Our Lord Jesus Christ announces, “the Kingdom of God is at hand!” What does this mean, and how do we respond? In a number of places, Jesus, (Mt 4:17, Mk 1:15) and, in anticipation of Jesus, St John the Baptist, (Mt 3:2) calls us to repentance because of the arrival of the Kingdom. In the citation from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says that “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom is at hand, so repent, and believe in the Gospel.” In Luke, the work of announcing the Kingdom is entrusted to the disciples.
But what happened to get the Kingdom “started?”
“In the fullness of time,” St Paul says, (Gal 4:4) God sent the Savior, His Son Jesus, as He had promised. God Promised Adam and Eve, after their sin, to send a Savior. That promise is fulfilled, beginning with Jesus. It began in the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation: He, as God, became flesh and dwelt among us. ( Jn 1: 14) The fact that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary into human history makes clear that “God is with us” (Mt 1:23); and that his Kingdom and its work has begun.
In the Gospels, Jesus gives His disciples a share in His mission, a commission, and he tells them to go to all the towns and villages (Luke 10:1-12). They are to tell people about this Kingdom and see how they respond. Jesus’ directive suggests a kind of ultimatum, “If they do not receive you,” leave and shake the dust of that place from your feet (Luke 10: 9-11). Again we ask, how must we respond to this grace of God’s Kingdom? What does God want of us?
In larger schema of God’s plan for us, we may think of our particular vocation. We have to determine what it is that we are called to do with our lives, and we must faithfully live it out. Is my vocation to be a spouse and a parent? Am I called to be a priest or consecrated Religious Sister or Brother? Perhaps we are called to live as a single person in the world. Perhaps we just don’t know yet, or we sense that we are called to marriage, but we are still searching for the right person. If we have determined our vocation and call from God, we have found something significant about our place in the Kingdom of God. We are living in the Kingdom and we want to do it well.
What about the day to day? In this regard we also have a vocation, an invitation and call from God. It is the call to holiness in the world; to “live holy!” God is with us here and now, and He is King. He is Lord. He is our “boss.” How do we live in accord with His Kingdom and its responsibilities and expectations? If the Kingdom of God is at hand, does it make a difference?
We clearly must heed that call to repentance which was so prominent in the preaching of St John the Baptist. This call to repentance, to turn away from sin, is also the first message of Jesus as He begins what we call His “public ministry.” (Mt 4:17; Mk 1:15)
At the same time, because God is so close to us, because He has saved us by the sacrifice of Jesus, and because He feeds and nourishes us with the Sacraments, how can we help not being happy, joyful?
I am reminded of what Jesus once remarked about Himself and John the Baptist when He experienced how slow people were about believing in His Kingdom.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Matthew 11:16-19)
Does the presence of God’s Kingdom call us to serious repentance, or heartfelt rejoicing? Both! The power of God’s Kingdom makes both possible. God makes both things necessary. We can rejoice; even in difficulties. We can have interior joy and show cheerfulness as a sign of our supernatural hope. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Pt 3:15)
In response to both John and Jesus, we must repent of our sins. We must weep for our sins and, with God’s help, seriously set out to change our lives. Even though we live “in the world,” we determine not to be “of the world.”
(Rm 12:2) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
A kingdom has a king. We must let Jesus Christ the King rule in our hearts. Entrusting ourselves to Him, and with our eyes fixed on His plan for our lives, we pray, Thy Kingdom come! Thy Kingdom come!