We hear that so often, we might not even have thought about it, but if we had to put it into words. If you had to describe it to your five year old, what would you say? My first thought is that the Kingdom of God is ‘heaven’… did anybody else think that?
When something is ‘At Hand’, I immediately think it means something is coming “soon” – like “there’s a storm at hand” means it’s gonna get windy and start raining any moment now.
So – putting that together, many of us would define that statement to mean that “Heaven is coming soon”.
But – it’s been like 2000 years since he said that… did he really mean it is coming soon?
We could interpret it that way – but – I think we would miss the point Jesus was trying to make. So – let’s break it down a little bit.
Literally, the ‘kingdom of God’ means – God is the king and we live in His kingdom. For example, If we lived back when David was king of Israel, then we could say we lived in the kingdom of David ...kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? David was the king – so we live in the kingdom of David. So, it follows that God is the king of the ‘kingdom of God’. That might be heaven, but I think it is more than that. I think we are ALREADY in the kingdom of God.
You see - The phrase ‘at hand’ means something is “close” – so it could mean it is a short TIME away – OR – it could mean it is a short DISTANCE away…. Like – within arm’s reach.
Think of a chef working in the kitchen creating a great feast. She’s got all of her spices and seasonings and other ingredients ‘at hand’ – meaning – they are within arm’s reach. She doesn’t even have to walk across the room to get it – because it is ‘at hand’…she just has to grab it.
I think these definitions may give us a better perspective on what Jesus means – ‘the kingdom of God is at hand means’ – it is right there – so close you can reach out and touch it! You don’t even have to walk across the room to get it – just grab it.
The key, I think, to making this all make sense is the last sentence of the Gospel… “the Kingdom of God is at hand FOR YOU”. For YOU. That little addition gives us some insight to how Jesus meant this. It means – you can make God YOUR king… it is within your reach right now. You and I just gotta decide that God is going to run our lives –… make the rules, impose taxes on us, set our economic policies, call us to war, or lead us to peace. The KING makes all of those decisions – not us! If we choose to reach out our hand and accept God as our personal king, we give up our freedom to live however we want. That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? I mean, why would anybody CHOOSE to make God their king?
Because, look how the 72 reacted when THEY participated in the kingdom… they came back rejoicing! Their little missionary jaunt gave them great JOY! Now – does that sound like somebody who gave up their personal freedom? No! God gives us freedom – yes – but not so that we can do whatever WE want – but He gives us the freedom to choose to do HIS will. Doing His will brings true joy. Joy that will last for eternity.
How do we get this joy? How do WE participate in this kingdom? Look at the first line of the Gospel, “the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit”. “every … place he intended to visit”.
Jesus sent them where HE wanted to go. He sent them, not so much to prepare the way for him… but By going there, they brought the Kingdom of God to that place. By their presence, they made the kingdom of God present to everyone they met. As a result, they experienced Joy – and Jesus saw Satan fall as a result.
Where is God sending you and me? To Haiti? To Louisville? Maybe – but remember – he said the kingdom is AT HAND – meaning close to you. Each one of us is surrounded by other people. Some are Christian, some are not. Some are heterosexual and some are not. Some are Democrat and some are Republican and others have given up on our political system. Some are circumcised and some are uncircumcised. Like Paul says in the second reading – none of that matters anymore. When we accept God as our King, the world is crucified to us, and we become a new creation. Our job is merely to reach out to those who are close enough to touch – and to share their pain – to do what we can to relieve their suffering. Basically – Love one another – THAT is what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God. That sounds so simple,…and it is! We think this religion stuff has to be so complicated…like we have to do this, and this, and this…but The kingdom of God is right here! Right now! Every moment of the day, all we have to do to tap into the joy of the kingdom is to choose to go out of our way for the benefit of someone else. Visiting the sick – visiting our elderly who don’t get out much or get much company – maybe making them a meal or offering to do some yardwork for them.
Reach out to your fellow student who seems to be depressed or having trouble at home. Reach out to the men who are so self-assured that they think they don’t need God…all they need is beer… believe me… they have pain… we all have pain. We must step outside of ourselves to learn their pain – to empathize with them – and to share their burden. In doing this, not only do WE feel the joy of the kingdom, but they are freed from Satan and experience the same Joy and are hopefully drawn toward us and the Church.
The harvest is plenty – lot’s of people out there NEED our witness as Christians. St. Isidore parish is the 72 disciples sent to every place where Jesus wants to go. But he needs US to take him there. If we don’t go there – Jesus can’t go there. When we reach out to others, we make Jesus present… and indeed the kingdom of God is at hand – right here, right now.