The Kingdom – a practice not a place

Isaiah 30:19-21.23-26

Psalm 147     Blessed are all those who wait for the Lord.

Matthew 9:35-10:1.5a.6-8
Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing all kinds of disease and all kinds of illness. And when he saw the crowds, he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers to his harvest.’ He summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to drive them out and to cure all kinds of disease and all kinds of illness. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those suffering from virulent skin-diseases, drive out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.’

I discovered this wonderful reflection on the Kingdom of Heaven in the daily reflection’s booklet published by St. Pauls. It provides such a helpful insight into what Jesus is speaking of.

‘Kingdom’ is the most misunderstood word spoken in Jesus’ ministry. Sometimes, He says, ‘It is here,’ sometimes, ‘it is there,’ sometimes, ‘it is within you,’ sometimes, ‘it has already come’ and sometimes, ‘it is yet to come.’ Kingdom seems to be a very mysterious concept. Jesus’ idea of the Kingdom is completely different from the common Jewish understanding of it. It is not a place with a palace. The Kingdom of heaven is practice and not a place. One is to live it rather than live in it. It is caring for the downtrodden, the underprivileged, the sick and the unwanted. The foundation of this Kingdom is based on love. What is ‘Kingdom’ to me? ls it a place or practice? Am I seeking a seat on His right or left hand in the Kingdom?

St. Pauls (58/23rd Road, TPS III Bandra, Mumbai 400 050 India).

Last week in a conversation with a friend about the recent Synod, he commented that he no longer uses the word “Church”, but rather he always substitutes it with the “people of God”. Like “Kingdom”, the word “Church” is equally misunderstood. It is used for the institution, for buildings, for the hierarchy, for the magisterium, to refer to the directives of Bishops, etc. But in fact, the Church is and has always been people. People in relationship with God.

I recall another friend, a scholar of John’s Gospel, referring to the “shekinah” (Glory) of God, not as his temple, but as the people who embody his presence. Jesus is the Glory of God – and so can we be when we live as his body.