen of the kingdom” and recognized its beginning at baptism. This citizenship is maintained by a willing obedience to God. Christ models it’s citizenship. St. Peter writes today “Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.” This is the creed of those who live the kingdom.

Once the decision is made to enter the kingdom of God we find ourselves with ideas or attachments that either need to be re-examined or rejected. Christ went into the desert for a symbolic 40 days to become aware of the temptations and obstacles that would be pitted against any establishment of the kingdom of God. He knows well the boundaries of the kingdom and is able to assist those who call upon him.

Where in my life is the kingdom of God at hand? It may be a decision to forgive, to pray again, to give more honestly, to love less manipulatively, or to carve sin out of life with God’s grace. Many spend their lives standing at the border of the kingdom looking in. Life is on the other side, and once we enter the kingdom, the depth and beauty of this land is breathtaking. Paradox seems to be the norm here. Death brings life, the last shall be first, the greatest shall be the least, you know the rest.

Questions for Reflection

1. What decision in my life could take me deeper into the Kingdom?

2. Where am I resisting the Kingdom?

 

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.

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