Sunday, December 5, 2010



I mentioned in my previous post that for most first-century Palestinian Jews the phrase “The Kingdom of God is at hand” would have meant that God was sending a military messiah to re-establish the Davidic monarchy by expelling the Roman occupation forces. But there was a more ancient and more authentic interpretation of the metaphor of the “Kingdom of God." Let me first repeat a couple of ideas from last week. In the Old Testament God was always acting in history to deliver and save. For the Israelites, heaven could and indeed often did touch earth: in the Law, for example, in which God came into intimate contact with the hearts of humans. But the most special place where heaven touched the earth was in the temple in Jerusalem, where "God dwelt among his people." Much of this material on the Kingdom is borrowed from a wonderful book by N.T, Wright entitled "Simply Christian."

Jesus picked up on this idea in his preaching that the Kingdom of God had arrived, by teaching that heaven and earth had come together in his own person. That’s why he was such a threat to the priests: He saw himself as the new temple that would replace the old temple as the place where God dwelt among human beings. Further, he told his followers that they, too, the new people of God, were also the new temple, the place where heaven meets earth.

And we followers of Jesus, the new People of God, the new temple, are now the place where heaven touches earth in the twenty-first century. Jesus, God-made-man, in whom heaven touched earth, showed us by the example of his life how to live out the Kingdom in our lives: A kingdom of gentleness and peace, a kingdom of giving more than receiving, and a kingdom built on self-sacrificing love, on “not my will but yours be done.” Yesterday (Saturday of the first week of Advent) at our community mass, Father Philip preached on the first reading in which Isaiah paints a picture of a time when God will draw close to us humans, when heaven will touch the earth. It reads in part:

Yet the LORD is waiting to show you favor, and he rises to pity you; For the LORD is a God of justice: blessed are all who wait for him! People of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, no more will you weep; He will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears he will answer you. The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: "This is the way; walk in it," when you would turn to the right or to the left. And you shall consider unclean your silver-plated idols and your gold-covered images; You shall throw them away like filthy rags to which you say, "Begone!" (Isaiah 30:18-22)

Father Phil concentrated on a single verse (v.21): “While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it’” In the Kingdom God is close enough to whisper in my ear, “This the right path over here, now follow it.” Heaven is touching earth. And I am located at the very point of contact. Now I have to decide. Do I follow the quiet voice sounding in my ears, or do I listen instead to the dozens, the hundreds of other voices from other kingdoms, the alluring voices of “silver-plated idols and gold-covered images.”
The Baptist’s cry in today’s gospel says that the Kingdom has drawn near and that I must respond by a conversion of heart. But how do I know what that means for me in practical terms? Well, I now have two guidelines that can help me:

First, I can look at Jesus’ lived example of how to live the Kingdom. Gentleness, humility, obedience, peace-making, self-offering.

Second, I can be quiet this Advent and listen for a voice from behind sounding in my ears, "This is the way, walk in it," a voice that points out my personal idols of silver and gold that are keeping heaven from touching earth in my life.

Let’s pray for one another that each of us can indeed be a place where heaven touches earth and the Kingdom comes into being. More about the Kingdom next week.
.........."The Kingdom of God Is Among You"

1 comment:

  1. Mahatma Ghandi in his Spiritual Message to the World in 1931, said this: “There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses."

    Thought this fit well with your thoughts on the Kingdom being in us.