The question asked by the Pharisees is one that is running like static electricity throughout the Hebrew world: When will the Kingdom of God come? For thousands of years, they have been waiting for the Messiah, as they grew into a Tribe and a People, enslaved in Egypt, wandering in the desert, fighting for the Promised Land, building a Temple, succumbing to idolatry, exiled in Babylon, and now oppressed by the Romans, with whom they have established a somewhat comfortable but ever-uncertain freedom to live and worship according to the Law.
Expectation and rumor have filled the air for several decades, suggesting that the Messiah would come soon to free them from the enslavement of worldly powers and restore a visible political Kingdom on earth. This is what the Pharisees are looking for: political and cultural independence, international influence, a renewed social superiority, a theocracy even. Jesus knows that what they really want is the glorification and prolonging of their own kingdom, not the dawning of a new and heavenly Kingdom.
Jesus, as he often does, answers the question in a way that refocuses the perspective of the asker: the Kingdom cannot be seen, cannot be announced on a certain date, cannot be limited to one geopolitical territory even if it is the Promised Land. It is already here, among and within you; wherever Jesus is accepted, believed in, and obeyed, he is reigning already. The Kingdom IS Christ. He is standing among them, unrecognized. And then, in the next breath, Jesus warns against running after false Messiahs. The Savior is as bright and unpredictable as lightning flashing across the sky. It is for us to be still and know him in the silence of our hearts, to allow him to reign within us and work through us to extend his glorious, eternal Kingdom.
The glory, universality, and eternity of this Kingdom are hidden. The joy and love and peace of this Kingdom should radiate through the words, actions, and hearts of its citizens. As members of this Kingdom of Love, under the reign of the Prince of Peace, the light of Christ should shine through us, drawing all into the joy of the Lord.
A smile. An act of true kindness. A heartfelt prayer. A word of gratitude. These things spring from deep within our hearts, when they are ablaze with the Fire of the Spirit of Jesus, and the sparks can ignite dry bones and papery hearts with new life. Let’s act from the fires within and be generous with these gifts, so that, as St. Catherine of Siena said, we will set the world on fire.
Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at www.kathryntherese.com or on Facebook @summapax.