“The Kingdom of God is within you.”Luke 17:21
There are theological truths to be gleaned from that line of scripture, but what I get from it is this: you and I together make present the Kingdom of God here and now. Perhaps it is a mere shadow, a pale glimmer of the glory that is yet to come, but it is present nonetheless. How wonderful! How hopeful! How daunting.
It is also a somewhat perplexing concept; how is it possible? What does it mean? How can we know it, see it, reveal it, when it is an internal, spiritual state? Could we be like Old Testament Israel awaiting her conquering King full of political might and military power to win over the nations at last? Are we expecting something other than what the Kingdom truly is?
While God may sometimes seem to be maddeningly oblique in His dealings with us, there are also instances of utter clarity if we pay attention. From the very beginning of the beginning, God has revealed Himself to us as Love and that love is manifested in relationships: The Father with the Son, and they with the Holy Spirit; God with the first little family of Adam and Eve and so on with ever expanding circles of relationship to tribes and nations until all of mankind were brought into relationship with Him.
Love and relationship (or kinship) must be key elements of the Kingdom. That means you and I have a bond, and how we treat that bond effects the integrity of our relationship and the love between us – and ultimately the state of the Kingdom itself.
Here is another instance of divine clarity. Twice in the gospel of John, Jesus gives this commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. (John 13:35; John 15:17). How does He love us? To death. With everything He has to give. With truth, compassion, mercy, tenderness.
We also have the Beatitudes, a road map of Christian living. From them we know to be poor in spirit, meek, to hunger for justice, to be merciful, clean of heart, and to be peacemakers. We also know to expect and endure persecution and reproach, and for people to speak falsely against us. (Matthew 5:7)
Here, I think, is where the fabric of love unravels, because it is not an easy thing to endure persecution or reproach – especially when unfounded – with forbearance. When we are accused it is natural to want to speak in our own defense. I think it becomes a problem when anger enters the picture.
Mention anger and the response very quickly is “Jesus got angry at the moneylenders!” which is very true. It’s one of my favourite moments in scripture. However there is a difference between His righteous anger against the desecration of the temple and the uncharitable activity of those men (He speaks against moneylenders several times) and the petty slanders, moral outrages, unresolved grievances, and adopted offenses we carry on with.
Everyone these days seems to be offended or outraged, or ticked off about something or against someone. And we’re not handling ourselves well. We take things too seriously when we should be able to let them go. We should be forgiving people, or assuming the best of them instead of nursing resentments. We should be kind instead of snide when we disagree.
Where is all the rage coming from? Particularly among Catholics and particularly Catholics online. Rather than building each other up with love, encouraging each other through difficult days in an increasingly secular world, there are Catholic writers, bloggers, and commenters tearing each other apart - and anger is like a background hum in those interactions.
Jesus has something to tell us about that: “But I say to you whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment […] and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. (Matthew 5:22)
And so we come back to the love and relationship that is essential in the Kingdom, for Jesus goes on to say, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Mat. 5:23,24)
During these forty days of desert wanderings, perhaps we can reflect on the state of the Kingdom within ourselves. Are we holding on to grudges? Does some recurring anger point to an area in our life that needs to be addressed? Are we withholding forgiveness from someone that is preventing us from loving as Christ loved us?
Blessed Mother, we ask for the grace we need to follow your example in living the Beatitudes, to love as your Son loved us, and to build the Kingdom of God in how we treat each other.